Innovation and Influence: Where Technology Disruptors Thrive

Posted by Mike Fitch on Mar 28, 2022

When you think of innovation — what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Maybe it’s a company like Apple or Samsung who has managed to turn our digital cameras, video recorders, mp3 players, portable gaming systems, calculators, timepieces, pedometers, GPS systems and phones into a single handheld device? Maybe it’s a company like LEGO that has gradually been changing the material of its bricks to be more biodegradable and built from fully-sustainable materials. Maybe it’s an individual like Whitney Wolfe Herd, founder and CEO of Bumble, who transformed the behavior of millions of online dating app users by putting more of an emphasis on women empowerment and safety.


When you think of influence — what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Maybe it’s the then-16-year-old Charli D’Amelio who became the first person to gain 100 million followers on TikTok. Maybe it’s someone like Jackie Robinson or Barack Obama who went through tremendous adversity to break the color barrier and open up doors for generations to come. Maybe it’s a company like Peloton or Tesla who took an already-established product (at-home exercise bikes and electric vehicles, respectively) and untapped their potential by turning them into a captivating lifestyle identity.


In tech, innovation and influence go hand-in-hand, each one driving the other. Companies that understand trends, listen to their customers and have the foresight to invest in the next generation of ideas can serve as a catalyst for partners and competitors alike. Together, this combination of innovation and influence leads to the must-needed disruption that is shaping the future of the industry.

Photo by Kvalifik on Unsplash

Ask the experts: The value of vendor relationships


At TD SYNNEX, we have a vision for a vibrant and connected world. That vision isn’t possible without the technology, services and solutions that come from our elite line card of the best vendors in the world. These manufacturers partner closely with us to offer expansive global distribution and integration capabilities, especially in next-gen, high-growth areas.

To get a better understanding of what our world-class vendors mean to the channel, we sat down with three individuals who are closest with these valuable relationships to learn a little more about what goes into the decision to invest (or not invest) in vendors based on their level of influence and innovation:

  • Francisco Criado, vice president of NextGen Solutions
  • Cheryl Neal, vice president of new vendor acquisition
  • Alex Ryals, vice president of global Security Solutions

This article is a transcript of an interview conversation. The content has been edited for clarity and brevity.


Thought-starter: What is an influencer vendor?


Cheryl: When I think of a vendor influencer, I’m looking at creative problem solvers. Sometimes, there is a problem that hasn’t even been identified in the market, but they’re staying ahead of the changes that are happening, proactively looking for what’s next and solving for problems that are happening in the future. We’re looking at vendors that are making a difference in the marketplace not only with the solutions that they’re providing but through the differentiation they’re creating in the programs offered through our channel partners.

Francisco: There are a couple of things that come to mind:

  1. Analyst firms — There was an old saying back in the day that “nobody ever got fired for procuring IBM” because it was such a sound solution. The same goes today for vendors that are backed by these industry analysts.
  2. Endorsements — Large vendors that endorse smaller vendors give these small vendors credibility and relevance to help them activate sales and obtain funding or investment.
  3. Programs — In my area of responsibility, cloud vendors are building programs that help partners build a storefront, create content and recommend solutions where they can earn money.

Overall, it doesn’t matter if it’s B2B or B2C, people trust influencers over big corporations, so they play a critical role in the IT decision-making process.


Alex: An influencer vendor is someone whose products or services can change a culture or the behavior of our ecosystem in some sort of material way. Adding automation, AI capabilities, 3D printing technologies, whatever the innovation is, really changes the way that people interact with each other. It could also be someone who gains credibility through creative social media techniques who may try to promote a topic or a concept through targeted social media channels. It could also be a vendor who creates an ecosystem where other manufacturers can build technology for their own companies. For example, Microsoft, AWS and Google have empowered thousands of companies to come to market from the foundational platforms that these cloud vendors have provided.


Leading by example: Today’s models


Francisco: There are many examples of [influencer vendors] across horizontal and vertical solutions. I look at the Global Unicorn Club, an exclusive group of nine hundred companies that have over a $1B market cap. In this group, you have a lot of disruptors, with huge representation within fintech and security. Where I see a lot of companies paving the path forward for innovation in data management, analytics and AI. We work closely with the data maturity journey, where we can help partners go from traditional databases or even Excel spreadsheets to having a full data strategy, where our vendors can introduce things like data management automation, data modeling, machine learning and hyperautomation.


Alex: When I think of companies that are changing the norm or approaching the market differently, I think of the vendors that are building platform technologies with the realization that they’re not going to be the only manufacturer in a certain space. We’re living in a world, especially in cybersecurity, where the average enterprise customer has 50–60 security vendors. Even SMB partners may have 12–15 unique security vendors. So, when I see companies that are building platforms that allow for interactivity between multiple competitive vendor technologies, those are the companies that are going to scale in the market. These vendors know they are not the only solution but are 100% channel-focused on being an important piece that can integrate with a full solution. Communication is key, and vendors building technology to facilitate that will be winners.


This or that: First-to-market or best-in-class?


Alex: I think it’s easy to say you’d want to be first to market, but if the customer ecosystem is not ready, it’s more important to have the best product when the timing is right. An example of that is Friendster back in 2002; it was two years before Facebook was introduced and the market just wasn’t ready to share everyone’s social information yet. CrunchPad is another great company that launched an early computer tablet right before Apple launched theirs. The ecosystem wasn’t quite ready until Apple came along with a bigger brand and won the game. At the end of the day, I would rather have the right technology at the right time.


Francisco: I immediately think about Betamax and VHS and to Alex’s point, just because you have the right solution, it might not be the right timing. Maybe it’s because I’m competitive by nature, but I’m a big fan of being the first-to-market, as long as you have a minimum viable product (MVP) and a marketing plan. For new vendors, you may have the best product out there, but if nobody knows about it, you can’t have a solid go-to-market; nobody’s going to buy it. For market movers, it’s critical to pilot new products with customers to perfect the solution — it’s a sustainable profit advantage to find buyers who stick with an initial brand and build brand equity. There are also advantages to being second: you can learn from mistakes, you can start to reverse-engineer and improve the product, and it’s a lot easier to attract investment in a proven market.


Cheryl: As we look at small innovators through mature vendors, we’re looking at the different opportunities that they have at having that right solution at the right time. This is where TD SYNNEX does a lot to help support those emerging technology vendors and ensure their solutions are channel-ready and channel-consumable. By combining them with some of the opportunities we have, we can help with accelerating that necessary awareness and demand in the channel.


Blast from the past: Evolution of new vendor acquisition


Cheryl: Five years ago, we were looking for vendors that were already well-established that we could immediately add to our line card because our partners were asking for them. Today, we are looking for those disruptors that are going to be complementary to vendors that are already on our line card. We’re looking for vendors of all sizes and at all levels of the maturity journey because we want to help our channel partners differentiate. We’re also looking at high-growth areas like hybrid cloud, cybersecurity, analytics, IoT, hyperconverged, 5G and modern edge and how all of those things are starting to work together. New vendors that specialize in these areas bring new approaches and expand solutions opportunities with some of these established, mature vendors.


Final thoughts: Priorities for the coming year


Alex: For me, our priorities are not about adding a vendor in a single region; I want to make sure that we’re expanding globally. A lot of my focus is on vendors that have an established presence in North America and expanding those conversations to Europe and APJ so that we can support equal coverage around the globe. My second priority for the year within the security business is around end user zero-trust architecture through identity and access management. If a [threat actor] gets access to your identity system and can pretend to be an employee or a customer, that’s a bad thing. Another high-growth area is around cloud security, such as providing safer gateways and zero-trust network access technologies. Vendors in this space are influencing the buying decisions of customers right now who are looking to protect themselves from ransomware or malware attacks.


Cheryl: As I’m looking with my team on how we better target emerging technologies and who we’re going to work with, it’s all about aligning to the business. I want to help target and recruit those vendors that are going to help our partners with that growth through outcome-based solutions for them and their end users while simplifying the complexity of going to market. It’s all about accelerating channel success; emerging vendors have great technology. We are establishing how it can work with the ecosystem that we have and how we can help bring it all together to deliver success in the channel.

About the Author

TD Synnex Editor

Mike Fitch
Content marketer and communicator through and through. ASU grad with more than 10 years of B2B tech marketing/communications experience.