Orion Labs turns to channel to take their voice platform to the enterprise

Orion combines its Enterprise Voice Platform with its wearable Onyx smart walkie-talkie to give easy and efficient voice service, and have brought in an experienced channel hand to oversee the go-to-market strategy.

Greg Albrecht, Orion Labs’ co-founder & CTO

Orion Labs, which to date has made wearable voice technology for the consumer market, is expanding into the enterprise. To lead its move into the commercial market, they have brought on Mort Jensen, most recently Head of Channel at Samsung SDS America, as Orion’s new Head of Sales & Channels.

“We were founded in 2013 with the idea that we wanted to bring real time voice communications to everyone,” said Greg Albrecht, the co-founder and CTO of Orion Labs. “Our background is building large scale Web services and emergency services, and we wanted to bring this style of services to everyone. Everyone has a smart phone. We wanted to make it easy to use. Onyx, our smart walkie-talkie, pairs to the smartphone and connects to the service. People can use voice communications without being encumbered by looking down at their phone.”

Until now, their focus has been on the consumer market.

“We wanted the consumer space to be our adoption model, and that’s been most of the uptake we’ve seen,” Albrecht said,

Since they started, the perceived opportunities in the commercial market have expanded significantly.

Mort Jensen, Orion’s Head of Sales & Channels.

“A once in a decade shift is happening now with voice, which wasn’t there a couple of years ago,” Jensen said. “It is there now, with Cortana and Alexa and others. We think there is an opportunity around all business activities, including Internet of Things activity, leveraging the platform that Orion has built.”

Orion Labs’ Enterprise Voice Platform provides enterprise-grade controls, including flexible communication structure and permissions management, merging these with Onyx to create push-to-talk technology that will be available to anyone on any network, even Wi-Fi, anywhere in the world.

“It’s an expansion of the platform from the consumer side, but with features built out for enterprise organization,” Jensen said.

The product now available is the base product, with functionality around groups, group management and IT administration. Administrators have advanced control over group and user permissions and communication structures, as well as visibility into employee availability and location. Rich tools are also available through the Orion Labs mobile app.

“These are features you might expect such as role-based user management, group management, and integration with other service,” Albrecht said. “It’s a robust feature set.”

“As our base product, it is sellable today,” Jensen said. “There will be more functionality coming, although we are reticent to share details of the road map at this point. The hard part, however, has already been done, and that was building a world class, highly scalable platform to transit voice traffic.”

Enterprise security won’t be an issue, Albrecht said, as the platform has FIPS 140-2 compliant end-to-end encryption.

“We wanted to conquer security early, when we introduced the consumer product, and we had extremely robust security right out of the box,” he said. “The idea was that we would being enterprise security and reliability to everyone.”

Taking the product broadly to the commercial market requires a channel strategy of some kind, and that is why Jensen was brought on board. He was most recently Head of Channel at Samsung SDS America, but he ran also ran the channel at Egnyte and Meraki, and before that, he was channel leader at Good Technology before its acquisition by Motorola.

“We will be using a multi-channel strategy,” Jensen said. “Operators will be one route to market. Selling through Amazon and Home Depot will be another. The traditional IT channel will be too, with a broad range of partner types.”

Jensen indicated that they aren’t looking to create a massive IT channel, but will rather leverage his network of trusted partners from his previous roles, and sign up new ones who are focused on communication, collaboration, mobility – and who understand the SaaS model.

“We don’t want to create a cast of thousands,” he said. “We are looking for focused partners who see this as a compelling addition to a portfolio. We plan to leverage the successes of early-to-market partners into recruiting similar ones in non-competing markets.”

Two-tier distribution won’t be used initially, but Jensen said that it’s likely in time as the channel grows.

A channel program should be rolled out sometime in the Q2 or Q3 time frame.

“We are engaging with partners right now though,” he said. “We are talking with people who understand the benefits of having new technology in your portfolio. For that, you don’t need program bells and whistles. You need exciting products – and an organization that understands the channel.”