ChannelLife NZ - Making a Ruckus

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Making a Ruckus

The Channel: How have you found competing against the big companies like Cisco and Aruba?
Selina Lo: You have to focus on where you are strong instead of letting them dictate the agenda. RF is where we are strong. That’s our strategy against Aruba and Cisco. Also, the channel is really important. Neither Cisco nor Aruba do the channel right. Cisco are very focused on the big channel, the guys that can move tens of millions for them. The little guys don’t get any attention. Aruba is a direct sales company, so they compete with their channel. That’s why for us, other than technology, having the right channel attitude, the right programmes, the right machine, is where we are strong
TC: How do you like to structure your channel programme?
SL: It depends on the market. You don’t want to overdistribute to the point where the market is not growing as fast as your channel is growing. Then you end up having partners competing with one another with your product. That’s when they start going and having price wars. You really need to size your channel right for the market. In most places we tend to have at least two distributors so that there’s some competitiveness. In the case of New Zealand, our distributor here, Connector Systems, has been doing a fantastic job, so we haven’t had to use another one as, let’s say, competitive encouragement. The market share here, we have twice that of Australia, so I think we’ve been doing something right here and we’ll continue to do that.
My philosophy on channels, though, is that timing is the hardest part to get. When you’re too small and you sign up a very powerful channel partner, you get into trouble because you get lost. Once you get to a certain size, though, you really need that kind of channel to move things for you. Figuring out that timing is the most important thing.
TC: You’re planning to go public – how long have you been considering that?
SL: From a numbers perspective, we’ve had the numbers to go public since 2011. For me, though, going public is not the end, it’s a means to an end. For us the ultimate goal is to build a company. Going public to me is just a funding event. It’s necessary for big companies like tier-1 operators to see that we are going to stick around, and also for our employees it’s a validation of their work, so in a sense the reward of an IPO is emotionally important, but I also want to make sure that I do it right. I don’t want to be one of those companies that IPOs and then a year later the stock crashes because I didn’t realise the channel had stock [in inventory]. For us, having the infrastructure to operate a company predictably is one critical requirement.
TC: With a lot of tech companies the goal is just to get big enough to sell off, has that ever been something you’ve considered?
SL: This is my third start up, and my philosophy is never to build a start up to get sold. Otherwise, you end up optimising the company in the wrong ways. The only thing I can control is to build a company that can sustain itself. Along the way, if somebody offers you a price that you can’t turn down, you sell. From our perspective right now, our company has built a lot of value. I’m not making any assumptions about acquisitions. I’m just marching on forward.
TC: Is the quirky character of the company something you’ve deliberately put in, or is that just how you roll?
SL: We are all quirky people, that’s true. But we like it, we like personality. It’s very important. It’s important for our employees, it’s good for our partners, and even customers like it. We are proud of our technology, we are a little bit geeky, but we want to have fun as well. People want to work with fun people. Like in our channels, I want to create this loyalty where they feel like they’re part of a pack. Without a personality that’s very difficult, you are just tied together by interdependency. If you have the same personality, there’s a little bit of an emotional aspect to the whole thing. 

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