Westcon introduces vendor incubator

Anthony D’Angelo, vice president of global partner management and business development at Westcon

Anthony D’Angelo, vice president of global partner management and business development at Westcon

WestconGroup has debuted an incubator program designed to help new vendors get accustomed to, and scale with, distribution.

Under the program, the distributor will seek to engage with vendors that are new to the channel, or who have only engaged in distribution in certain geographies, in an attempt to help those vendors get up and running in distribution or expand their footprint. The effort will be spearheaded by Anthony D’Angelo, vice president of global partner management and business development at Westcon, whose background includes stints in channel management at companies including HP, RSA, Nokia, and NetOptics.

“It’s really all about looking at the future. The technology is changing so rapidly. We know we can handle the biggest vendors out there rally well, but we also have a lot of capabilities for vendors who aren’t so big,” D’Angelo said.

In fact, the value of distribution to a company that hasn’t attained the massive scale of a Dell or HP might be even greater. It’s just that cost-effective access to distribution resources can be a challenge for vendors who aren’t large enough. Westcon is attempting to reverse that pattern by making a specific investment in a handful of smaller vendors, providing dedicated resources to help them identify and on-board new partners, market to partners, and build their presence in the channel.

Distribution, as always, is in a state of change. The big “broadline” distributors have expanded their services and other high-value offerings in an effort to increase both profitability and stickiness with solution providers. This has put them into the space of larger value-added distributors like Westcon. Now Westcon seems to be taking the tack of creating some elbow room by moving into a space – high-attention service to smaller vendors – that was typically occupied by smaller niche distributors. While those smaller regional distributors have filled a valuable role, D’Angelo suggests Westcon’s ability to scale the business, both in terms of size within a geography, and into new regions around the world, will be differentiators.

“A lot of vendors when they’re small make one of two mistakes. They sign up with a large distributor, and get lost in the shuffle. Or they sign on with niche, boutique distributors, but you have to sign up so many of them to get anywhere. We wanted to bring the best of both types of distribution to our incubator vendors,” D’Angelo said.

D’Angelo said he expects about five to ten incubator vendors in the program over the first year, and that number will stay around that number as vendors rotate into or out of the program over the course of a year or more. The first vendor to go public as part of the program is Firemon, a firewall monitoring and management vendor that signed on with Westcon in North America in January. Through the incubator, the vendor will work with Westcon to expand its geographic footprint into Latin America, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia.

“We like what we’ve seen in North America,” said Todd DeBell, vice president of channels and distribution at Firemon. “The commitment and investment they offer was great, and they helped us set up financing to offer leasing globally. They stepped up and help us in new regions, and with new partners, and supported us to help us with our ‘follow the firewall strategy. They have the right relationships, and they’re working with the right partner base.”

DeBell said the alternative to a broader deal with Westcon would have been to engage other distributors to expand globally, which would have meant in many cases country-by-country relationships.

D’Angelo said the distributor will initially target the security space with the incubator program. Security is a traditional Westcon focus area, and the nature of the market includes a large number of smaller startup vendors. The distributor will also be looking at data centre vendors that can fit into its Cisco-centric data centre practice.

The distributor’s priorities include vendors “with a strong channel culture,” D’Angelo said, as well as those willing to invest in building out their channel, as the incubator program will take funds and effort from both the distributor and vendor to be successful. While exclusivity is not an absolute term of the program, D’Angelo said Westcon will “push for exclusivity,” or at least a commitment to a good portion of a vendor’s distribution revenues, to be part of the program.

“Because the revenue may not be as great as a Cisco, we look to make sure we can have exclusive, or very heavily weighted, access. We need to capture a lot of share if it’s a small amount of revenue in the beginning,” he said.