Master Agent WTG to Be Bought by AppDirect, Merge With NeoCloud

WTG is merging — but not with another master agent.

In a transaction the Malibu, California-based company calls the first of its kind, WTG will merge with NeoCloud, a North Carolina-based cloud service provider.

The cloud commerce platform AppDirect is acquiring both WTG and NeoCloud to create a new unit called AppSmart.

WTG’s Vince Bradley: “In order to transform and be successful in the long term, master agents in the field truly need to partner with technology companies to do more,” WTG CEO Vince Bradley said. “Because with cloud proliferation, with IoT, there is… a need for a lot more resources and technical assistance in the channel.”

Why didn’t WTG follow the model of rival master agent Telarus, which acquired fellow master CarrierSales a year ago? If anything, the agreement is a little bit closer the distributor ScanSource purchasing master agent Intelisys, but even so, AppDirect fits into an entirely different category.

Bradley said distributors and other master agents expressed interested in combining with WTG, but his outfit turned them down.

“That’s a financial transaction. It’s not a strategic one. I was looking for something strategic if I was going to do anything,” he said. “Partnering with a cloud SaaS company was a far more promising path in my opinion, avoiding some of the pitfalls that have happened with other acquisitions in the past.”

Bradley assured partners that the transition will not disrupt their businesses. He will remain with the company and take on the role of vice president of business development, and WTG’s entire executive team will remain on board. Its parent company, Commerce Consulting Corp., will also stay intact, preserving provider contracts and commission structures.

Bradley said the new unit will invest in additional channel managers, provider managers and field marketing support.

Keep up with the latest channel-impacting mergers and acquisitions in our M&A roundup.

Van Murray, AppSmart’s vice president of strategic operations, told WTG subagents that AppSmart intends to do for the channel what Uber did for taxis: simplify the experience.

AppSmart’s Van Murray: “We want to make it easy to sell. We want to make it easy to transact. That shouldn’t be a big part of your day,” Murray said.

Bryn Nettesheim, senior analyst for The 2112 Group, said the M&A reflects the trend of a “marketplaces model.”

“With the acquisition of WTG and AppDirect’s structure as a marketplace, this provides access to agents who will drive thousands of customers to purchase those digital solutions,” Nettesheim said. “The partner value is found within guiding customers to aligning platforms and integrating the variant solution sets to meet their customers’ needs.”

AppDirect President and Co-CEO Daniel Saks has advocated for the channel, noting that the personal and relational side of business should not be overlooked in the midst of a technological revolution.

“Businesses won’t just buy technology from a website; they buy technology from people they trust,” he said at Channel Partners’ Las Vegas conference earlier this year. “The biggest thing we realized is, how do we build the tools and technologies to enable you — the channel of resellers — to best help your customer through this shift to digital transformation?”

WTG made the announcement at its Holiday Event in Rancho Mirage, California. The master agent is well known for its unique energy portfolio, but has been building its arsenal of technology partnerships this year. WTG has made strides in connectivity, deepening its partnership with Bigleaf Networks for SD-WAN earlier this year. A recently expanded agreement with Sprint gave it new IoT solutions, and WTG has also partnered with SaaS marketing provider Vivial.

“The customer’s needs have changed dramatically, and if you leave solutions on the table, we’re not going to do as much business,” Bradley told partners in October.

Source: https://www.channelpartnersonline.com/2018/12/05/master-agent-wtg-to-be-bought-by-appdirect-merge-with-neocloud/

Fourscore Client Tell: Van Murray of AppSmart

The purpose of Client Tell is to spotlight the groundbreaking work of our clients, and to help businesses learn from and connect with each other. This time we talked with Raleigh entrepreneur Van Murray to hear how his business, AppSmart, is leading the industry and providing best-in-class tailored IT solutions for small to medium-sized businesses.

Entrepreneur Van Murray may have launched a new company this fall, but he’s no stranger to providing management services to small businesses. The Raleigh born and raised CEO has started and run rapidly growing IT companies around the Triangle for years. As a North Carolina State University graduate, Van chose Raleigh as his business’ home because of the vast talent pool from surrounding universities and tech companies and the reasonable cost of living. “When folks move here, they want to stay,” said Van. “Attending NC State gave me the opportunity to explore different IT opportunities around the Triangle, and the experience really shaped my path and helped me figure out what I wanted to do.”

Passion in Practice

AppSmart was conceived out of Van’s passion for IT and his desire to help small and medium sized business compete and win in the marketplace. “We work with more than 60 providers to help companies figure out which apps and services would be most beneficial to their business, and then we give them a marketplace to buy and sell them online,” he explained. “Think Amazon for Business Cloud.”

Solid partnerships are foundational to AppSmart’s operations. A big focus is put toward training and recruiting new partners who can offer the cloud and its apps to their customers, making it easier to sell software and technology. “We offer on-boarding, support services and consolidated billing along with our products, and of course we handle all the migrations for our customers,” Van said.

AppSmart’s target partners are small to medium-sized technology firms selling anything from internet bandwidth to cabling, marketing and consulting services. Today the company serves about 1,500 organizations in the United States and around 150,000 people under management. It’s quickly becoming the world’s leading marketplace in powering the digital economy.

Taking the Plunge

Van says that for him, the biggest risk in starting a company is leaving the security and stability of a full-time job. “Overcoming that fear is the biggest step,” he explained. “My wife was pregnant with our first child when I made the decision to step out on my own nearly 10 years ago, and that drove me even more. I encourage and challenge entrepreneurs to think about what they want to build or what problems they want to solve, and then take the risk to go out and make it happen.”

A Strong Alliance

When it comes to the legal aspects of starting and running a business, Van encourages other entrepreneurs to bring in a trusted partner, rather than just hiring someone to come in and do the work for you. He recalled:

“I partnered with the Fourscore Business Law team because they understand startups, their challenges and how they work. Fourscore provides me with valuable counsel and resources, so I can make the smartest and most efficient decisions for the good of the company.”

To learn more about AppSmart, visit appsmart.com.

Source: https://fourscorelaw.com/client-tell-van-murray-of-appsmart/

How Microsoft National Reseller NeoCloud Uses Nimble to Manage Channel Growth

About the Company

NeoCloud is a leading Microsoft managed cloud services provider based in Raleigh, North Carolina with over 1,500 customers. The company provides licensing, deployment, and support services for software and infrastructure solutions to help businesses be more secure, reliable, and efficient. As a CSP tier 1 direct partner with Microsoft, NeoCloud offers customized solution bundles through a national reseller network of dealers.

The Challenge

NeoCloud works with 1,000 dealers representing a large, diverse, and growing group of value-added resellers, business consultants, infrastructure technology and solution partners, telecom agents, and freelance sales people. The sheer number of people NeoCloud works with made it impossible to communicate and engage effectively with all of their constituents.

Add to that the challenge of customizing solution bundles for each target audience– with 55 vendors and over 300 solutions. You can begin to understand the scope of the company’s complex operations and communications challenges.

To solve their operational challenges, NeoCloud began looking for a CRM solution that would allow them to scale sales operations to address its growing audiences, while building and managing those relationships to drive business growth.

The Solution

NeoCloud became a Nimble reseller to provide a simple, powerful, yet affordable CRM for Office 365 and G Suite to its channel and their customers. Impressed by the popularity of Nimble, the company evaluated the solution for themselves. They were familiar with its capabilities, and knew Nimble offered the robust contact management, data enrichment, and social insights necessary to easily scale their network and operate more effectively.

Without the bandwidth to handle customer engagement on a one-to-one basis, the ability to communicate effectively at scale by segmenting a large group of people was very appealing to NeoCloud. Now, with Nimble, the team can easily use custom fields to create lists based on tag profile information, segment contacts based on custom tags as well as social and business data, and use group messaging to send customized emails to targeted contacts.

Another important factor in the company’s decision was the ability to access Nimble anywhere; from directly inside their inbox, web browser, and from their mobile device. NeoCloud considered this as revolutionary and crucial to increasing their efficiency.

Deep integration with Office 365 and Gmail was also key in the selection of Nimble; not only for the company’s own use, but to enable their resellers to sell it more effectively.  Users can adopt it without much behavior change.

“We wanted a solution that would fit into our existing suite of products and solutions in place, and Nimble has done that very well. There are hundreds of CRM products out in the marketplace, but the level of integration and ease of use is really the differentiating factor,” explains Steve Slaughter, Channel Manager.

The Nimble Experience

NeoCloud now uses Nimble to leverage the vast amount of information available to them in a central repository for more effective outreach and development of enduring relationships with their resellers.

Using Nimble to walk in the social footprints of their partners and resellers is extremely valuable to NeoCloud. By accessing their history of conversations and social media insights, the team can send more personalized outreach, allowing them to have meaningful conversations that are key to growing those relationships quickly and effectively at scale.

“A typical CRM system gives you the basics – contact title, what they sell, where they live. I wanted more than that. I wanted critical relationship-building information that would allow me to understand the reseller’s needs, priorities, and what drives them. Nimble gives me that,” notes Steve.

Nimble has also been instrumental in the introduction and recruitment of new partners. As a result of the personalized group messages the team has sent thus far, partners have introduced other people from their own networks  that NeoCloud has since started working with. NeoCloud has also seen these messages drive engagement with previously unengaged partners.

The team also appreciates the ability to remain productive while on the road with Nimble mobile. They can prep for a meeting with all of the background information at their fingertips, and send follow up emails right from their mobile device so they never miss a beat.

“Nimble was a significant supplement to our existing systems in the back office. It helps us manage relationships and have better conversations with partners versus simply managing transactions. Nimble has been vital to our success and made what was once an inefficient process exceedingly simple, which enables us to reach that high level of engagement quickly and effectively,” concludes Steve.

Future Plans

NeoCloud has plans to expand the team that will be using Nimble to continue to automate processes, collaborate and share information, and manage their pipelines–all in one place. Steve is also configuring their onboarding process into Nimble to centrally track and manage the data collection around those workflows. This will help to improve management and team visibility into each customer’s onboarding status and results.

Source: https://www.nimble.com/blog/case-study-how-microsoft-national-reseller-neocloud-uses-nimble-to-manage-channel-growth/

Career Path: Entrepreneur has high hopes for the cloud and Raleigh

Raleigh, North Carolina-based NeoCloud, which spun out of NeoNova in 2016, recently celebrated its one-year anniversary as a standalone company. Just last month, the young company, which provides management services for companies looking to transition business processes to the cloud, announced the acquisition of California-based cloud service business Bi101.

Crain’s Raleigh-Durham recently chatted with NeoCloud CEO Van Murray about Activate Good, an organization that works to connect volunteers to charitable causes in the local community, why Murray chose the Triangle for his business and what’s the next big thing in the cloud.

Q: How did your entrepreneurial path lead you to the Triangle area?

A: I grew up here in Raleigh. I love the area and my family is here. I actually only applied to one college and that was N.C. State. I was interested in computers and computer engineering, so N.C. State was the perfect fit for me. N.C. State has a great co-op program, and I got a full-time co-op at Glaxo, which was my first job in IT. I chose IT because it was something that I have always been passionate about.

My first real job out of school was with a startup, which was a small group that did big projects. I was in a space that was very new – mobile data collection. In 2004 it was very exciting technology. Then, I shifted back toward more traditional IT and ran IT for a private equity firm. I realized it’s too expensive for any traditional business to operate that way, which is what led me to the cloud business. I started Accent Plus, which was my first real business, where I helped businesses get rid of the legacy model and switch to the cloud.

Q: What was the biggest challenge when stepping out on your own?

A: The biggest fear of all is leaving secure employment, which not only did I have, but I had the opportunity to continue with those guys and continue being successful. At that time, I had recently bought a home and my wife was pregnant. The fear of leaving can be overwhelming, but it also drove me to succeed and grow the business. I sold the company, which was a success, in 2012. I closed on the deal a week after my son was born. From 2012 to 2016, we built a national sales channel. Ultimately, I saw the opportunity to buy the business back and spin it out with new investors. We closed on that deal in February 2016, so for the last year and a half or so, we’ve branded that company as NeoCloud.

Q: Why did you select Raleigh to grow your business?

A: That’s pretty easy. I had several previous roles traveling quite a bit, yet I would always want to come back home. It’s a great place to start a business because of the surrounding universities and talent pipeline. There’s a huge talent pool here and a relatively reasonable cost of living. And it’s not just the universities that are bringing talent here. Other companies – the big tech companies, pharmaceutical headquarters – are bringing talented people to the area. When folks move here, they want to stay. I think it’s a great place to be, and it’s great to see all the incubators and the entrepreneurial activity in Raleigh and in Durham.

Q: What’s next for you and NeoCloud in the short- and long-term?

A: We have grown exponentially and we’ve done more deals and grown more than I ever expected to see or do. I think I’ve accomplished a lot. From leading a great company to hiring great people – if my career ended today, I’d be happy. I just want to continue what we’re doing in this transformation to the cloud, helping businesses compete and win and, basically, do better. I just like to help people. I want to do that and continue to grow and employ a lot of people in Raleigh. I’d love to grow a big business and to have a building in the Raleigh skyline with my name on top, and I think that would be a huge success.

Q: When we talk about the cloud, where are we in its lifespan?

A: It’s very early. When I started in 2010, the foundations were there as was the ability to start a business focused on cloud. But I was out talking about it and nobody knew what it was. Now, you don’t have to explain it like you used to. Seven years is still very young for this sort of market. The numbers that are published predict the cloud will be a $300 billion-plus industry by 2020. Today, it’s obviously a fraction of that. I think, in general, it’s very young and I would say it’s in its infancy. We’re at a point now that by 2020, I don’t think any business should not be in the cloud.

Q: What motivated you to include a charitable component via Activate Good?

A: I’m interested in giving back to the community in Raleigh and around the Triangle. I was looking for ways to get involved and ended up finding Activate Good. The founder started about the same time I did, and I think what they’re doing is great. They’re making the Triangle and Raleigh the leader in volunteerism and corporate volunteerism. It’s really awesome to be able to give back and spend your time participating and volunteering with a nonprofit, especially when it’s supported and encouraged by your employer. We’re still only at 15 employees, so the best way I can think about helping the community is to provide our services to the nonprofits like Activate Good at no cost.

By: Caroline Curran, Published by Crain's Raleigh-Durham
August 24, 2017 - 10:23am

http://raleighdurham.crains.com/article/career-path/career-path-entrepreneur-has-high-hopes-cloud-and-raleigh

A Year After Spinout from NeoNova, NeoCloud Acquires a Competitor & Doubles its Team

A Year After Spinout from NeoNova, NeoCloud Acquires a Competitor & Doubles its Team

by Shannon Cuthrell — July 27, 2017

An idea for a company seeded when Van Murray, an experienced IT and engineering professional in Raleigh, wanted to channel his background in technology into his own venture.

But what started in 2010 as an IT solutions business quickly spiraled into an emerging startup in the nascent cloud services market, a global industry Gartner projects will grow 18 percent in 2017 alone.

In the time since founding, Murray sold his company, bought it back, rebranded, made an acquisition and grew to servicing 1,500 customers. With a team of 15, doubled in size over the last year, the company now called NeoCloud is positioning itself as an expert in migrating data into the cloud, managing and integrating cloud services, training customers and ensuring compliance with company policy.

Relationships with more than 200 cloud service providers and more than a petabyte of data migrated on behalf of customers help validate that.

If the growth trajectory continues, Murray believes his company could be a leading global cloud service provider to companies of all sizes and disciplines.

ORIGINAL VENTURE RESTRUCTURED OVER THE YEARS

Murray’s story begins with Accent Plus, the startup he originally launched in 2010. His mission was to help connect businesses to IT solutions through software, a passion built through his previous work in IT and engineering leadership roles at Cherokee Investment PartnersMi-Corporation and the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction.

But just as Accent Plus started a hunt for capital in 2012, Murray got an offer he couldn’t refuse.

A fellow Raleigh startup called NeoNova wanted to buy the business to manage its internal technical operations as it focused on scaling network management and help desk assistance for rural broadband service providers. The size of NeoNova’s business was a reason Murray was drawn to the deal.

After the acquisition, Murray stayed on at NeoNova as director of cloud services and eventually vice president. And over time, his department began to see growth as customers moved data and other operations into the cloud. It started to make sense to spin the business services side out of the company. And the best person to lead the effort was the man who started it all.

Along with the spin off, Murray decided to rebrand to NeoCloud to better reflect its focus on cloud services. The company retained partnerships with more than 100 cloud providers, notably Google and Microsoft.

Then-NeoNova CEO Ray Carey wrote in a blog post that the reorganization was to accommodate for the growth of the company’s business outside rural markets, where cloud services are in more demand. The spin off would help meet the new need.

Since then, NeoCloud has doubled the team headcount to 15 and spent the last year growing the customer base to 1,500 businesses and organizations, representing 150,000 total users.

The fast revenue growth gave the company leverage to acquire Business Intelligence 101, or Bi101, earlier this month.

The California-based cloud consultancy has a national presence, with its 350 customers increasing the NeoCloud customer base by 30 percent.

They’ll have access to NeoCloud’s software suite, which includes servers, security offerings, voice solutions, data migration services, as well as email and website hosting. They also bring 50 additional IT and cloud providers into NeoCloud’s partner network.

“Our goal is to live through this cloud journey with these customers, and provide better services as well as product,” says Murray.

PARTNERING WITH NONPROFITS

The company’s growth has also inspired Murray to give back. This week, he’s unveiling a new partnership with Raleigh volunteer network Activate Good to provide free cloud services to local nonprofits.

NeoCloud has tailored its cloud services suite to nonprofits, offering a bundle that includes hosted email services, anti-virus programs, support and management for Google’s G products, Microsoft Office 365 Nonprofit, as well as cloud data backup and security training to ensure organizations protect their data. It typically costs $15/month per user.

In a statement, Activate Good Executive Director Amber Smith notes that nonprofits often spend time making sure the money they receive is going directly to serving their cause, but “the reality is that many of these organizations can benefit tremendously from cloud services, but they can’t even afford to think about it.”

The partnership is fueled by a larger effort by NeoCloud to not only work with the nonprofit community as a service provider, but to support its growth as well. NeoCloud’s presence is grounded in the Triangle with 180 local businesses and nonprofits as clients, including Band Together and the Wake County Habitat for Humanity.

Murray, a winner of Triangle Business Journal’s 2017 40 Under 40 awards, is excited about the future of NeoCloud, citing the “opportunities in this market to help customers and businesses better take advantage of the cloud.”

The long game for his company is planning for multiple year-over-year growth. And to do that, NeoCloud will continue to grow the team—so far, that means job postings for engineers, sales managers and a marketing specialist.

Raleigh-based NeoCloud acquires consulting firm, adds 350 customers

NeoCloud, a Raleigh-based firm that provides management of cloud computing services for a growing number of customers, is getting bigger through an acquisition.

The emerging entrepreneurial company on Thursday disclosed that it had acquired Business Intelligence 101, or Bi101, which is based in Livermore, Calif.

Financial terms were not disclosed.

The deal means an immediate boost for NeoCloud. The acquisition, which closed earlier this month, adds “more than 350 of Bi101’s customers to its client portfolio, growing [NeoCloud’s] customer base by approximately 30 percent,” a spokesperson for the company says.

Bi101 will continue to offer financial consulting servies as a standalone entity.

“This acquisition represents a significant achievement in NeoCloud’s growth strategy as we seek to bring our cloud management expertise to users across the country,” said Van Murray, CEO of NeoCloud, in a statement. “Bi101’s evolving business and strong customer base made them an ideal choice to complement our own innovative solutions.”

NeoCloud offers identity management, servers, voice solutions, data migration, email, security, website hosting and 24/7 support. 

Source: https://www.wraltechwire.com/2017/07/14/raleigh-based-neocloud-acquires-consulting-firm-adds-350-customers/

Cutting the Cord - Six Years Later

Over 6 years ago, I cut the cord. For the following 3 years, we enjoyed OTA with Tivo, Netflix, YouTube and Hulu, etc... We took advantage of the savings and enjoyed the new TV and equipment we were able to purchase in lieu of paying for cable. After 3 years cable free, we moved and were offered a promotion as a "new customer" and plugged back in.

For the last 3 years, we have been enjoying 50Mbps Internet + Cable TV + DVR from Time Warner Cable here in Raleigh, NC. 

{INSERT FRUSTRATING RANT HERE REGARDING RECENT EXPERIENCE WITH BILL JUMPING TO OVER $150/MO}

I decided to cut the cord again. The day of the issue (yesterday), I cancelled all accounts and all services.

I went to Best Buy on the way home and picked up the following equipment:
Tivo Roamio 1TB OTA $399.99
Mohu Leaf 50 $59.99
Netgear DOCSIS Cable Modem $59.99
Apple TV $89.99 (with Sling TV signup promo)
Total: $609.96

Straight out of my old playbook, I called Earthlink and ordered the latest promotion for 100Mbps internet (currently $39.99/month for 6 months with no contract, up to $49.99 after 6 months). Process was simple and easy. Called with my new cable modem MAC Address and service was activated in minutes.

6 years ago, we were pretty early adopters. I put a significant amount of time into researching how to do this. Granted, I have done it before, I am impressed with the ease of getting this done (literally in a matter of hours we were up and running -- watching a DVR of one of our favorite shows after putting the kids to bed). I want to credit Best Buy having all of the equipment in stock, Earthlink for the ease of placing the internet order.

We are still subscribed to Netflix, so nothing to do there, but wanted to record services and rates:
Tivo Guide $0.00/month (Free for life with Tivo Roamio OTA)
Netflix $9.99/month
SlingTV $25.00/month (Orange+Kids Extra for Disney Junior)
Total: $34.99/month

Total Monthly with Internet: $74.98, $84.98 after 6 months, No contracts

This give us a 9 Month payback on equipment assuming a $150/month alternative and ~$1700 additional savings over then next 3 years.

Overall, I'm impressed with the experience. The Leaf antenna is excellent and installs flat. No issue with signal across major local networks (CBS, ABC, NBC, etc...) Tivo Roamio OTA 1TB is very simple and intuitive (much like previous Tivo experience). Netflix, YouTube, Hulu and other streaming providers are integrated. 

The only thing missing from this setup is SlingTV integration with Tivo Roamio OTA.

Never looking back...