Vation Ventures Gives Partners Prime Seat At Innovation Table
During a recent conversation, channel veteran Dave O’Callaghan and I were waxing poetic about our respective families and our kids — and their uncanny ability to leapfrog us in life.
Perhaps we first witness our kids’ talents in athletics or academics during their adolescent years. Eventually, we see our kids’ talent shine even brighter in the business world or on the home front — actually, their home fronts — when they become parents.
Sure, we always remain mentors of sorts to our kids. But at some point, those ‘kids’ grow up and assume the driver’s seat — while we ease back just a bit and shift to navigation mode. (“Maybe you should turn here. Still think you’re heading the right way?”)
Such is the current-day working relationship between Dave O’Callaghan and his son, Joe.
Father, Son and IT Channel Disruption
Much of Dave O’Callaghan’s business career has focused on traditional IT channels — vendors, distributors and VARs delivering solutions to end customers. For Dave, that “channel” journey involved successful executive posts at Hitachi Data Systems, Cisco Systems and VMware.
Still, multiple disruptions have reshaped the traditional IT channel. You know the culprits and catalysts — everything from cloud-scale services, mobile computing and ubiquitous Internet access to pay-as-go workloads.
In recent years, Dave O’Callaghan saw and tracked those trends as a consultant. Now he has united with his son, Joe O’Callaghan, to help partners capitalize on those trends.
So What Comes Next?
We all know the linear channel is under pressure. But what will replace it — or at least complement it? Dave and Joe O’Callaghan — along with business partner Matthew Friel — believe they’ve found the answer.
It involves their startup, Vation Ventures — which seeks to redefine how resellers, distributors and vendors go to market, working far more closely with venture capitalists, emerging technologies, manufacturers, analysts, end users and more.
The way Dave tells it, his son Joe is the innovator (a driver armed with a business intelligence dashboard) on this journey. Plus, Matthew Friel (a consulting guru and Yale University graduate) drives content enhancements, and new features continually surface on their business platform.
Vation Innovation Platform (VIP): Emerging Digital Community
The classic channel pipeline is “inefficient and old school,” says Dave O’Callaghan. “Rarely do you see a channel partner talking to VC in the old model. That got us thinking: What if we bring everyone together to ensure each party in the ecosystem has a seat at the table? And what if we gave innovators a faster, more efficient feedback loop in the market?”
With those goals in mind, Vation Ventures has built Vation Innovation Platform (VIP), a digital community designed to drive those conversations. The Vation Ventures mission is simply stated:
“Founded in January 2017, Vation noticed inefficiency in how innovative companies were reaching end customers. The reality is that yesterday’s models for cooperation and competition were shifting, and the real opportunity was driving better outcomes for the entire ecosystem with tools and services that enable rapid success at scale through innovation. Vation’s platform (VIP) and services encourage collaboration, education and open communication to improve time-to-market and profitability for our members.”
So how does Vation Ventures work? Think of it as a digital community where VARs, VCs, startups and other types of members can rapidly connect, communicate, and bring new services to market.
That VIP community will be on display later this week at a forum in Scottsdale, Arizona. The gathering will include emerging technologies. channel executives, IT executives and customers.
Matthew Friel, a partner at Vation Ventures, demonstrated the VIP platform for ChannelE2E several weeks ago. We came away impressed. Why?
Because it potentially solves a market need. Gone are the days when entrenched technology giants can dictate what a distributor promotes to a partner, and what a partner sells to an end-customer. In the as-a-service world, customers increasingly call the shots — outlining specific business needs to partners. To meet those needs, VARs and MSPs need direct connections to established partners (technology companies, distributors, etc.), potential enablers (VCs) and market disrupters (startups, etc.). Vation Ventures wants to be the common bond for all of those voices.
Challenges and Opportunities
Of course, social networks and online communities face multiple challenges. eBay needed a critical mass of buyers and sellers. Facebook needed a critical mass of “friends” to connect and share updates. Likewise, Vation Venture’s VIP platform needs strong representation from multiple ecosystem members — VARs, distributors, venture capitalists, emerging technology providers, manufacturers, analysts, end users and more.
Over the past decade, multiple startups have attempted to build social networks and online communities for partners. One example involves ChannelEyes — a 2011 upstart that wanted to be a Facebook of sorts for VARs and MSPs to connect with vendor partner programs. It never gained critical mass, and ChannelEyes ultimately pivoted toward mobile and big data apps for partners.
For its part, Vation Ventures is off to a promising start. Regional VARs are embracing the platform, Dave O’Callaghan says. Hundreds of users were on the system in 2017. The business plan calls for thousands of users to engage in 2018, according to Joe O’Callaghan and Matthew Friel.
We’ll be watching to see how the VIP platform — and the ecosystem within it — scales in the months ahead.