Scenes From XChange Americas: Day 3

VAR In His Blood

Did you know billionaire entrepreneur and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban was once not only a VAR but also a columnist for CRN? Visiting XChange Americas for the Tuesday keynote session, Cuban reminisced a bit about his earliest successes in the 80s and offered plenty of business advice for truth-seeking solution providers.

Hot Seat

Arguably the channel's most famous son, Cuban's entrepreneurial bent drove him to build a series of successful ventures, from his own solution provider business, MicroSolutions, which he sold to CompuServe in 1990, to, which he sold to Yahoo for nearly $6 billion in 1999.

Now, in addition to the Dallas Mavericks, Cuban owns Landmark Theaters and is the chairman of HDNet.

Cuban fielded questions from Everything Channel CEO Robert Faletra (pictured) and from the standing-room-only crowd.

What's Next?

Understand the true value you bring to your customers, and seek out the next big thing, Cuban advised. When he first bought the Dallas Mavericks, Cuban said he had to dispel the myth that the team was in the basketball business.

In fact, he said, they sell "fun."

"It was the same approach I took as a reseller," Cuban said. "First I had to know what differentiated us."

Try, Try, Try Again

You only need to be right once to make it big, Cuban told XChange attendees. Given the low cost of entry for cloud computing, solution providers should recruit a customer to create the "Me And You R&D Department" and take a few chances to see what works, he urged.

"It doesn't matter how many times you fail," Cuban said. "You only need to get it right once and you're an overnight success."

Cuban Chatter

’I loved it," said Arian Soheili, Managing Partner, Cantatus Systems Group, British Columbia. "He was so engaged with the audience. His story was really interesting, but the important thing was he was engaged with the audience and talking to us and with us in our own language instead of talking down or lecturing to us. It was great.’

Cuban Chatter

’I’ve never seen a presentation like this," said Raj Dass, sales director, USComputers of Woodbridge, Virginia. "It was one of the best I’ve ever attended. He was a real guy, not someone on stage trying to sell something. He gave us a lot of insight on how to take our company to the next level.’

Cuban Chatter

’I thought it was fantastic," said Erik Barnlund, CEO, Mavidea Technology Group, Bloomington, Ill. "He made a great point about a mistake I see a lot of IT companies make -- they can’t wait for the phone to ring. You have to be sales -- and marketing -- focused. We’re a sales -- and marketing -- focused organization, but it was a great reminder to hear Mark say we should be doing that.’

Cuban Chatter

’I thought it was fascinating on many levels," said Paul Brian, owner, IT Authority of Medina, Tenn. "It was nice to hear from someone who has a real perspective on the industry and who’s been in the industry from very early on. And it was great to hear it from the horse’s mouth. You obviously hear a lot about the guy, but to hear him speak in person was great.’

Best of the Best

Running concurrently with XChange sessions Tuesday was the Channel Leadership Forum, hosted by Everything Channel's Institute for Partner Education and Development (IPED). It's a day-long seminar for vendor channel executives, who heard from Rauline Ochs (standing), senior vice president and general manager of IPED, as well as members of the IPED and broader Everything Channel team.

BlackBerry Bound

Boardroom sessions continued well into Tuesday, with plenty of feedback from vendor executives like Jeff Heiner, from BlackBerry maker Research In Motion.

What A Good Sport

Steve Harper, president of Network Management Group, a Hutchinson, Kan.-based solution provider, well ... wigged out a bit during Samsung's boardroom.

Caught In Passing

Dr. Thiago Turchetti Mala, CEO of Brazil-based Vetta Group, said he was on the hunt for software targeted at large enterprises.

"We have big customers in Latin America," Mala said. "We are looking for new technologies and partnerships we can bring to Brazil."

What's In Your Wallet?

Tripling partner profits sounds real good to solution provider Tom White, getting the lowdown from ConnectWise's Andrea Caby.

Wonder Women

Fortinet's demo room was the place to be for aspiring superheroes of all stripes.

IBM's Pledge

Cloud computing and business analytics are two areas where partners will be able to succeed and profit, and IBM is at the vanguard of each, said Rich Hume, general manager, global business partners and midmarket for Big Blue.

IBM is planning billions in investment and acquisition for each of those areas, and continues to see big gains for its Smarter Planet initiative, Hume explained.

Going Big Blue

During his morning presentation, Hume brought on two IBM partners to talk a little bit about emerging opportunities.

Phil Sauvageau, chief operating officer of MSI Systems Integrators, an Omaha, Neb.-based solution provider, said that there’s unmistakable ’velocity" behind cloud, and that the challenge for solution providers is to help businesses migrate to the cloud but also balance the benefits of cloud computing with their current infrastructure. ’Of all the vendors we work with, IBM has stepped up to help us figure that out,’ he said.

Manuel Kaver, president and CEO of GBM Corp, an IBM alliance partner based in Costa Rica, said IBM’s investment of time and resources into small and developing countries is what sets them apart. GBM right now does about 70 percent of its business in hardware and 30 percent in services, Kaver said, but he’s enlisted IBM’s help to invert that ratio.

Simply HP

Streamline operations has been a major focus as of late for HP, which according to Stephen DiFranco, vice president and general manager, Americas Solution Partner Organization, is going to mean HP partner programs that are simpler and easier to navigate.

In an afternoon session, attendees got a chance to hear a bit from DiFranco on HP's partnering plans for 2010 and beyond.

Fine Tuning Cloud Marketing

In a special content session for vendor executives, Reid Overcash, CEO of SharedVue, spoke to cloud marketing -- the strategic combination of marketing with Software-as-a-Service (SaaS). For vendors, Overcash explained, that means automating the processes of lead and demand generation through the channel, and understanding state-of-the-art content syndication to target and manage vendor marketing messages.

Storage In Heat

Why does virtualization remain such a hot technology? Dynamic infrastructure that not only improves service delivery but also cuts costs is attractive to businesses that have survived the recession economy and are looking to keep up their momentum. Expect virtualization -- and hot technologies like storage optimization, consolidation and optimized backup, and disaster recovery -- to stay plenty popular, said Barb Goldworm, president and chief analyst at Focus LLC.

Meet The Women

Female executives face unique challenges, obstacles and opportunities in the working world of today, and in a panel moderated by Shirley Turner, president and founder of Black Lab Marketing, several prominent women of the channel got a chance to share their experiences and insights. From left to right: Tricia Atchison, senior director of North America Channel Marketing for Symantec; Kristie Bell, global vice president, channels, alliances and mid-market services for the Global Technology Services Group at IBM; Julie Parrish, vice president, global partner sales for NetApp; and Sonia St. Charles, CEO and co-founder of The Davenport Group.