The following is an edited transcript of Business Solutions’ Editor in Chief Mike Monocello’ s Q&A with Jason Firment, Director of Point of Sale and Director of VARCOM for BlueStar which took place at ISV IQ Live! held October 6 in Philadelphia.
Listen to the live Q&A below.
Monocello: So, I have with me on stage Jason Firment, Director of Point of Sale and Director of VARCOM for BlueStar. He oversees BlueStar's go-to-market strategy and ISV relationships for the POS vertical. So, Jason, just give us a quick 60 seconds: what is BlueStar, what do you guys do? I know some people might be familiar with you as a hardware distributor, but also make sure you include how software fits with your objectives.
Firment: For those of you that don't know BlueStar, we are a hardware distributor mainly focused in the POS, ADC, digital signage, and RFID spaces. We cover a lot of different technologies from that standpoint and are a global distributor with representation throughout the Americas and Europe as well. From day one, BlueStar was recognized as a solutions distributor and that's how we built our business model. So, the ISV has always been the center point of any solution.
From a standpoint of where BlueStar is, everything we do is not just about shipping boxes. It's about putting together the right solutions and then marketing promoting those solutions. And the ISV is, of course, the center of it all.
Monocello: What role can distributors play for ISVs?
Firment: Outside of the obvious of being able to source the hardware from us — if you do sell hardware — it's all about making connections. We can go out and introduce you to different manufacture partners. You know, maybe there are some manufacturers you've had a hard time getting into direct contact with. We work with about 300 manufacturers globally so we have a very broad reach, covering the technologies I’ve already mentioned. So, there's a great way where we can intersect and connect those folks, and we'll get into a little bit of that here with the ISV Connect program.
Monocello: I'm assuming another benefit would be connecting ISVs with potential resellers. So, can you talk to me a little bit? How many reseller partners do you have? And talk a little bit more about the verticals you play in.
Firment: We sell to roughly 17,000 resellers globally in over 106 different countries, and we cover a lot of different verticals. I manage and am the director of the point of sale vertical, and we have individuals like myself that head up other various verticals such as point of sale, RFID, ADC, mobility, healthcare, and government.
We're supposed to know a little bit about everything when it comes to that space, and our main job as directors of verticals is to work with our ISV partners in those spaces. We work on strategies for BlueStar as it relates to what solutions we're going to be working with and what ISVs we need to pair ourselves up with. Also, putting together bundled solutions that help you market your software, along with our hardware manufacturers.
We are the creator and have trademarked the In-a-Box series which is about providing a holistic solution and promoting that solution to our reseller partners so it makes it easier for them to procure, implement, and sell it because we've packaged everything in there. All the hardware's in there, all the software and warranties. We can even throw in some of the reseller managed services if need be, if it's for a particular reseller. So, our go to market really is that holistic solution.
Monocello: How many ISVs is BlueStar currently working with?
Firment: It’s changing daily. In the POS space alone, we work with a couple hundred different ISVs. When you add it up across all of our verticals, it's in the hundreds. We don't always sell those solutions; ideally ISVs want to try to get through distribution somehow, but it's always not the right fit.
At our annual trade show at VARTECH, I talked to several ISVs that wanted to get involved in ISV Connect but the way their software was structured and the way they manage it — it's not a fit for distribution. But that doesn't mean we can't put together a solution, market it, promote it, do VAR recruitment, and get other VARs involved in selling your software. There are many different ways we can go about it.
Monocello: Talk now a little bit more about ISV Connect, the program itself. What is it, and what does it take to get involved?
Firment: ISV Connect is a program we launched to try to put some structure around our ISV relationships. We've always fostered relationships with ISVs and are very proud of our relationships with all of our ISV partners. It's just we never really had a solid structure and a program in place to manage it, understand who was out there, and where our gaps were with software partners. So we built some structure around it and wanted to take ISVs and connect them with vendors, manufacturers, and resellers with the structure behind us so we can go out and market that solution and really have an understanding of how many ISVs we have and what verticals they're working in.
Monocello: What are the minimum requirements to get involved?
Firment: Minimum requirements? I mean, we have a profile for it — it's that simple. We have various levels that we'll get into in a minute, but our profile form has roughly 60 to 65 different attributes about your software and your business so we can understand when opportunities come across our plates — across any vertical — we can go in and make sure we're finding the right software partners to pair up with a certain opportunity.
Monocello: Are there any verticals or applications that, right now, you're eager to find more of?
Firment: All of them — you can never have enough partnerships with software partners. Technology is changing very rapidly and what worked five years ago, 10 years ago, may not work today. So, there are a lot of creative minds out there, a lot of creative companies that are coming up with new ways to make our solutions stay in line with technology that's out there.
Monocello: You mentioned the different levels your program has. Can you break them down for our audience?
Firment: When we talk to our software partners, depending on where they are in their cycle of their software — they still might be in a beta or they might have been a partner that's been working with us for two decades and they have a mature product — we want to find a level that would work for everybody.
So, level one is what we call our registered level — essentially “we know who you are.” You've filled out the profile, you're in our database, and we know you have a product in a particular vertical that fits a particular need. It's that simple. We just want to make sure we're aware that we know that you're out there.
Level two is our approved level. This means you're getting a little more involved with us and we're getting a little more involved with you. Your software has gone through any essential beta phase and you've got several customers actively using your product. As opportunities come across our desk across the different verticals and our 100-plus sales reps we have just in the U.S., we can go into the resource, go into the database, and pair you up with that opportunity.
Recently, I had a sales rep come to me and they needed POS software but it needed to be unique because it was for a resort. So, it needed to do hospitality point of sale, it needed to be able to do retail for the golf store and the retail shop, it needed to connect to their ecommerce store for online tee times, and it needed to be mobile. Now we have this database to go to, put in all those attributes, and have it represent to us several different ISVs that might be able to fit that mold. We can then pair that ISV up with a sales rep, put together the hardware components of it, and work with that opportunity.
Level three is an authorized level and this is where a lot of our ISVs sit today. We might not necessarily distribute that product, but you're highly engaged with us from a marketing standpoint, with our business development team, our business account managers, our vertical managers, and you're co-funding and co-marketing with our hardware manufacturers. So, we might be out there marketing your software product with Elo or Zebra, or Honeywell or Epson. We're out there either recruiting VARs or doing end-user demand generation together.
Level four is, obviously, our premier level. That is everything I've talked about but we're also distributing your product. We have it on our line card and we're actively putting it in solutions; loading it up through our custom config group and selling it as part of a solution set at the same time doing all the marketing. That opens doors to you, at several levels, because it gets you more of an insight into BlueStar and visibility inside of our organization through our business development folks. It also gets you an invitation to VARTECH, our annual trade show where we bring in about 1,500 resellers. We have all of our sponsors and hardware and software partners there to do education and networking, to really drive some new business for us. It's one of the premier events in our channel.
Monocello: Where do you hope this thing's going to be five years from now?
Firment: I see it as the centerpiece of everything we're doing. The ISV relationship, as I’ve said, has been fostered since we were founded and focused on being a solutions distributor and we've got a lot of new things that are coming out. One of them I would like to mention is appwaresolutions.com, where we're posting solutions online to make it easier for end users and resellers to find the right solution based on the vertical and the niche market inside that vertical they're targeting. That's going to be the focal point of what we're going to be focused on moving forward to drive leads to our ISV partners. So, you can go in there and see solutions based in digital signage, point of sale, mobility, and healthcare and the ISV is the backbone of that, right? It's going to be what drives those solutions to that website, so that we can work with our partners and make it easier to sell more solutions to drive leads for our ISV community.