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'2 Superpowers Combined': AppSmart, Marketplace to Carry the AppDirect Brand

Some vendors had been partnering with AppDirect to build a cloud marketplace of their own.

James Anderson

October 19, 2022

8 Min Read
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Channel-facing B2B commerce platform AppSmart is aligning its brand more closely with parent company AppDirect.

The AppSmart marketplace will carry AppDirect branding starting in early 2023. That includes its URL and name. Moreover, other AppSmart web experiences and products will adopt AppDirect branding. The transition will take place over the first two quarters of 2023, chief marketing officer Adam Christensen told Channel Futures.

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AppDirect’s Nicolas Desmarais

“We believe that the future of B2B commerce is in relationship-based marketplaces. We’re seizing the opportunity to leverage our digital ecosystem and the relationships that have been built on our world-class platform between business buyers, advisors and technology providers to fuel growth in the technology market on an unprecedented scale,” AppDirect chairman and CEO Nicolas Desmarais said.

AppDirect, the 13-year-old B2B subscription commerce platform, entered the technology advisor (agent) channel in 2018 with the acquisition of WTG and later a host of well-established tech services distributors (TSDs). It spun up its AppSmart division with the help of the various agents that worked with those TSDs, partnering with them to bring end customers into the AppSmart marketplace.

Software and Telco, Together

For Mark Venuto, chief operations officer at AppSmart partner US Network, the announcement represents an official unification of two worlds — that of software in AppDirect and telecommunications in AppSmart.

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US Network’s Mark Venuto

“It’s going to be a great thing because you’re going to combine software solutions and telco solutions under one umbrella. It just creates a better environment for the TSB community with more product segments for all the TSBs and their subagents to sell from one company. It gives you a greater reach, breadth, and depth globally, versus just in the continental U.S.,” Venuto told Channel Futures.

Christensen said the AppDirect and AppSmart businesses had run distinctly from one another, despite AppSmart leveraging the AppDirect platform.

“This really just brings the business into one and makes it simpler and easier to do business with,” Christensen said.

Vendor Benefit

AppSmart partners with some of the largest telecommunications vendors through its TSD business. At the same time, AppDirect has been partnering with big-name channel vendors like Comcast and Verizon to help them build their own cloud marketplaces. And those companies see the value in unifying the brands, AppDirect executives said.

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Comcast Business’ Cary Tengler

Cary Tengler is vice president of indirect sales for Comcast Business. He said his team is excited to see AppSmart integrate more deeply into AppDirect.

“For years, telecom and IT solution selling has been on the verge of convergence, but still remain largely separate. AppDirect has the unique combination of technology, tools and people to finally make that convergence happen,” Tengler said. “We’re both a customer and a partner of AppDirect, and we’re excited about the potential for AppDirect to leverage its marketplace and its vast ecosystem of suppliers and partners to dramatically shift how end users acquire and deploy IT and telephony solutions.”

Partner Benefit

Christensen said integrating all of sales, marketing and operations can bring all AppDirect resources “directly to bear for our advisors.”

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AppSmart’s Adam Christensen

“This will result in faster development of innovative tools and experiences for our advisors and their end businesses,” Christensen said.

Christensen added that agents can now think of AppDirect as an offering they can deliver to their customers. That’s in addition to the offerings on the AppSmart marketplace.

“This also paves the way for advisors to be able to sell the AppDirect platform itself to their enterprise customers, who are in need of either a marketplace to create their own external ecosystem or to build an internal procurement marketplace,” Christensen told Channel Futures.

TierOne managing partner Richard Reding said his firm helps businesses sort out the complex world of technology.

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TierOne’s Richard Reding

“Our partnership with AppSmart has allowed us to expand our portfolio and provide value across more of our clients’ tech stacks through the AppSmart Marketplace,” Reding said. “We are excited for AppSmart’s upcoming unification with the AppDirect brand and the opportunity to offer more comprehensive SaaS solutions with even deeper levels of support than previously possible,” he added.

Sales Unification

AppSmart this summer announced the consolidation of its U.S. channel sales programs into one. Christopher Shubert, who joined AppSmart from its purchase of MicroCorp, accepted the position of vice president of channel sales. He said the appointment signified AppSmart’s efforts to move multiple teams and processes from the acquired companies into a single system. The “teams” had embraced a single philosophy, he said.

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AppSmart’s Chris Shubert

“Me moving into this role is just the next piece of that: AppSmart moving into [a place] where we’re not a many-tentacled beast, but a streamlined, focused organization dedicated to helping our advisers achieve the next step in their evolution,” Shubert told Channel Futures in July.

Venuto said the integration gives his team a single pane of glass.

“When we go to order any products or services, request codes, or any level of software, the process is completely streamlined,” Venuto told Channel Futures. “It’s more effective and robust across the board.”

TSB/TSD Business

AppSmart differs from the tech services distributors (TSDs) it competes against, in part because it provides a marketplace that end user customers can shop (using their technology advisor partner’s tag). Nevertheless, the company still leverages the systems associated with the legacy TSD (formerly known as a master agency) model. And Christensen stressed that AppDirect’s TSD efforts are not simply a means to an end but a core route-to-market for the subscription commerce company.

Christensen emphasized the health of the business in an interview with Channel Futures…

… “It is very, very healthy,” Christensen said. “Year-over-year growth – organic and acquisitive – and it represents a significant part of our business today and a significant part going forward.”

For example, he pointed to Quebec investor CDPQ pouring $80 million into AppDirect to establish the AppDirect Capital arm. As a result, more money flowed into the previously launched, partner-oriented AppSmart Invest program.

“That was because one of our strong financial partners believes so strongly in the growth that we’re [driving] that they want to accelerate that gross growth and create an embedded capital division, just to be able to help the advisors that we work with and other advisors in the channel grow and scale,” Christensen said.

Venuto said he feels confident in AppDirect’s TSD/TSB strategy. US Network does business with the company on a daily basis.

“They’re extremely well positioned within the TSB community. AppDirect will be in the channel for the long haul and continue to revolutionize the channel as we see it today,” Venuto said. “AppDirect is an extremely dynamic company with a product portfolio that truly separates them from the rest.”

Portfolio Evolution

AppDirect is offering partners the prospect of bringing previously untapped SaaS opportunities into their customer bases. That includes Dropbox, which AppSmart signed last year, and Intuit, which AppSmart recently signed. Moreover, AppSmart deepened its Microsoft portfolio earlier this year with the acquisition of Canadian cloud distributor ITCloud.ca.

Gartner earlier this year predicted public cloud spending to grow 20.4% in 2022. That includes a 30.6% year-over-year clip for infrastructure as a service (IaaS).

“We’re seeing significantly higher than that in terms of our year-over-year cloud growth, in addition to the traditional telecom growth,” Christensen said.

He added that AppSmart embracing the AppDirect sends a powerful message to the channel. Namely, he stressed that the various components of the company, from TSD to SaaS marketplace, support the same mission.

“By pulling it all into one brand, we can put to bed the idea that it’s one part of the business versus the other,” he said. “We see this as one continuous B2B ecosystem of advisors and providers.

Venuto said bringing customers into SaaS varies significantly based on the client and its need.

“We really take the time to sit with the customer and understand their business segment, where they want to be today, and where they want to go within the next 3-5 years,” Venuto said. “US Network works with each customer to understand how they want to position their company for future growth using SaaS products and services as well as all their communications needs. We want to be more than just a vendor to our clients; we will work to be a long-standing partner to each client.”

In addition, AppSmart senior vice president and general manager Renée Bergeron has accepted the role of AppDirect chief operating officer.

Want to contact the author directly about this story? Have ideas for a follow-up article? Email James Anderson or connect with him on LinkedIn.

 

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About the Author(s)

James Anderson

Senior News Editor, Channel Futures

James Anderson is a news editor for Channel Futures. He interned with Informa while working toward his degree in journalism from Arizona State University, then joined the company after graduating. He writes about SD-WAN, telecom and cablecos, technology services distributors and carriers. He has served as a moderator for multiple panels at Channel Partners events.

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