Lookout and Exclusive challenge traditional channel models

The decision by mobile security player Lookout to jump straight in with distribution by signing up with Exclusive Networks is something different to the norm

The channel tends to operate with well established models that help those in charge of that side of the business at a vendor work out how they should structure their approach to the market.

Over the years the way things have generally been done is for a vendor to pitch up in the UK and start by generating some business through its own very small team. It might get a marquee appointment with a well known executive but it will tend to start on a modest scale.

As things expand and the vendor gets some decent customer reference points, that can be used to encourage other doors to open, the role of the channel starts to get considered because of the geographic and industry coverage that resellers can offer.

Usually a single tier model with a handful of resellers runs for a year and a bit and then thoughts turn to distribution.

At security player Lookout things have gone rather differently and it has chosen to made the move into distribution from the start.

Having appointed Exclusive Networks as its partner in the UK and Ingram Micro in the US the firm, which has a strong background in mobile security in the consumer space, is now preparing for a push into the enterprise space.

"Most SaaS companies go to market and get some accounts then tend to work with the channel. We are doing it a little bit differently," said David Helfer, Lookout’s vice president worldwide channel development.

Part of the reason for going straight to distribution was to make sure that an culture did not develop where internal sales teams got used to working without a second tier.

"Sales people have a choice and some can see a disite tax and try to deal with resellers on their own so we are building the right culture," he added.

"We are not going to sign multiple disties but the UK is a primary launch point for us," he added "We will allow our distributors to register opportunities on behalf of their resellers. We are trying to keep it as simple as possible."

Perhaps one of the factors in making the Lookout channel model relatively unusual is because most distributors try to keep a focused portfolio and won't take on a vendor until it has a proven track record.

Barrie Desmond, COO at Exclusive Group, said it's decision to add Lookout to its roster was because it had already built credibility with some of the major mobile operators and shown that its product, which can sit alongside existing MDM products, delivered.

“The Lookout solution itself is perfectly suited to the channel.  It’s extremely flexible, integrates seamlessly into any environment, and is the perfect complement to many other solutions in our Exclusive Networks portfolio," he said.

Whether the Lookout channel model will start a trend is debatable as most distributors turn away far more vendors than they decide to carry.

But it does indicate that in a cloud world where some had questioned the future of the second tier there are still vendors viewing distribution as a vital part of their go to market strategy.

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