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Twilio's New Channel Chief On Ron Huddleston’s Legacy And What’s Next

Chetan Chaudhary takes the position open since Huddleston, a highly accomplished channel veteran, passed away last November. ‘Ron did some fantastic things here at Twilio and created a good foundational layer that I'm really not trying to change,’ he tells CRN.

After the tragic loss of an industry luminary, Twilio has a new channel chief ready to continue the cloud communications company's transformation to a channel-focused organization.

Last month, Chetan Chaudhary took over duties initially held by Ron Huddleston, a highly accomplished channel leader for several name-brand tech vendors who died unexpectedly in November at the age of 45.

"Ron did some fantastic things here at Twilio and created a good foundational layer that I'm really not trying to change," Chaudhary told CRN.

[Related: Twilio To Buy Email API Platform SendGrid for $2 Billion]

In his short time as chief partners officer, Huddleston crafted Twilio's strategy for partnering with global and regional systems integrators and ISVs building solutions on Twilio's platform as part of a partner program called "Twilio Build."

That's proven to be "really the right vision, and the right structure of the team he put together," Chaudhary said.

Chaudhary is no stranger to the channel himself. In his second stint at Cisco Systems, for two years he managed business development efforts through the networking giant's partners.

Twilio's new channel chief started his career as an inside sales rep at Oracle between 2001 and 2003, where he first met Huddleston, who also worked at the database leader.

After Cisco, Chaudhary came to Twilio in January of 2012 to lead channel sales and help develop the young cloud company's channel strategy.

But a couple years later, he was tapped to run Twilio's IoT and wireless business unit instead.

Now, as global vice president of partners and general manager of the IoT business unit, "I'm coming back to my roots by running all the partners and our IoT strategy," Chaudhary told CRN.

Since taking the new job, Chaudhary has familiarized himself more closely with Huddleston's work—and sees it paying off.

The first set of integrators certified on the Twilio platform and Twilio Flex, a recently released contact center solution, have been yielding good results, he told CRN.

"Those seeds that he planted early last year and all the way through Q4 are starting to sprout up," Chaudhary said. "It's really about putting some more water in it and letting the thing grow."

Huddleston went to Salesforce from Oracle when the CRM giant only had a handful of partners and played a crucial role in building a program that cultivated one of the world's largest ecosystems. Huddleston also ran Salesforce's groundbreaking AppExchange online marketplace.

Huddleston's next gig was at Microsoft, where he led a major revamp of the world's largest software company's channel structure as head of the One Commercial Partner program.

In February of last year, the seasoned channel exec came to Twilio ready to apply his experience to an up-and-coming software vendor.

He told CRN after his hire that Twilio, as a company that straddles communications and cloud computing, can welcome into its channel a wide variety of partner types, from resellers and volume-based distributors to "almost every ISV on the planet."

The San Francisco-based company had yet to define and fully engage that spectrum of partners—something Huddleston said he would train his sights on doing as chief partners officer.

Chaudhary told CRN that his predecessor brought unique experiences from the world's largest enterprise software vendors to drive growth in the Twilio channel. If the company continues on that path, "we're going to see some really great engagement over the next 18 months," the new channel leader said.

The company's emerging set of partners certainly felt the blow of losing Huddleston, he said. But he's been meeting with those partners to ensure "that what they signed up for is what they're going to be delivered in 2019 and beyond."

"We stand by the partnerships Ron signed last year and stand by the employees to ensure that everyone will be successful," Chaudhary said. "The foundational pieces of what Ron built last year is pretty rock solid. Our goal is just to continue his vision in the second year of this program."

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