LifeSize CEO Sees 'Wonderful Opportunity' For Video Channel Growth


In its partners' estimation, LifeSize was able to overcome initial concerns that, following Logitech's $405 million acquisition of the company in November 2009, it would become either distracted or marginalized.

LifeSize in most cases has been able offer between 20 and 25 percent gross margin on video products while keeping price points agreeably lower than products from Cisco and Polycom. LifeSize endpoints typically run between $5,000 and $40,000. Video infrastructure offerings are also cost-conscious; the UVC, for example, starts at $3,999 before cameras and other equipment.

Its channel bona fides are solid. In 2010, the company completely overhauled its channel program to focus on three partner tiers: Expert, Professional and Registered. About 15 to 20 percent of LifeSize's more than 1,700 partners are now in the Expert category, according to Sandra Hill, LifeSize's director of channel programs, Americas.

While LifeSize has spent less time in the past year trying to recruit net-new partners, it's now more focused on helping solution providers capitalize on its expanded technology portfolio, she said in a recent interview with CRN from LifeSize's Austin, Texas headquarters.

Hill, who became LifeSize's director of channel programs for the Americas in November, said that even with a slower partner recruitment pace, the number of inbound inquiries for solution providers looking to partner with LifeSize increased 10 percent from 2010 to 2011.

Any changes to the channel program -- LifeSize, for example, is looking at ways to reward partners that sell its video products exclusively -- will be incremental for the time being, she added.

"We're not looking at any huge, over-arching, clean-sweep changes, but we'll continue to do small tweaks," Hill said. "I want the partners that we have to be healthy, and grow appropriately long with the video market."

Solution providers like the idea of a LifeSize that wants to know its partners better and focus more acutely on areas such as co-marketing.

"They're not really a high-touch company," said Gary Berzack, CTO and COO of TribecaExpress.com, a New York-based solution provider. "I'd like to see them more engaged and doing more marketing drive-through, because in my experience they've kind of sat there and waited for the marketing to come through for them. Video is not a good 'hunting' product. You either already want it or you need it."

LifeSize needs to take a firmer lead in helping the channel get its message out, Berzack urged.

"They'll do things like telemarketing with us, for example, but if it's been mined from our lists," he said.

Mark Winner, vice president of sales at SMS proTech, a Sidney, Ohio-based solution provider, agreed LifeSize's technology is a good option for a wide variety of potential video customers. But LifeSize needs to help partners better articulate a stance on how LifeSize' breadth of products and services lines up with where the overall video market is going -- as well as walk VARs through how LifeSize plans for its channel to be profitable.

"Could they be better? Yes, but i could say that about everybody in some way," Winner said. "Resellers obviously don't stay in business unless they can make money. We're not purely a hardware business and not purely a services business. We're looking for a clearly-defined 'how am I going to make money' selling these solutions that works for us."

Winner said he's found particular success with the software LifeSize brought to market following the Mirial acquisition. That product is now an enterprise-class client/server solution for desktop and mobile collaboration called LifeSize ClearSea that Winner said has been terrific for helping customers with Apple iOS products leverage video on mobile devices.

TribecaExpress.com's Berzack also cited the strength of the portfolio.

"LifeSize will fit for any customer looking at videconferencing. Where LifeSize does well is in the midmarket," he said. "I don't think they're priced flexibly enough but they do give Cisco/Tandberg and Polycom a good run for their money, particularly in education markets. They should be taken seriously."

NEXT: LifeSize CEO On Logitech, Microsoft-Skype