My first instincts aren’t always right. In 2014, when I first met Matt Solomon, my Channel Program partner, he was interviewing to join me at Winvale, my first consulting company. And, well… I didn’t really like him.
Matt loves to tell the story: “Apparently the VP of Sales liked me, but then Kevin interviewed me and told the VP that I ‘wasn’t a closer.’ And he was unsure about hiring me,” he says, a bit of a grin on his face. “Not until we launched and then started growing, did Kevin start caring about me.”
Matt’s half joking, of course, and I’m so thankful that I took a chance anyway, despite my first impression. And guess what? He killed it. Matt was a master at building rapport with prospects, and people liked him. And about eight months in, I realized that he was so good at what he does, I would have to make his then-boring job dealing with government contracts a bit more stimulating. So I spiced things up with the dark web, and by looking at hacking and cyber security. Once again, Matt was the perfect fit, and we launched a new product in 2015.
And it grew. Like crazy. And Matt was awesome.
Matt had skills that I didn’t–skills that the business needed–and it took me a while to see that as a good thing. We compliment each other. I’m the operations and strategy guy, and he’s the people person. Truly, he’s indispensable.
Now we’ve been at three companies together, and we’re partners in this latest Channel Program venture.
The lesson? Sometimes you’re wrong! And you have to be willing to see things differently if you want to grow. (Huge tip: ‘Soft skills,’ like Matt has, are critical to your success.)
Q&A with Kevin & Matt
Matt and I sat down a few days ago to chat about the last few years–about our partnership, about our plans for democratizing the IT channel, and on how we cracked the code to scale a tech startup. I thought you might like to be a fly on the wall for part of our convo:
Kevin: “If you want to try something new, and if you want to grow, you need to not be afraid to make yourself uncomfortable. And that’s what you do, Matt. You’re the person up front.”
Matt: “We’re like the yin and yang. I’m on the front lines and you handle operations and how to scale. And we’ve built a following. And we’re here to help the industry.”
K: “I like that you’ll put yourself out there. You empower everyone in the organization, you listen to all their ideas, you let other people have input.”
M: “Well, and I think that’s always what you let me do. We have an open dialogue. I can bring my ideas to the table, and they’ll actually be considered. You listen, we can disagree, it’s respectful.”
K: “Well, semi-respectful.”
***Cue the laughs!***
K: “It’s about recognizing people’s skill set. And then letting them shine.”
M: “You definitely let me have the limelight.”
K: “That’s why I call you a rockstar.”
The last 10 years have seen “the rise of the MSP.” There are now tens of thousands of MSPs in the U.S. alone. So from a vendor perspective, it’s a strategic decision to be part of the channel. It’s a multi-trillion dollar marketplace, but it’s fragmented. There are “kingdoms” and gated communities. They’re not easy to market to, and not everyone has access. The big guy always wins.
But guess what? That method limits innovation, and misses out on potentially amazing tech. It also stifles MSP success. MSPs have to go to a dozen “communities” to learn all the things they need to do.
This is why we want to revolutionize the way the industry interacts, because right now, it’s expensive and inefficient.
And it’s why we’ve launched our Pitch events, where everyone gets the main stage. We’ve had vendors who launched for the first time into the channel, and love receiving real-time feedback, which you don’t get anywhere else! And by limiting pitches to seven minutes, we’ve cut out the fluff. Vendors have to get to the meat of what they’re offering.
Likewise, MSPs benefit because we know they don’t have time to sit down for an hour with every potential partner. At the pitch event, they get the information in a digestible way, and get to hear what the partnership will look like.
Matt: “There’s also the battle of not having a voice. Only one in 100 vendors can afford a speaking spot at a regular event. Now, with our pitch events, everyone has a chance. We’re giving other people a voice, and the space to share.”
K: “The channel also struggles with a lack of diversity, and I think that’s something else we can help change. We want a place to highlight the thousands of woman-owned and minority-owned start-ups. At my previous company, ID Agent, we had 50 percent female staff, and we’re currently sitting at 55 percent with Channel Program. That’s unheard of in tech! I want to bring that focus to the channel.”
K: “Further to that, we’ve got another new thing coming called Explorer. It’s going to be an open, centralized platform that brings a bunch of different conversations into one place. It’s for sharing thought leadership, for telling others what makes your business special, and for centralizing the conversation. It gives MSPs and vendors a voice and an ability to influence where the market goes.
M: “LinkedIn is great, but it can be noisy. There’s just so much content. And Facebook groups can get ugly with bickering and complaining. But there’s going to be no room for that on Explorer.”
K: “It’s about uplifting everybody, and how we’re making a difference in the world. I’m so excited for the launch! Stay tuned for more on that.”
Matt and I also occasionally livestream, so check that out if you just can’t get enough of our bad jokes, memories of our early days, and plans for the future. And as always, if you have questions, thoughts, or ideas to discuss, be sure to reach out ! I love connecting and meeting amazing people in the channel.
Let’s do this.