In Less Than A Year, Visioneer Gains 800 Partners

It's not common that a company signs on 800 partners in a single year, but that's exactly what Visioneer did in 2005. And this year the document-scanning company, which sells its workgroup scanners using the coveted Xerox brand, plans to double its partner base.

Visioneer has been around for more than a decade, but has gone through numerous transformations. Until recently, Visioneer's prime form of distribution was through retail using both its own brand and that of Xerox through a partnership formed three years ago.

This week in St. Petersburg, Fla., the company had its first partner conference, represented by its key ISVs, solution providers and distribution partners, none of whom were on board a year ago at this time.

The reason: Thanks to a fast-growing document-capture market, Visioneer is looking to expand beyond its core retail constituency into SMBs and production-focused workgroups, taking on rivals that include market-leader Fujitsu, as well as established players Canon, Kodak and Hewlett-Packard.

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"We are delighted to see that document capture is becoming mainstream," said Dennis Murray, Visioneer's president and CEO, who addressed roughly 100 attendees at the conference, citing his goal to see document-capture technology reach every desktop.

According to market researcher InfoTrends Cap Venture, the document-capture business grew 65 percent last year, totalling 336,000 units, up from 203,000 in 2004. This year, InfoTrends is forecasting 460,000 units. Revenue growth in 2005 was also healthy, totaling 27 percent at $736 million, which should grow to $850 million this year.

As part of a multiyear plan to grab a bigger piece of the growing market, one year ago Murray brought on-board industry veteran Don McMahan, the architect of Fujitsu's channel program, and McMahan's righthand exec, Rusty James.

The two are pivotal to transforming the companies push into the channel, bringing with them many relationships they've had over the years, and using their skills in recruiting the right partners and go-to-market model. That includes brining on volume distributors Ingram Micro and Tech Data, as well as value distributors New Wave (focused on document imaging and storage) and D&H.

"Signing up those guys doesn't mean they are selling, but, in fact, they are; their sales have ramped up," says Susan Moyse, an InfoTrends analyst. "This year, things will really start to change for them because they will start to develop those relationships."

That's why Fujitsu partner Quality Associates, a Columbia, Md.-based government VAR, made the switch. "Knowing what [McMahan and James] did with Fujitsu, they are going to do it again here, so we came over with them to capture that side of the business and bring a piece of what we sell," says Michael Pitts, director of federal programs and contracts.

He's not alone. In 2004, all the scanners deployed by eDocSecure, a Los Angeles-based solution provider, were from Fujitsu. In 2005, 60 percent were Xerox-branded Visioneer scanners and the rest were Fujitsu, says eDocument Secure's CEO John Hughes. "We really like [Xerox's] DocuMate desktop scanners; they're very popular for workgroups," he says.

McMahan, who is executive vice president of sales and marketing for the Americas, says his challenge is to get as many VARs as possible engaged and selling. So far, 300 have embarked on training. "Signing them is one thing, but bringing them to profitability is another," he says.

That will be the thrust this year, McMahan says, with a new partner portal, deal registration and an increased emphasis on providing market development funds and training. And leveraging the Xerox brand is key.

For Xerox, the benefit is less revenue-focused than it is Visioneer's ability to extend its brand with products it doesn't offer into the same customer segment. "Visioneer's scanners are a logical extension of the products we provide to the marketplace," says Harry Williams, general manager and vice president of Xerox's Intellectual Property operation.

Of course, the question remains whether rapidly growing multifunction printers with built-in scanners will prevail over standalone scanners. Visioneer's Dennis says scanners are an afterthought in MFPs. "It's not one vs. the other," he says.

Xerox, which is in both segments, gets the best of both worlds. "If there is overlap, they will find each other in the marketplace," Williams says.