Posts Tagged ‘Datagate’

Managed Service Providers (MSPs) are winning in the new age of business telecom

December 12, 2019

MSPs are the new force in Unified Communications, and they are taking on the business telecom market at an accelerating pace, worldwide.

MSPs are winning an increasing share of the business telecom market
MSPs are winning an increasing share of the business telecom market

Through my business Datagate Innovation, that provides white-label telecom billing solutions, I am witnessing first hand, how MSPs are winning an increasing share of the business telecom market. From what we see at Datagate, this is very much a worldwide trend, and we see it directly in the USA, Canada, UK, Australia and New Zealand.

This is happening for the following reasons;

  • Business customers want a closer, more integrated and higher level of service than what the large telecom providers can give. MSPs have a closer relationship and better understanding of their business customers than the largest telecom providers can ever have.
  • Business customers want a single point of responsibility if/when something goes wrong with their mission-critical telecom service. They do not want to have their telecom provider and their MSP arguing about who is at fault and who needs to fix something.
  • Phones and computers have converged. Both are now running on the same networks and the same technologies. Whether MSPs directly sell the phone system or not, they end up supporting it by virtue of supporting its underlying network platform.
  • It’s good business for the MSP. Reselling telecom services is very profitable. It’s contracted and recurring revenue, with all the ingredients for MSPs to add considerable financial value to their businesses.
  • Being the “single point of supply” for all information and data technology solutions, elevates the MSP to a more strategic relationship with the customer and makes the customer “more sticky”.
  • It’s not difficult for MSPs who have no prior telecom experience to enter this space. Through the various white-label wholesale providers and solutions available, they can get as deeply involved in the technology as they want, or leave it to others to provide services for them to resell. The more deeply they get involved, the larger are the recurring margins.

My Datagate colleagues and I estimate that about 20% of MSPs are currently reselling telecom services and the MSP-driven telecom revolution is still in its early stages. The timing is clearly good for the other 80% of MSPs to enter this space!

Datagate sponsors three Florida MSP conferences

November 20, 2019

Datagate has been out among the people, at three great MSP-focused conferences in the sunny state of Florida over the last four weeks.

Our strategy is all about collaborating and working with our partners who target the same MSP audiences that we do. Specifically, our target market is defined as MSPs who sell telecom services.

The best way to connect with new prospects is to meet them in person and that’s what trade conferences are all about to us. It’s even better when you can do this with complementary partners to reinforce your offering.

Vectors by SkySwitch 2019, Orlando, October 27-30

Firstly, Datagate sponsored and attended Vectors by SkySwitch which was held at the Loews Sapphire Falls Resort, Universal Orlando, October 27-30. This was a well run event, a credit to our partner SkySwitch, with over 330 attendees, of whom most were MSPs who sell SkySwitch UCaaS VoIP services. Datagate was warmly received by the SkySwitch community and we are now scoping up telecom billing solutions for many of the MSPs we met there.

The second conference was ConnectWise’s IT Nation Connect 2019, a huge event with thousands of MSPs, which was also held in Orlando, Florida immediately following the Vectors event.

“With some help from our friends” at IT Nation Connect 2019, Orlando, FL
From L to R, Greg Robinson, Karine Vosberg, Evan McLean, me, Shauna Brauchler and Matt LaHood

At IT Nation, Greg Robinson and I were joined by Karine Vosberg and Matt LaHood of GSA as well as Shauna Brauchler and Evan McLean of Wolters Kluwer, CCH SureTax. This was a powerful combination of people, because we had all the expertise on-hand to talk with MSPs about telecom billing, tax & compliance, as well as how we integrate with ConnectWise Manage. The response from ConnectWise MSPs visiting our booth was fantastic!

Greg Robinson and I catch a quick photo with Ryan Goodman, President of ConnectBooster, at ConnectWise HQ – Fall Festival – Solution Partner Showcase, Tampa, FL

The third event was held at ConnectWise’s headquarters in Tampa, Florida. This was the “Fall Festival Solution Partner Showcase”, where Datagate and six other ConnectWise Invent Partners got to meet with a over a hundred of ConnectWise’s sales, marketing, tech support and management personnel and familiarize them with what our solutions do with the ConnectWise platform.

It was an ideal venue to promote the powerful telecom billing capabilities of Datagate with ConnectWise Manage.

Greg and I both enjoyed meeting the ConnectWise team members, as well as the other ConnectWise Invent Partners in attendance. This included Ryan Goodman, the president of ConnectBooster, an on-line payment portal that is very popular with ConnectWise and Datagate clients.

That concludes all the conferences for Datagate in 2019, but we’ll back for more next year!

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.

Vancouver as an ANZ beachhead to North America

May 10, 2019
Vancouver’s other airport

When high-growth businesses from Australia and New Zealand (ANZ) look to expand their presence into North America, they have a range of cities to choose from. Sometimes they don’t even need to choose a single location, when staff can work remotely from different locations. When they do need to choose a beachhead location, most will choose a west coast city within easy reach of ANZ. This will ideally have a major airport close by that has good access to the rest of North America and of course New Zealand or Australia.

My SaaS billing software company, Datagate (which was established in New Zealand), looked at all the following location criteria for setting up a new presence in North America, to complement our existing sales office in Jacksonville, Florida and extend our reach from our base in Auckland, New Zealand;

  • Good time-zone overlap with New Zealand (we still have a many of our customers, partners and key staff located in Auckland, New Zealand).
  • Good time-zone overlap with the North American continent (our major focus and we have customers, partners and prospects spread throughout the wider USA).
  • Some workday time overlap with Australia and the UK (where we also have important customers and prospects).
  • Easy access to a major airport, whereby we can take a single flight to most major cities in North America, UK, Europe, Australia and of course New Zealand (multi-leg flights with stopovers are far more time-consuming and energy-draining)
  • Ease of getting established (incorporating a company, setting up bank accounts, renting premises, telephone systems, utilities etc).
  • Good public transport.
  • The costs of running a business are not overly high.
  • A great place to live, where we can easily attract talented, high-grade employees.

We ended up choosing Vancouver, Canada, ahead of other west coast cities that also met our time-zone and accessibility criteria. We liked that we could set up here relatively quickly and everyone we engaged with was positive, friendly and very helpful.

For me personally, the speed of getting established in Vancouver was boosted by my dual citizenship of Canada and New Zealand, but regardless of this, Vancouver still stacked up well as a place to live and work in North America.

Canada Place

The shift to Vancouver from Auckland, New Zealand has been a positive experience for my wife Lee and I. Vancouver is a beautiful, vibrant, multi-cultural city, surrounded by water, snow-capped mountains and the great outdoors. We live near our office in the downtown city area, where everything we need is within walking distance, including a train to the airport. People here are friendly, helpful and welcoming of newcomers.

From a business perspective, we’ve found it easier to communicate with our North American customers, prospects and partners for longer periods of the day than we could from New Zealand, plus it’s been very convenient to have closer access to the conferences and trade shows that we regularly attend.

Coordination and collaboration with our US sales office in Jacksonville, Florida has also improved greatly. American customers no-longer say our time-zone is “on the dark side of the moon”.

It was fast and easy to register a British Columbia company and open an account with the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC), who can handle both Canadian and American banking. American business is easy from here and most Canadian establishments are experienced at supporting businesses that operate in the USA.

We’ve had great assistance in getting set up here from New Zealand Trade & Enterprise (NZTE), Nick Fleming the New Zealand Trade Commissioner, Callaghan Innovation and our local Canadian immigration consultants Sas & Ing.

Lee on the Vancouver waterfront

My advice to high-growth businesses from New Zealand and Australia, who want to set up in North America is… make sure you check out Vancouver!

Datagate is the ideal solution for ConnectWise MSPs to bill VoIP and other telecom services

December 4, 2018

Computers and phones have converged. They are now one and the same thing, running on the same IP network, sharing the same infrastructure and technology.

What this means for Managed Service Providers (MSPs), is that their business clients now look to them to provide telecom services such as VoIP, fixed line, mobile and data circuits, along with the regular IT services they have always provided.

Business customers want a single point of supply for their data and voice technology, so the MSP ends up becoming their telecom provider.

This is a great opportunity for MSPs to lock in new recurring revenue and margin, make their customers more “sticky” and increase the value of their businesses.  However, with this new business comes the added complexity of new types of systems, but more importantly, new types of billing.

Datagate Innovation has recognized this shift in the market and the fact that a new kind of billing software is required to equip MSPs to bill telecom services automatically, accurately and in compliance with applicable taxes and laws.  Datagate is a SaaS billing solution, designed for MSPs to bill telecom services and integrate with their in-house systems, to function optimally at minimal time and cost. 

Integration with ConnectWise (Option)

Datagate recognized that many thousands of MSPs around the world use ConnectWise to run their businesses because it handles most of the functionality they require. However, ConnectWise does not handle telecom billing, so ConnectWise MSPs must use Datagate for this function.

Because of the large number of MSPs using both Datagate and ConnectWise, Datagate Innovation decided to integrate the systems to share customer data and make Datagate’s invoices visible to ConnectWise users, thereby giving ConnectWise users the full picture of services being provided and billed to any customer.

The objectives of the integration between the two systems, is to minimize the need for re-keying, maximize data accuracy & integrity and make ConnectWise the single “source of truth” to see data from both systems in one place. 

Integration with CCH SureTax (Option) for American telecom tax

In the United States, each state, county, city and federal jurisdiction applies their own tax and compliance rules to telecom providers.   This means that, depending on where a telecom customer is located, a specific set of taxes and surcharges will be applicable on their telecom invoice.

In order to deal with this complexity and make telecom billing easy, safe & compliant for MSPs, Datagate integrated with CCH SureTax, one of the leading telecom tax calculation systems.  Furthermore, CCH SureTax is now included in the price of Datagate in the North American market.

Making Telecom billing easy, accurate and compliant for MSPs

Datagate is committed to a long-term strategy of enabling MSPs to sell wholesale telecom services (such as VoIP, mobile and data circuits) to their customers and bill these services on their own invoice, using their own pricing plans.

Telecom billing has mainly been the domain of larger telecom specialists, whereas now with Datagate, all MSPs can be telecom providers.

Datagate well received at IT Nation 2018

November 26, 2018

Datagate was well received by ConnectWise MSPs at IT Nation 2018 in Orlando this month. Our booth was constantly busy and our breakout session “Strategies for Profitable, Integrated and Compliant Telco Billing” was well attended.

Datagate offers American MSPs a ConnectWise-integrated, telecom tax-compliant billing solution that enables them to bill VoIP and other telecommunications services on their own invoice, under their own brand.

Datagate is a SaaS solution that is bundled with CCH SureTax, which handles all the tax calculations of the various states, counties, cities and federal jurisdictions that their customers reside in.

Furthermore, Datagate has several partner companies that specialize in American telecommunications tax and compliance. Of these, Matt Lahood of GSA presented at Datagate’s breakout session, along with Ben Isbell of Wolters Kluwer and myself.

American MSPs have been waiting for a tax-compliant telecom billing solution that integrates with ConnectWise.  This is now available, from Datagate.