Posts Tagged ‘Datagate America’

New Webinar Series: “Talking VoIP with Datagate”

January 25, 2021

One of the great things about the telecom – MSP industry is that there is no shortage of interesting topics within it to learn about and apply to your business to make it more successful. These include technical, product, business and regulatory subjects (yes, regulatory subjects can be interesting too).

This year Datagate has decided to run a series of webinars called “Talking VoIP with Datagate” where we delve into what we believe are the most interesting subjects to us and our MSP community. In effect, it’s a learning exercise that we want to share with anyone who wants to join us and we will be talking with some of the most interesting and qualified people in the industry on the topics we cover.

At the time of writing, we are still compiling our list of topics and guests for the year, but our first topic will be “Using Microsoft Teams as a softphone” and we’ll be talking with Micah Singer of TeamMate Technology. TeamMate develops the software that connects Microsoft Teams to phone systems and so Micah is on the cutting edge of what can be done with Teams and telecom.

Other topics that we’re considering for the series include “Building a successful telecom business”, “Telecom tax and compliance in the United States”, “Digital marketing for MSPs”, “Data analytics for MSPs”, “Adding value with professional voices” and others. We’re open to suggestions for further topics that would be interesting to our MSP community.

I hope you’ll join us in this series. It should be fun, interesting and educational.

2020 – a year like no other at Datagate

December 17, 2020

At the start of this year, we thought 2020 was going to be “special” because it marked the start of an exciting new decade for Datagate. While that might still be the case, that particular aspect of 2020 was about to be overshadowed by what unfolded in the coming months with the global Covid-19 pandemic.

2020- A year like no other

For Datagate, being an international business, a major impact of Covid-19 for us was finding that we were restricted from travelling, both locally and internationally, and we were forced to do 100% of our meetings and interactions on-line. All our staff suddenly had to work from home, and we soon found that working from home was actually more productive and efficient than working from a city office. We’ve now decided to stay with the work-from-home model, as it works better for our staff and our business.

The whirlwind that was 2020

Despite all the Covid-19 carnage and disruption around the world, and being forced to work from home and not travel, the Datagate team, along with our partners and clients, managed to achieve a lot.

In January we formalized our new and very successful distribution partnership with SkySwitch – a leading US white-label wholesale VoIP, UCaaS provider for MSPs, who are based in Florida.

In February, prior to the Covid-19 outbreak, we attended what was to be our last in-person conference for a while, the ITExpo in Fort Lauderdale FL, where we met with a number of our partners and clients.

In March the Covid-19 outbreak took hold, and our plans for travelling and industry conferences came to an abrupt halt. At the same time we could see that our MSP clients were becoming even more busy than usual. The world had changed and the demand for VoIP and UCaaS solutions from businesses everywhere was skyrocketing, to enable staff to work from home. Fortunately for us, being a Cloud-based business, we could keep up with this higher level of demand under our new working-from-home configuration.

Our MSP-Telecom industry conferences started announcing that for health & safety reasons, they were “going virtual”, so that meant we became booth-sponsors of Canadian Channel Partners 2020- virtual, Cloud Connections Summit, Channel Partners 2020 Virtual, and ConnectWise‘s IT Nation Connect 2020. We found that virtual conferences were a great option when there are no in-person conferences, but they really are not as good as the real thing for the purpose of connecting with people. We certainly missed all the great MSP & Telecom conferences that we normally attend, and look forward to when they restart.

In addition to SkySwitch, we also signed Datagate distribution deals with OITVoIP of Miami, Florida and Access4 of Australia, so we now have three strong white-label VoIP -UCaaS providers selling Datagate telecom billing solutions to their MSP resellers.

During the year we also formed a number of new integrated-product partnerships – all of whom we consider important to our MSP customer base. These include Avalara and their AvaTax for Communications tax engine, ConnectBooster and their popular payment automation solution, the quoting solution Quoter, payment solutions IPPay, Stripe and Authorize.net and MSP analytics solution, Cognition360.

We produced and participated in MSP-focused webinars with AdavantageIVR (professional voices for phone systems) and Cognition360 (advanced analytics for ConnectWise and Datagate), as well as with ConnectBooster, SkySwitch, OITVoIP and Avalara.

Geographically, we expanded our footprint in 2020 to include Sydney, Australia and London, UK. These added to our existing locations of Jacksonville Florida, Vancouver Canada and Auckland, New Zealand. We’ve also added five new staff to our North American customer services team, to increase capacity to serve our MSP clients.

Further to all the above, we did a lot of great work in collaboration with our established industry partners (in no particular order): ConnectWise, Microsoft, CCH SureTax, Compliance Solutions, GSA/CLA, RTC, Xero, QuickBooks and others,

It’s been quite a year!

Happy New Year! Roll on 2021!

Datagate featuring at IT Nation Connect 2020 – Virtual

November 2, 2020

Next week (November 10th, 11th & 12th) Datagate will be a gold-level booth sponsor for the fourth time in a row at the ConnectWise IT Nation Connect conference, which is traditionally held in Orlando, Florida each year.

This year, due to Coronavirus-related health & safely concerns, the event will be “virtual” for the first time, instead of in-person. This presents a great opportunity for MSPs around the world to “attend”, what I believe to be the greatest industry event for MSPs, without the expense and time commitment that is normally required.

Datagate wins “Best Newcomer” award at IT Nation 2017 in Orlando, Florida

Datagate’s first appearance at IT Nation was in November 2017, which marked the first time that we connected face to face with American MSPs and started to understand their requirements for a telecom-billing solution that would integrate deeply with ConnectWise Manage and handle the inclusion of numerous telecom taxes at the federal, state, county and city level.

We also won the “Best Newcomer” award from ConnectWise and along with that, received a lot of publicity within the ConnectWise MSP world.

We came away from IT Nation 2017 with over a hundred sales leads for MSPs wanting a solution like Datagate, that would save them days of work each month, share its data with ConnectWise Manage and make the complicated task of telecom billing very easy and quick.

This started the ball rolling for Datagate with ConnectWise, and since then we’ve grown to serving over 150 MSP clients using Datagate for telecom billing with ConnectWise Manage. We’ve sponsored each IT Nation Connect event since then, and this year we’re doing the same – except for the first time, it will be a virtual event.

Anyone wanting to virtually attend IT Nation Connect 2020 can register here.

I hope to see you there.

MSPs see strong revenue growth in business VoIP despite Covid-19

September 28, 2020

Computers and phones have converged, so the providers of IT services, known as “Managed Service Providers” or MSPs, are now selling VoIP phone systems as a natural and profitable extension of the managed services they provide to their business clients.

From the strong revenue growth we at Datagate see through these MSPs, even during a global pandemic, it is clear that businesses around the world like to buy their telecom and IT services from the same source – their MSP. This is hardly surprising, given that the network technology is common to both, and nothing can be more frustrating to a business customer than having multiple technology providers pointing to each other when something goes wrong.

After some recent conversations with Ken Davis, the president of ConnectWise BI & Analytics provider Cognition360, I was inspired to look more deeply into the numbers to draw insights into what is happening to the MSPs using Datagate for telecom billing, especially during this complex time of the Covid-19 pandemic. Cognition360 now has the capability of providing analytics specific to Datagate telecom billing within a ConnectWise Manage database – which I am very excited about.

To date, Datagate has signed up over 150 MSPs who use our SaaS billing solution to bill VoIP services, spread throughout the United States, Canada, UK, Europe, Australia and New Zealand (with most in the United States).

In calculating the following numbers, we looked at the period from August 2019 to August 2020 and we only included MSPs that had been with us longer than the measured 12 month period. Six of the twelve months in this period included international Covid-19 restrictions which only appears to have had a somewhat negative effect on New Zealand and Australian telecom revenue.

The international average revenue growth rate for MSPs billing telecom services through Datagate over this period was 33%. In the Australia-New Zealand region the average growth was down to an average 25%, while in the United States, the average was a whopping 77%.

Obviously, achieving a high percentage revenue growth gets harder, the larger a business is, and is was notable that our larger MSPs were still achieving impressive growth rates, with large dollar value increases.

Internationally, Covid-19 seems to have made our MSPs busier, helping their business customers reconfigure for staff working from home, and implementing “Unified Communications” VoIP systems.

My conclusion from looking at these high-level numbers, is that selling VoIP and Unified Communications, is a solid high-growth opportunity for MSPs which seems to be mostly resilient to the Covid-19 lockdowns.

Conferences “go virtual”

June 30, 2020

IT industry conferences have always been a big part of our marketing strategy at Datagate, particularly in the United States, where there are so many great conferences that are very well attended.

Our target market is defined as “Managed Service Providers (MSPs) who sell VoIP and other telecom services”, so the conferences we target to market our telecom-billing solution are those that cater to MSPs and the telecommunications industry. Our regular favorites are; Channel Partners, IT Expo, Robin Robins and ConnectWise’s IT Nation. Our white-label telecom partner SkySwitch, also has an excellent conference, called Vectors.

These conferences are where we make new industry contacts, and meet with potential partners and clients. Meeting face to face with someone is the best way to start any kind of relationship where trust is required. After meeting at a conference, it’s more easy to continue the conversation remotely via email, phone or web conference.

As a general rule, it’s easier to do business with someone you’ve met in person. This is not to say that meeting someone in person is essential to doing business.

Datagate at the IT Nation Connect Conference in Australia, 2019

Having an exhibitor booth with good clear signage about what you do, is the best way to meet relevant industry contacts. When you don’t have a booth you are more limited to seeking out relevant people who have booths, but when you have a booth, relevant people will come to you and you can still go and talk with others who have booths.

The advent of COVID-19 this year has seen all of the 2020 conferences we’ve been booked into since early March 2020, get initially postponed from their original dates, and then finally switched over to become “virtual conferences”. A virtual conference is an event held over the Internet using a software platform that mimics and enables many of the activities that happen in an “in person” conference.

From our perspective at Datagate, there seem to be positives and negatives with virtual conferences compared to real in-person conference, which I’ve listed below:

Positive aspects of
Virtual Conferences
Negative aspects of
Virtual Conferences
Greatly reduced COVID-19 infection riskHuman interaction is reduced. Relationship building ability is compromised.
No travel and accommodation costs. Less time away from the regular business environment. Some attendees like visiting conference destinations as a vacation, for them and/or their families. This attraction is lost.
Attendees can split their time between the conference and their regular work.Attendees will split their time between the conference and their regular work, adding the risk of distraction and forgetting about the conference.
Less cost or no cost to attendees.Less commitment and buy-in from attendees.
Larger potential audience, because people can attend from anywhere and cost is not such a barrier.It’s harder to make the conference “special” and differentiate from other Internet/web content.
Positive and Negative aspects of Virtual Conferences

With all the necessary restrictions in place to slow down the spread of COVID-19, real in-person conferences are not going to be able to be held in North America for at least the next six months, possibly longer.

The conference industry is still the early stages of learning how to make virtual conferences work. I believe we will see significant improvements over the coming months and years, which may well make virtual conferences a permanent and viable option.

For now, businesses will make the best of the options available to them and many of these options, including virtual conferences, might become a more permanent option beyond the COVID-19 era. However, I’m confident that the “good-old” in-person conferences will come back with a vengeance as soon as the COVID-19 situation permits.

Business benefits of a laser-sharp focus

October 21, 2019

At some point, whether consciously or unconsciously, every business must decide on the range of products and/or services they will provide to their customers and what type(s) of customers they target.

If the accessible target market of a business is small, then the business will likely need to offer a wider range of products and/or services in order to generate sufficient revenue from its relatively small customer base. Conversely, if the target market is large, then the business can afford to specialize and focus it’s products and/or services to a narrower band. Thereby they remove a lot of complexity from their operations, while offering greater expert value to their target customers.

I have found this correlation between market size and business focus is especially valid in the software industry, while it also applies to many other business categories.

My company, Datagate Innovation started its life in New Zealand as a SaaS billing and reporting solution for businesses that sell usage-based services, such as telecommunications, electricity, water, Software as a Service etc. Given the relatively small size of the New Zealand market, our initial approach was to apply our sales and marketing efforts across all the various industries for which our software could be used. I call this having a “wide focus”, which seemed logical at the time, to win as many customers from our small New Zealand market population as we could. In hindsight, it was a great opportunity to test and evaluate the various different industry opportunities within a small and accessible population.

The downside to a wide focus is complexity, and complexity generally makes it harder to scale-up a business.

Datagate found that there was plenty of demand and opportunity for our product in each of the industries we engaged with, but we soon realized that each was pulling us in a slightly different direction. Each direction involved a different learning curve, more costs, different marketing, different pricing, different language and slightly different functionality and integrations in our product.

We wanted to scale-up our Datagate business as quickly as possible, but the complexity of supporting multiple customer categories made this difficult, with extra costs and less repeat-ability and re-use of existing resources, the wider we went.

The answer to our scaling-at-speed challenge, was to narrow our industry focus, while at the same time increasing our geographic focus. So to do that, we picked one target industry, while expanding our target market beyond New Zealand, to other larger economies such as North America, the United Kingdom and Australia. The industry we chose was telecommunications and more specifically, we focused in on the fast-growing segment of MSPs (Managed Service Providers or IT Services Companies) who are now selling telecom/voice solutions, due to the convergence of computers and phones.

The widening of Datagate’s geographic focus did introduce “some” extra complexity to the business, with the slightly different language, tax and compliance requirements of each country, but the complexity was far less than that of targeting different industries.

As our software product matures, we continue to add functionality that is more specific to telecom billing and integrations to other software products, such as ConnectWise, QuickBooks and Xero, that are commonly used by our MSP target market. This gives us a high level of efficiency, where everything we do in product development and marketing is mostly relevant to our whole target audience. This would not be the case if we had a wider focus and were targeting multiple industries.

We have found that customers (and investors) in the larger economies, such as North America, generally expect software solution companies like Datagate to be very specialized in what we do.

There is less need to go wider in a larger economy, especially when it can be more efficient, lucrative and easier to go deeper instead.

The as-a-Service partnership as a long-term journey

September 21, 2019

As an XaaS (Anything as a Service) provider, you engage your customers for at least the term of your contract, but your real goal is to keep them with you for much longer than that.

If your billing model is fully or partly usage-based, then not only are you motivated to keep your customers longer-term, but you are also motivated to ensure their successful and increased usage of your product or service, because more usage translates to more revenue for your business.

This is why I like the usage-based billing model. It motivates service providers to provide better long-term service to their customers, whilst it also gives more power to the customers, where they can take their business elsewhere, if they’re not getting the service levels or value for money they desire.

When my company Datagate signs up a new client for our billing solution, we view it as a commitment to a very long-term partnership. Our own charge model is based on a small percentage of what our clients bill, so our success is mathematically linked to their success.

We invest heavily in providing services and support for our clients and the ongoing improvement of our product. I see this as an investment in generating more business for our clients and us, rather than as just an overhead cost. The average Datagate client grows their business by 22% per year and so as long as we keep our churn rate to be minimal (as it is), then our revenue would grow by about 22% each year, even if we didn’t make any new sales.

My recommendation to any business that has a recurring revenue model, is to include at least some usage-based component to your billing, because it will drive better behavior in your client relationships and increased revenue growth opportunities for your business.

Good luck on your XaaS journeys!

Datagate on the roadshow with Robin Robins

August 30, 2019

This week I was in Los Angeles, where Datagate was a sponsor at Robin Robins’ Marketing Implementation Roadshow.

Robin is a well-known personality in the American MSP industry. Her events are very popular because she knows her target audience and she gives her clients great advice, blueprints and inspiration on how they can be extremely successful in their businesses. I’ve sat in on some of her sessions and I find her advice and material very motivating and inspirational.

Datagate’s main purpose for me being there was to connect directly with MSPs who are serious about growing their businesses, becoming more profitable and becoming the single point of supply to their customers for voice and data applications.

I connected with some great Los Angeles MSPs at this event and look forward to following up with them over the coming weeks. One thing I’ve noticed, is that the challenges and aspirations of MSPs are similar, no matter where you go. The common goal is to build good “sticky” customer relationships and strong recurring revenues – and Datagate is designed to help them achieve that.

I also enjoyed talking with the other vendor-sponsors, a few of which could become potential partners for Datagate. This type of interaction and what you learn from it, adds to the value of these events for a sponsor.

Anyhow… now it’s time to close off this chapter and head back up to Vancouver.

Integrations key to business software success.

July 25, 2019

These days it seems like most, if not all technology products are getting smaller and more powerful, smaller and faster, smaller and less expensive, smaller and smarter, smaller and better connected.

In business software we’re seeing the same trend, away from the large monolithic systems of old, towards smaller, more targeted “apps” with a specific purpose. These apps connect to other apps and work together to form a larger overall “integrated solution”.

I first noticed this “smaller and connected” trend a few years ago when I worked in the ERP industry. We started seeing smaller accounting systems being used by larger and larger businesses. How could this happen? The answer was and is that the smaller accounting system is plugged into add-on solutions that enable the combined solution to cater to the specific requirements of the industry or user.

In the case of my company’s Datagate Billing Solution, we’ve decided on a product strategy where we focus on the rating and billing piece of the solution for telecom and other utility resellers, and leave the accounting, CRM, and business management functions to other popular solutions dedicated to those purposes. This means each software company focuses on what it’s good at and the integrations between the software packages enable them all to work as a single “integrated” solution.

Being integrated with other popular software products also increases our appeal to prospective customers who already use those products. This in turn leads to partnerships with those software vendors, as per the topic of my previous blog article.

Strategic partnerships as a high-growth strategy

June 26, 2019

One of the most common mistakes made by early-stage businesses, is going it alone and trying to do everything themselves.

Strategic partnerships can be a cost-effective and efficient way for a business to add channels to market, brand value, access & relevance to customers, localization and other strengths to their business proposition.

Partnerships will only work when both partners win from the partnership.

To identify potential partners, businesses should identify and understand what value the partner will add for them and in-turn, what value they will add for their partner. Sometimes it’s simply an exchange of margin and additional sales reach, other times it might be adding functionality to their product offering and opening new market opportunities together that the partners may not be able to address on their own.

Ideally, there should be a signed partnership agreement, to define the details of the agreement and hopefully prevent any misunderstandings later on.

To illustrate how strategic partnerships work, consider the example of my company Datagate.

Datagate is a SaaS billing solution for businesses who sell usage-based and subscription-based services, such as as telecom services, water, electricity, cloud services etc.

Datagate’s primary market is Managed Service Providers (MSPs) who sell telecom services. We recognized that a larger, more established software business called ConnectWise also targeted MSPs, has a compatible offering to Datagate that does many awesome things, but not what Datagate does (bill telecom services) and has regular conferences that we can sponsor and a partner program we can join.

We partnered with ConnectWise in 2017, signed up to their partner program, and built extensive integration functionality into the Datagate product to enable Datagate to share data and inter-operate with ConnectWise. Then we sponsored a booth at ConnectWise’s IT Nation conferences in 2017 and 2018 (we will be back in 2019) and this put us in front of thousands of potential MSP customers who use ConnectWise. There is no way we could have reached that size of specialized audience (who were genuinely interested in our product), without our ConnectWise partnership.

Datagate America’ s banner for ConnectWise IT Nation

The value to Datagate in this partnership is access to large volumes of relevant and interested sales prospects. The value to ConnectWise is that Datagate adds telecom billing functionality to their product offering, enabling sales for them that otherwise wouldn’t have happened. Datagate is also a regular sponsor and participant for their conferences.

Among Datagate’s many valuable partnerships, another is with Wolters Kluwer and their CCH SureTax offering. CCH SureTax is a powerful cloud-based tax calculation solution that calculates and adds all the various telecom taxes to telecom invoices generated by Datagate. This is challenging in the United States, because of all the tax jurisdictions (federal, states, counties and cities) that have taxes that must be applied to telecom invoices and remitted to the appropriate authorities.

The value to Datagate of the CCH SureTax partnership is that it enables us to service the US telecom billing market, safe in the knowledge that the complex telecom tax calculations are handled correctly. Through that partnership, we also gained partnerships with their tax & compliance partners who help us offer an easy and tax-compliant package to our respective customers. CCH SureTax and their partners gain access to more clients from Datagate’s sales and our ConnectWise partnership.

These are just some of the strategic partnerships that Datagate has formed to build its international sales. I believe that a strategic partnership strategy can be one of the best ways to scale a business and can it be applied to most industries.