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Telecom Service Broker Blockbuster: Avant Acquires PlanetOne

Gina Narcisi

“I’ve been a hunted target for a couple of years now, but I never ever wanted to do a deal until I could answer the question: How do our partners and employees benefit? We finally found that right deal with Avant,” PlanetOne Founder and CEO Ted Schuman told CRN.

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The telecom service broker/master agent space continues to consolidate as Avant and PlanetOne come together under the Avant brand, the two companies revealed on Wednesday.

Chicago-headquartered Avant has scooped up its Scottsdale, Ariz.-based counterpart for its keen focus on partner enablement, its strong back-office and Sentient, PlanetOne’s AI-powered partner/supplier/master agent communication and sales platform, that will pair nicely with Avant’s Pathfinder sales tool, the company’s co-founder and CEO, Ian Kieninger, told CRN.

“We think this creates an unstoppable force,” Kieninger said. “We think this is an Incredible time to bring two amazing companies together to set a whole new bar in this industry. Avant has set a big goal here to be the industry’s number one front-end office focused on generating new opportunities and helping our [agents] make their sales and be more successful. PlanetOne has built a world class back-office. And we both happened to create two incredible technology approaches between Pathfinders Sentient. The big winners today are our employees and our trusted advisors.”

Via the terms of the deal, PlanetOne Founder and CEO Ted Schuman will become AVANT’s new Customer eXperience Officer (CXO). The companies are not disclosing the financial details of the acquisition.

[Related: PlanetOne: Sentient Platform Closes ‘Grand Canyon’-Sized Gaps In Partner-Supplier Communication ]

The master agent ecosystem is no stranger to consolidation. IT distributor ScanSource kicked off the trend in 2016 when it bought Petaluma, Calif.-based master agent Intelisys for $83.6 million plus earn-outs for its robust channel of telecom agent partners and lucrative recurring revenue streams. Sandler Partners and X4 Solutions also came together in 2016 to support a wider swath of partners in the West, Midwest, Northwest, and Southwest. Master Agent WTG was bought by cloud service provider AppDirect in 2019, and Telarus announced its acquisition of fellow master agent Chorus Communications in 2021.

PlanetOne through the years has differentiated itself from the competition with a focus on selling cloud-based services through its agent partners, rather than pure connectivity. The company’s portfolio in 2021 increased by 60 percent across key technology categories including advanced security, unified collaboration and voice, contact center, mobility and cloud, according to PlanetOne.

Joining forces with Avant was not “a balance sheet exercise,” the company’s leader, Schuman, told CRN. The two firm went to market differently with PlanetOne focusing on back-office and project management, so there’s very little overlap between the two companies, he said.

“I’ve been a hunted target for a couple of years now, but I never ever wanted to do a deal until I could answer the question: How do our partners and employees benefit? We finally found that right deal with Avant. We’re very excited about the future for our employees and our partners — it’s a big win,” Schuman said. “We want to take what’s already a very sophisticated, successful business, and simply double down and make it stronger with the assets we bring to market.”

Schuman said that other master agent M&A deals in recent years have been focused squarely on the principles of the acquiring company. “This is not what happened today,” he said. I’ve been sitting in the backseat watching these acquisitions … and every time I ask myself, what is the benefit for partners? I’ve never had a good answer for any of those deals. The [Avant/PlanetOne deal] was the joining of forces that will create a new market leader.”

Avant in October announced a strategic growth investment from Charlotte, N.C.-based Pamlico Capital to drive further expansion and scale of its business. The company is known for its channel sales enablement by way of its Special Forces Summits and Bootcamps and more than 1,000 certified Trusted Advisors in the first twelve months of its new Trusted Advisor Academy. Avant has a presence in the United States and the UK and saw 165 percent growth in Contact Center as a Service (CCaaS), 44 percent growth in cloud and data centers and a whopping 185 percent growth in security sales through its agent partners in 2021, the company said.

Kieninger said that now combined, partners can expect more innovation and support.

“We’ve been listening to our partners continue to push us to be disruptive and bring them better tools that they can be successful with their customers in areas like security or contact center. We’re really going to help the community and our partners get set for the next three to five years to be ultra-successful,” he said. “Coming together gives us that ability to invest in the long-run.”

 

Pictured: Avant Co-Founder and CEO Ian Kieninger, left, celebrating the close of the deal with PlanetOne Founder and CEO Ted Schuman on Wednesday.

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