Thursday, July 10, 2008

Speculation About SightSpeed's Partnership Success -- "How Do They Do It?"

Ever since the news broke a couple weeks back about SightSpeed's new partnership with Dell, there has been much speculation about how we did it. Jim Courtney and Phil Wolff of Skype Journal -- both of whom are closely watched and respected voices in our space -- each recently shared their thoughts on the subject, which was very much appreciated. Jim also blogged about the partnership when it was first announced.

Although the Dell announcement most definitely represents a significant milestone for our company and the overall video communications marketplace in general for the reasons discussed in my earlier post, Dell certainly isn't our first and only "blue chip" partner. It may surprise many folks that we also have long established partnerships with Microsoft, Intel, AMD,, Creative, VTEL, Ezonics and others, as well as long-standing relationships with major media companies like Viacom (MTV and Nickelodeon) and Disney (ABC News). The MTV relationship alone -- which began nearly 2 years ago -- marked the first time that Internet video communications (powered by SightSpeed) and webcams were used to enable home viewers to participate live on the air on nationwide hit shows like "Total Request Live" (TRL).

So, the question essentially boils down to this -- how do companies partner effectively and why is SightSpeed (i.e., the "David" in this discussion) a better choice for partners than 800 pound "Goliaths"?

Of course, there is no "one answer" to this question -- several factors come into play. But, consider this:

(1) You must be best in class, period. As video communications have now become strategically important to many, we are THE most established company in this video communications "space" and are a natural choice for partners because we are widely recognized as being THE innovators and "gold standard" (best quality, best feature set, overall ease of use) -- PC Magazine Editors' Choice (three times), PC World, CODiE Award, VON's Innovators' Award, Frost & Sullivan's Company of the Year for IP Communications, kudos from Walt Mossberg, etc.; no other companies (big or small) can say that; to be clear, this is a badge of honor rather than boasting; we don't and cannot rest on our laurels -- we absolutely must out-innovate and delight our users and partners alike (after all, partners are also our customers); we must listen and learn from them -- that is the best way to improve; and, we must never take our users and partners for granted; we must continuously earn their trust;

(2) You must be flexible, open and standards-based. SightSpeed is uniquely fully SIP and standards-based -- others in our "space" (both big and small) are not; we operate our own proven and fast-growing global SIP network, and this is an essential consideration for many partners because SIP has become THE standard for interoperability; our partners benefit by the significantly extended reach each partner brings to the table; we believe in open standards -- and many of our partners agree;

(3) You must be built to partner, partnership "friendly" and partnership proven. SightSpeed WAS built to partner, IS partner "friendly" and IS partner proven -- and this ain't just talk:

first, our architecture, our back-end, our customer support, all of it -- was built with partnerships in mind; we are built to scale and have an established and proven global infrastructure; we also can be far more flexible than others (both big and small); we can implement quickly and efficiently, and we can deliver important back-end reporting and more; we also prioritize customer support and take it very seriously as has been properly pointed out, because all success flows from customer satisfaction and we know we need to continuously get better;

second, our team -- both on the business and development side -- is partner "friendly"; we have extensive partnership experience and we pride ourselves in listening to our partners and meeting THEIR timetables and development roadmaps and THEIR needs (as just one example, we are happy to customize our partner solutions and co-brand with them); others (big and small) simply are not and cannot be as flexible or "nimble" (in the words of Phil Wolff of Skype Journal), because they were not built with partnerships as a foundation -- in other words, it is not part of their DNA; Skype Journal's Phil Wolff points this out -- in his words, "When Dell calls, you jump. Could Skype have offered Dell a 'powered by' client in Spring 2008? A Dell version of Skype's web site? No." That is absolutely right! We absolutely wanted to partner with Dell! We absolutely wanted to innovate and build exactly what THEY wanted. That is our DNA -- we are uniquely programmed that way both on the business side and dev side because that is our experience and that is our growth strategy. So, get to know your partners at an individual level to understand their needs. If they are successful, you will be successful.

third, we are partner proven both on the business side and development side -- we have a long history of working closely with partners (note, once again, the extensive list of existing partners above); and, of course, we are an established brand with the best reviewed and innovative video-first services that "ride" on top of our established, proven and scalable global SIP network and infrastructure. No others (big or small) can say that.

Other factors come into play, of course, but these are just some of the considerations for companies looking to place video communications "front and center" -- a trend which has accelerated greatly in the last 6 months alone. And, the overall opportunity is not just for the desktop -- it is for consumers and business users anywhere they may be -- including in their homes or conference rooms and out into the mobile world (notebooks, UMPCs, MIDs, cellular phones). This truly is only the beginning ...

One final note -- the fact that our company is best positioned to meet the needs of partners should be of no surprise, because we have seen this time and time before when smaller "nimbler", more focused and more responsive companies succeed over much larger "rivals" who have their own agendas. When I previously served as President & COO of Musicmatch, for example, we also succeeded in meeting the needs of multiple partners across multiple channels, even though we too were up against others much bigger than us. The same general concepts and conclusions above applied during those days as well. The point is this -- these same concepts/lessons apply in any industry, not just in IP communications and digital music. They are a roadmap to significantly improve the chances of success.

So, at the end of the day, how do we succeed in partnering? It really is very simple -- we put each individual partner's needs first. While that may sound a bit cliche, you may be surprised how difficult it really is to build a successful business with that kind of overall philosophy and business model. But, we are doing just that. It takes many things to make that happen -- unique talent, unique expertise, unique experience, unique contacts (just look at the quality of the board and advisory board we have assembled at our company). And, you need all of those things to succeed. That is a tall order.

(4) Oh yes, you must have the right team and passion. It takes one more critical factor -- THE single most critical factor from which all the rest of it flows -- you must have the right team and passion. The passion to innovate. The passion to "win." And, the passion to change the world. I can tell you this -- our team has it in spades. Not only is our team talented and focused -- we "stick to our knitting" and singularly focus on providing the best video communications services -- we also genuinely get excited everytime we receive a note from our users telling us how we have changed their lives for the better (which happens frequently). How SightSpeed enables them to keep their relationships alive across great distances. How SightSpeed enables their small business to collaborate and gather around the 21st century water cooler of videoconferencing even though they are working from their home office. Video communications -- if done right --can "connect" people in ways that voice and text alone can't even approach. It truly is transformative. This drives us. This is not just a job -- we really want to change the world for the better.

Our video first communications services give our users a service that keeps them connected with the ones they love. Our services empowers them to commute less, travel less, yet collaborate more -- thereby reducing the cost burden of commuting and travel, the stress of commuting and travel, and the environmental burden of commuting and travel. It gives our users -- and I am one of them who has experienced this for nearly 3 years now -- more time to spend with the ones you love; more time to exercise; more time to read; more time to simply relax ...

For those of you looking to seize the massive opportunity of video communications which is now, for the first time, front and center -- look no further. Let us know what YOU need!