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Lifeboat Distribution To Rebrand As Climb Channel Solutions

The rebranding, coming on the heels of Lifeboat's acquisition of Toronto-based Interwork Technologies, is aimed at reflecting its focus on bringing emerging technology vendors to solution providers.

Lifeboat Distribution, which focuses more on emerging technologies and less on broadline offers, is renaming itself Climb Channel Solutions as part of a move to expand awareness of how it has changed over the last couple years.

The rebranding follows the acquisition late last month of Interwork Technologies by Lifeboat Distribution and its parent company, publicly held Wayside Technology Group, as well as initiatives to refocus the company on a smaller number of emerging technologies, said Charles Bass, vice president of business development at the Eatontown, N.J.-based distributor.

Bass and Dale Foster, CEO at Lifeboat Distribution and Wayside Technology Group and a Wayside director, both joined the distributor in January of 2018, and found the company needed a new strategy to ensure future growth, Bass told CRN.

[Related: IT Distribution Preps To Ride A Wave Of Changes: GTDC's Frank Vitagliano]

The move to rebrand to Climb Channel Solutions, which is slated to happen by the end of May, came as the company looked for a way to show how the distributor has changed over the years to focus on emerging technologies, Foster told CRN.

"After looking at 300 different potential names, we liked 'Climb' best," he said. "We can use that name to do all sorts of marketing. 'Climb Together,' or 'Climb Aboard. Unfortunately, the website was owned by a ladder company."

The company also "climbs aboard" emerging vendors, Foster said. He cited as an example the company's recent move to bring on Diamanti, a San Jose, Calif.-based provider of a fully integrated Kubernetes platform. "In a couple of years, this business will explode," he said.

Lifeboat will bring on tier-one technology partners because it is a small business with a GSA schedule, Foster said.

However, the distributor is more likely to work with a company like Cloudian, and not NetApp, Bass told CRN.

"Almost everybody on our line card are startups or private equity-funded, but not super-early," Bass said. "We want someone to be big in a couple years, and who is starting to grow."

The acquisition of Toronto, Ontario-based Interwork Technologies by Wayside and Lifeboat brings Lifeboat 170 people and about 4,000 new solution providers in Canada and the U.S., Foster said. Interwork is a specialty distributor with a focus on cyber security, and counts Trend Micro as its biggest vendor partner, he said.

"Interwork has a strong balance sheet," he said. "We have a strategic plan to grow that business, and we intend to continue making more acquisitions."

Looking forward, Lifeboat in June will launch its first cloud platform, and will be looking to onboard companies with functioning cloud marketplaces, Foster said.

Both Bass and Foster were executives at data storage-focused distributor Promark Technology when it was acquired in 2012 by Ingram Micro, and signed five-year non-compete agreements as part of that acquisition, Bass said.

Foster, the former president of Promark, stayed with that organization until leaving in December of 2017 to join Lifeboat. Bass left Promark in mid-2015 to spend time at storage vendor Tegile Systems and IT monitoring technology developer Blue Medora before joining Lifeboat.

Lifeboat two years ago was reporting annual revenue of $307 million, Bass said.

"The company had no strategy," he said. "It was trying to be like Ingram Micro. It had 260 brands, including a lot of 'weirdware,' and was growing in mid-single digits. But it had no cohesive strategy, no outside sales team, and no sales culture."

After Bass and Foster, joined the company slashed its product line card to focus on cloud and emerging data center products including storage, hyper-converged infrastructure, communications, data management, and security, Bass said. The company is also focusing on cross-selling of complementary technologies, and is now on the GSA schedule, he said.

Parent company Wayside Technology Group in February reported full fiscal year 2019 revenue of $601 million, up 18 percent over fiscal year 2018. Net income rose year-over-year to $6.8 million.

Wayside last week said its first fiscal quarter 2020 revenue rose 40 percent year-over-year to $62.6 million, and reported net income of $800,000, about half that of the previous year. Lifeboat Distribution accounted for $57.3 million of that revenue, which was up 43 percent over last year, while solution provider TechXtend accounted for 5.4 million, which was up 11 percent over last year.

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