Promethean Not Too Cool For School


Headquarters: Blackburn, England; U.S. headquarters in Alpharetta, Ga.

Technology Sector: Peripherals

Key Product: ActivBoard, part of Promethean's ActivClassroom education offerings

Year Founded: 1999

Sponsored post

Number of Channel Partners: 40 in North America

Ideal Channel Partner: Education-focused solution provider

Why You Should Care: Promethean targets the education market with a lineup of cool products, including interactive whiteboards and related software. The company recently named a new channel chief and is engaging channel partners with education plays in mind.

The Lowdown: Promethean offers a unique product line for the education market that includes its ActivBoard interactive whiteboard as well as lesson-development software for teachers. Now the company is in the midst of a North American channel push that will be spearheaded by Taylor Macdonald, recently named as its new vice president of channels -- Americas.

Macdonald, a channel veteran of two decades who previously served as president of worldwide channels at Deltek and executive vice president of channel and sales operations for Sage Software, said what attracted him most to Promethean was "a very different kind of challenge."

"I've been in ERP for 20-plus years. Part of me was just, 'Hey, it's time for change.' But the next part was that I'm looking at an industry that is very young," Macdonald said. "In North America, we and our competitors have roughly 20 percent of the classrooms, which means that this is a market that has a tremendous amount of white space. What that means is fast growth, and that's something that a lot of us in ERP have missed since as far back as Y2K."

Promethean ActivBoard

Macdonald described Promethean as an "education company to help educators do their jobs better." And although education IT spending in the final version of the government's American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 wasn't quite as robust as in earlier versions of the federal stimulus package, the stimulus itself is "the biggest turbo charge" for the flow of education dollars and commensurate solution provider and education vendor opportunities, he said.

Promethean has a unique channel model in that it gives its North American partners exclusive geographic territory. Kittery, Maine-based GreenPages, for example, covers Promethean deployments in New England. The regions are more or less divided by concentration -- a state as large as California has a slew of solution providers focused on smaller pieces -- but Macdonald said having a solution provider in a region already wouldn't necessarily mean turning away new solution provider business in the area.

"We have people reaching out to us all the time asking to be a partner, and we certainly encourage people to inquire," Macdonald said. "We need [solution providers] who are strong on K-12 and all the different aspects."

While education has a set of pain points and solution provider problems to solve all its own, Macdonald said it hasn't taken him long to make the leap.

"Many of my channel colleagues said it's going to be so different, and a lot of it is," he said. "But guess what? Our partners need help selling, running their business and solving problems. I'm going to take programs I've done before and start where the money is, which is of course on sales training. The other thing that's different about this is that there's a very distinct buying season that's coming up over the next 120 days. We will be ramping up our channel very quickly."