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Vidtel launches channel program for SMB-focused cloud videoconferencing solution

November 14, 2011 | Hogan Keyser
November 14, 2011 By Mark Cox via -- The corporate videoconferencing industry is heating up. And Sunnyvale CA-based Vidtel thinks it has the solution to appeal broadly to the SMB market for these solutions, with an offering, MeetMe, an any-to-any video conferencing service that talks to all vendor ecosystems, and does it an SMB-focused price. They also have a 100% channel strategy, and on Monday, they launched a channel program to make that strategy more effective.

"We are a cloud video conferencing provider with the philosophy that video on the network should be as easy as making a phone call," said Scott Wharton, Vidtel's CEO.

Wharton said that the corporate videoconferencing industry has been focused on the enterprise, and parts of the midmarket, and that penetration of the SMB space has been limited to consumer-grade solutions like Skype because existing enterprise solutions revolve around specific vendor platforms, and are still too expensive for the SMB market.

"People are calling in systems that largely only call each other," Wharton said. "MeetMe combines the consumer and enterprise devices so you can call at a reasonable price without going down to the lowest common denominator in terms of quality. SMBs would like to have better quality, but not at a quarter million price tag. Our video quality is the same level as high end corporate video. It really can help you avoid trips."

Cisco agreed that the SMB market needed an offering more priced to its needs, which is why little more than two weeks ago it introduced Cisco TelePresence Callway, a cloud-based hosted service aimed at this market. But apart from the brand recognition, Wharton said the Cisco service doesn't do well against Vidtel in a head-to-head comparison.

"We are about a quarter of the price of their service, and we have more functionality," he said. They are also largely Cisco to Cisco. Vendors like Polycom and Lifesize aren't motivated to make that work. We can provide any-to-any services for all these vendors, as well as the Skype and Google Talk solutions."

Wharton said that their customers typically have 20-200 users, with 100 being the sweet spot. They are also typically highly distributed.

"If you have the 100 users all in one location, there's not a lot of value here," he said. "Under 20, and you typically will use something like Skype because you won't want to spend money on any solution. Larger than 200, you likely have a specialist IT person who can handle this."

Wharton said they are also used by companies which have another solution in place, but which use them to deal with people outside the company.

"Some companies use one of the other providers for all their internal use, but don't want to use it for customers and partners, so for those B2B calls, they would use us."

Wharton said that VARs are hitting a threshold where they can't succeed in the SMB space with present price and complexity issues. Their new channel program is aimed at building up a network of quality partners.

"Infocus is a key vendor partner of ours, and we are signing up VARs," Wharton said. "We've got about ten now, and want more for good geographic coverage, although we are looking at dozens rather than hundreds to avoid competition."

For vendors like Infocus, the program concentrates on interoperability, and for VARS, it focuses on training and support, with both technical and sales training, case studies, special pricing for internal use and demand generation activities."

"We are really throwing our lot in with the channel," Wharton said. "We aren't one of those vendors who talk out of two sides of their mouth, who talk up the channel but want to drive people to their own website."

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