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'7 Minutes' With Cradlepoint’s Tony Puopolo, VP of North America Channels

He says Cradlepoint is "committed to building and maintaining the world’s best channel program."

Lorna Garey

October 24, 2017

5 Min Read
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**Editor’s Note: “7 Minutes” is a feature where we ask channel executives from startups – or companies that may be new to the Channel Partners audience – a series of quick questions about their businesses and channel programs.**

You might know Cradlepoint from its routers that integrate a landline with LTE to provide wireless failover or from its NetCloud aggregated SD-WAN offering. It works closely with network operators including AT&T and Verizon and has been the subject of IPO speculation along with SD-WAN competitors Aryaka, FatPipe Networks and Silver Peak. But Tony Puopolo, VP of Cradlepoint’s North America channel sales, says the company’s attention is on competing in branch failover, mobile security and IoT, with the help of about 1,000 partners.

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Cradlepoint’s Tony Puopolo

In March, Cradlepoint secured $89 million in funding and announced plans to use it to expand its SD-WAN, advanced 4G and 5G wireless connectivity, and enterprise IoT products as well as for investments in its partner program, including new hires on the channel team, marketing development funds and partner program incentives.

Channel Partners: Tell us what customers love about your product or service. What’s the secret selling sauce?

Tony Puopolo: Our customers have always loved our hardware for IoT, mobile and branch applications; however, the real secret sauce is the simplicity combined with the power of Cradlepoint’s NetCloud Platform. Through our single-pane-of-glass NetCloud Manager, customers can easily configure and manage any number of devices. They can deploy enterprise-level firewall rules, monitor cellular data plans, track their assets and much more.

Additionally, we just released our new NetCloud Perimeter solution, which completely secures all of a customer’s IoT devices. IoT devices rarely come with any level of security, yet many customers put them on the same networks as their critical infrastructure. With NetCloud Perimeter, we can completely isolate and encrypt IoT networks from end to end, protecting not just the IoT device, but everything else on the network. When we combine all this value in a simple-to-use and simple-to-deploy format for our customers, they become huge Cradlepoint fans.

CP: Describe your channel program — metal levels, heavy on certifications, open or selective, unique features?

TP: The Cradlepoint Authorized Channel Partner Program is designed to reward channel partners who bring the most value to our mutual customers across the Cradlepoint solution portfolio. The program offers multiple tiers for our channel community. They can move up the partner-program tiers by increasing volume of sales, getting technical certifications, bringing deals to Cradlepoint and for other value-added activities. In order to reward partners for bringing Cradlepoint deals, we have built a world-class deal registration program.

Additionally, Cradlepoint provides partners with online access to sales tools, marketing collateral, technical training, sales support and MDF opportunities. We offer on-demand, web-based training/certifications from any location, instructor-led training/certification and technical boot camps.

CP: Quick-hit answers: Percentage of sales through the channel, number of partners, average margin. Go.

TP: We’re a 100-percent channel company and fully committed to our partners’ success. We have …

… over 1,000 partners worldwide selling Cradlepoint. I cannot disclose our average margin as we are a private company, but can say we maintain competitive prices in the market while meeting financial objectives from our board of directors.

CP: Who are your main competitors, and what makes your offering better?

TP: We play in three main areas: branch, mobile and IoT.

In branch failover, Cradlepoint has most of the world market share with minimal competition. In primary branch networking, we tend to come up against traditional Cisco, Meraki and Fortinet. Our branch routing solution is fully cloud-managed with enterprise security. We win when customers want an SD-WAN solution with LTE as one or more of the WANs in the network. Our solution is optimized for broadband+LTE or LTE+LTE. Most of our competitors fail when the WAN moves to LTE. They burn through data plans with management overhead data and struggle to keep VPNs alive.

For mobility, we are the only enterprise-grade firewall with application control, content/web filtering and/or the latest generation of LTE with expandability to 5G. We don’t really see much competition in this space.

On the IoT side, there are many small competitors with low-cost IoT devices using CAT1/4 LTE. Many of these are from Chinese companies or non-reliable devices from newcomers to the market. The biggest difference is that Cradlepoint brings enterprise security, PCI compliance (for networks taking credit cards), FIPS140-2 (government-level security), and much more. This combined with NetCloud Perimeter give our customers the only IoT solution on the market with private networking, static IPs and end-to-end encryption. While others are connecting IoT devices, we are connecting AND protecting IoT networks.

CP: How do you think your technology portfolio will change in the next three years?

TP: We are looking to provide even more support to enterprises as they face new challenges along the pathway to 5G and increased IoT. When they start to have multigigabit speeds at the edge, traditional architectures won’t cut it. We believe SDN, IoT and 5G are all intertwined because of the connection density that IoT will drive. That means new networks must be much more scalable, secure, reliable, automated, and elastic, and our technology portfolio will continue to support that.

CP: How do you expect your channel strategy to evolve over that time frame?

TP: We’ll continue to invest in our channel-partner program, including additional new hires on the channel team, MDF and partner incentives. We are always looking to help partners grow their market shares and profitability. We listen to our channel and constantly look for ways to improve our partner experience with Cradlepoint.

CP: What didn’t we ask that partners should know?

TP: Why is the channel so important to us? Cradlepoint understand the value our channel brings. Our channel is what will make us successful or just limp along. We are committed to building and maintaining the world’s best channel program. Our partners have come to appreciate our dedication to them. This in-turn drives massive increases in sales for us all.

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