Tech Disruptors Thrive at the Intersection of Innovation and Influence
When you think of innovation — what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Maybe it’s a company like Apple or Samsung who has managed to turn our digital cameras, video recorders, mp3 players, portable gaming systems, calculators, timepieces, pedometers, GPS systems and phones into a single handheld device? Maybe it’s a company like LEGO that has gradually been changing the material of its bricks to be more biodegradable and built from fully-sustainable materials. Maybe it’s an individual like Whitney Wolfe Herd, founder and CEO of Bumble, who transformed the behavior of millions of online dating app users by putting more of an emphasis on women empowerment and safety.
When you think of influence — what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Maybe it’s the then-16-year-old Charli D’Amelio who became the first person to gain 100 million followers on TikTok. Maybe it’s someone like Jackie Robinson or Barack Obama who went through tremendous adversity to break the color barrier and open up doors for generations to come. Maybe it’s a company like Peloton or Tesla who took an already-established product (at-home exercise bikes and electric vehicles, respectively) and untapped their potential by turning them into a captivating lifestyle identity.
In tech, innovation and influence go hand-in-hand, each one driving the other. Companies that understand trends, listen to their customers and have the foresight to invest in the next generation of ideas can serve as a catalyst for partners and competitors alike. Together, this intersection of innovation and influence leads to the must-needed disruption that is shaping the future of the industry.
Ask the experts: The value of vendor relationships
At TD SYNNEX, we have a vision for a vibrant and connected world. That vision isn’t possible without the technology, services and solutions that come from our elite line card of the best vendors in the world. These manufacturers partner closely with us to offer expansive global distribution and integration capabilities, especially in next-gen, high-growth areas.
To get a better understanding of what our world-class vendors mean to the channel, we sat down with two individuals who are closest with these valuable relationships to learn a little more about what goes into the decision to invest (or not invest) in vendors based on their level of influence and innovation:
- Francisco Criado, vice president of NextGen Solutions
- Cheryl Neal, vice president of new vendor acquisition
Elements of this article are from a transcript of an interview conversation. The content has been edited for clarity and brevity.
Thought-starter: What is an influencer vendor?
The IT ecosystem is full of vendors (or manufacturers/suppliers) who are changing the culture and behavior of how IT solutions are built and deployed to market. In many cases, they’re adding automation, artificial intelligence and other intellectual property to truly create a differentiated experience. These “influencer vendors” are empowering thousands of companies to re-think their foundational platforms and build credibility through new ways of thinking about things. Francisco and Cheryl both sit close to the heart of these vendors, so we asked them, “in your own words, what is an influencer vendor?”
Cheryl: When I think of a vendor influencer, I’m looking at creative problem solvers. Sometimes, there is a problem that hasn’t even been identified in the market, but they’re staying ahead of the changes that are happening, proactively looking for what’s next and solving for problems that are happening in the future. We’re looking at vendors that are making a difference in the marketplace not only with the solutions that they’re providing but through the differentiation they’re creating in the programs offered through our channel partners.
Francisco: There are a couple of things that come to mind:
- Analyst firms — There was an old saying back in the day that “nobody ever got fired for procuring IBM” because it was such a sound solution. The same goes today for vendors that are backed by these industry analysts.
- Endorsements — Large vendors that endorse smaller vendors give these small vendors credibility and relevance to help them activate sales and obtain funding or investment.
- Programs — In my area of responsibility, cloud vendors are building programs that help partners build a storefront, create content and recommend solutions where they can earn money.
Overall, it doesn’t matter if it’s B2B or B2C, people trust influencers over big corporations, so they play a critical role in the IT decision-making process.
Leading by example: Today’s models
With the rise in high-growth technologies, like cybersecurity prevention and mitigation, an average customer often employs more than 50 vendors in their IT stack. Companies that are finding ways to bridge these 50 vendors together and create an enhanced level of connectivity is paramount in how IT solutions must work together today. Model organizations are communicative, scalable and 100% channel-focused. We asked Francisco about picturesque organizations.
Francisco: There are many examples of [influencer vendors] across horizontal and vertical solutions. I look at the Global Unicorn Club, an exclusive group of nine hundred companies that have over a $1B market cap. In this group, you have a lot of disruptors, with huge representation within fintech and security. Where I see a lot of companies paving the path forward for innovation in data management, analytics and AI. We work closely with the data maturity journey, where we can help partners go from traditional databases or even Excel spreadsheets to having a full data strategy, where our vendors can introduce things like data management automation, data modeling, machine learning and hyperautomation.
This or that: First-to-market or best-in-class?
Innovative and influential vendors face an interesting dilemma: beat the competition to market or perfect the technology. While the instinctual answer may be “first-to-market,” what if the customer isn’t ready? Friendster beat Facebook to market. Crunchpad beat iPad to market. There are examples favoring both sides, so we asked Francisco and Cheryl to share their thoughts.
Francisco: I immediately think about Betamax and VHS; just because you have the right solution, it might not be the right timing. Maybe it’s because I’m competitive by nature, but I’m a big fan of being the first-to-market, as long as you have a minimum viable product (MVP) and a marketing plan. For new vendors, you may have the best product out there, but if nobody knows about it, you can’t have a solid go-to-market; nobody’s going to buy it. For market movers, it’s critical to pilot new products with customers to perfect the solution — it’s a sustainable profit advantage to find buyers who stick with an initial brand and build brand equity. There are also advantages to being second: you can learn from mistakes, you can start to reverse-engineer and improve the product, and it’s a lot easier to attract investment in a proven market.
Cheryl: As we look at small innovators through mature vendors, we’re looking at the different opportunities that they have at having that right solution at the right time. This is where TD SYNNEX does a lot to help support those emerging technology vendors and ensure their solutions are channel-ready and channel-consumable. By combining them with some of the opportunities we have, we can help with accelerating that necessary awareness and demand in the channel.
Blast from the past: Evolution of new vendor acquisition
Whether you’ve been in tech for 20 years or 20 minutes, the channel is evolving. Adding new vendors to the line card looks differently today than it used to, and TD SYNNEX is being strategic and efficient in adding the right vendors to complement established vendors in the market. So, how exactly has that process of adding new vendors changed?
Cheryl: Five years ago, we were looking for vendors that were already well-established that we could immediately add to our line card because our partners were asking for them. Today, we are looking for those disruptors that are going to be complementary to vendors that are already on our line card. We’re looking for vendors of all sizes and at all levels of the maturity journey because we want to help our channel partners differentiate. We’re also looking at high-growth areas like hybrid cloud, cybersecurity, analytics, IoT, hyperconverged, 5G and modern edge and how all of those things are starting to work together. New vendors that specialize in these areas bring new approaches and expand solutions opportunities with some of these established, mature vendors.
As I’m looking with my team on how we better target emerging technologies and who we’re going to work with, it’s all about aligning to the business. I want to help target and recruit those vendors that are going to help our partners with that growth through outcome-based solutions for them and their end users while simplifying the complexity of going to market. It’s all about accelerating channel success; emerging vendors have great technology. We are establishing how it can work with the ecosystem that we have and how we can help bring it all together to deliver success in the channel.