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Vation Ventures: VCs, Innovators And The Channel Can Come Together

The consulting firm has developed the Vation Innovation Platform, an online marketplace featuring information and collaboration opportunities for VCs, startups, CIOs and solution providers.

While the channel is a powerful route to market for many venture-backed startups, too often the startups are pushed by their investors to go around the channel.

But it doesn't have to be that way, according to Dave O'Callaghan, managing partner at Vation Ventures, a Denver-based consulting firm that’s focused on solving inefficiencies in how innovation-driven companies are going to market.

[Related: Emerging IT Vendors You Need To Know In 2019]

O'Callaghan's former roles have included serving as channel chief at VMware and as a top channel executive at Cisco, and he said he's a firm believer in the need for venture capital firms, startups and solution providers to get on the same page with each other. He spoke Wednesday at the NexGen 2019 Conference and Expo in Anaheim, Calif., an event hosted by The Channel Company, which publishes CRN.

"You are critical in the path to success for the VCs, the money they're spending, and the emerging technologies that they launch," O'Callaghan said, addressing solution provider attendees at NexGen 2019. "This year, 2019, there will be about $100 billion invested by the Silicon Valley VCs in startup companies, and they need to get to you. And historically, how have they done at doing that? Pitifully."

When a VC provides a Series A round to a startup company, "what does the portfolio company do? They're told to go get 20 logos," he said. "So they jump over the [channel] to try to get to the customer, which causes friction with you."

Vation Ventures is looking to solve this problem of friction with the channel--and ultimately get innovation to market more quickly--with the Vation Innovation Platform. The online marketplace features information on VCs, startups, CIOs and solution providers, and enables all sides to better collaborate with each other, O'Callaghan said.

"We built a software platform where everyone can research one another. There's 400 VCs on there, if you care to learn anything about them and their strategies for investment. There's 8,000 emerging techs in there, all sorted by their use case. There's probably 20 distributors at this point. There's maybe 1,000 VAR/MSP models. And there's about 1,000 CIOs/end users," O'Callaghan said. "Everybody comes together. You can research and connect with everyone on there."

The platform also allows for ratings on the various venture-backed technologies on the site, which can help to predict which startups will end up being most successful, he said.

Phil Stravers, partner at Pella, Iowa-based ICE Technologies, said he could quickly see the potential in Vation's platform and planned to look into it further.

"Having some predictive vantage point of the winners and losers, I can see value in that. With the rapid pace of change, right now I feel like we're constantly playing catch up," he said. "That's always the question for us--is now the time to jump on that bandwagon or not?"

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