Meet the Channel Dragons

We speak to Jamie Plumridge and Rob Brooks about the new intiative
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Forget Duncan Bannatyne on Dragons’ Den – a new initiative from The Tech Crowd is bringing emerging tech from around the world to the UK.

The only catch? Vendors must impress the Channel Dragons first... Dominic Sacco speaks to MD Jamie Plumridge and director Rob Brooks to find out more.

How does Channel Dragons work? Is it just like Dragons Den?
Jamie Plumridge, MD, The Tech Crowd: It’s Dragons Den-esque. We scour the global marketplace for products to bring to the UK. We start with a big list of potentials and narrow it down, before inviting up to four manufacturers per quarter to take to the Dragons.

We’ve signed up some of the top tech distributors – each providing a primary contact who will be their ‘Dragon’.

We pitch on the vendors’ behalf to the Dragons every quarter, and meetings are done on a one-to-one basis, unlike TV. If the distributor is interested, we bring vendors into future meetings to provide more details. The Dragons state their interest levels, then we go back and do deeper presentations around that particular vendor’s opportunity.

We then sign up those distributors [to the vendors’ products]. We’ve found our first three vendors for the first round of meetings; all of which have had serious interest from the Dragons. Vendors will have from two-to-four distributors to maintain a healthy market balance.

Which distributors are part of Channel Dragons and why should others get involved?
Jamie: So far Entatech, Spire, Northamber, C2000, Micro-P, Ebuyer, Scan and Misco have signed up.

Distributors always look for new products and ways to make margins, but not all of them have time to search the global marketplace for the next big thing. We’re effectively a free product management service for them; a team of trusted channel managers to grow a brand and protect their investment.

We don’t just put stock into the market – we help suppliers grow their business. For each vendor they sign, we will use our staff to work on a reseller recruitment campaign for them. So we want to reach out to potential new dragons and vendors, too.

Say I’m a vendor with the next big thing – how much do I have to pay you to pitch to the Channel Dragons?
Jamie: Vendors pay £250 per meeting. The only other fee is £1,550 – when a distributor signs them up. From then on, we’re mutually invested with the vendors in terms of a percentage of sales. Distributors don’t pay a thing.

Vendors should contact the Channel Dragons because they get instant access to the channel, with a development team and an experienced UK partner that already has really close relationships with some of the biggest distributors in the UK. It could cost a lot of time and money setting up offices.

We want to attract new vendors to the UK market and for Channel Dragons to be their go-to destination.

Are all the vendors new start-ups or well established firms?
Jamie: Some companies are on Kickstarter and are looking for funding. Others have successful markets in other areas of the globe but don’t have a UK base or representation.

Rob: We have one that we’ll hopefully sign up soon. He made 300 per cent of his initial asking so that’s quite exciting.

What’s next for Channel Dragons?
Jamie: To include resellers as part of the format. We’d invite 50 of them to be specialist market builders. They’d need to be proactive in selling products in the UK market and in return will get certain advantages. That way we’ll help distributors to build a reseller base, with everyone benefiting. The programme will probably launch around January 2014.

FACTFILE: THE TECH CROWD
Specialism: Channel services provider
Established: 2009
Staff: Eight
Contact: 01202 556628
Web: www.thetechcrowd.co.uk
Who? The Tech Crowd was set up to offer business development services including lead generation, partner recruitment, channel management and marketing. It works with distributors and vendors to help them make an impact on the UK market, like it did with network specialist TP-LINK for example. MD Jamie Plumridge has been in the industry for 16 years.

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