Channel Dragons hunt new vendor partners

Channel Dragons hunt new vendor partners

Five technology vendors are vying for the Channel Dragons seal of approval this week

The Channel Dragon initiative, launched in January last year by technology marketing company the (Tech) Crowd, helps new and emerging technology vendors showcase their products to a panel of major retailers and distributors.

The stakes have been raised in this latest round with vendors going before the largest Channel Dragons panel yet. The panel has two new entrants – a major retailer and a mobile accessories distributor, which the (Tech) Crowd declined to identify. The new entrants bring the number of panel members to 12 along with Dixons Retail, Tech Data, Exertis UK, CMS Distribution, Enta Technology, Tempo, TNS Distribution, DAD Audio, Westcoast Distribution and Platinum Components.

Vendors in this latest round will present a range of products for approval, including a wireless device charger for mobile phones and wearables, which the manufacturer claims is completely wireless, a range of mobile accessories, a wearable camera and a range of ‘appcessories’ that pair with mobiles and wearable devices.

If the five vendors get the green light from the panel they could see their products sold in major retail stores across the UK, including Carphone Warehouse and Currys/PC World stores, as well as distributed online with major etailers such as Amazon, DAB and ebuyer.com.

Jamie Plumridge, MD at the (Tech) Crowd, told Mobile: ‘We successfully placed six vendors last year, including Martian Smart watches and Zensorium, a health and wellness tracking device. This year we aim to place at least nine vendors, of which five are pitching in the first quarter, so we are confident in meeting that target.’

He added: ‘We are gearing up very heavily for our Q1 launch. This one is very mobile-centric with very strong mobile industry links.’

Plumridge said the pitches are popular with Dragon partners: ‘It works well for the Dragons. It doesn’t cost them anything bar their time and input, and they quite enjoy the competition of being up against fellow Dragons.

‘In addition we save them having to sift through the hundreds of vendors that contact them every week. We do all the due diligence, bringing well-researched products to them, and all the information they need to hear, with no nasty surprises down the line.’

The Channel Dragons initiative also offers vendors a much simpler route to market, Plumridge said.

‘Often these companies are not based in the UK, they don’t know the landscape, they have no contacts and although they could fly someone over, no one knows them here, so it is very hard work to get through the door, whereas, once we’ve done the due diligence, we can get them before a panel of top retailers and distributors.’

Although Channel Dragons was inspired by TV series Dragons Den, it differs in a number of key areas. The (Tech) Crowd pitches in the first instance on behalf of the vendors. Once panel members have shown interest the vendors are brought in to pitch in greater depth. Each pitch is delivered separately to each panel member, rather than before the whole panel, so that Dragons can talk freely about their commercial plans, and retail Dragons are pitched to first.

Plumridge explained: ‘That is an important feature, because by the time we pitch to the distributors we can say whether we have interest from a retailer, which is an added benefit.’

Brokering the deals between vendors and Channel Dragons ‘is just the start of our job,’ Plumridge added. As part of the package the (Tech) Crowd also helps put together contracts and, once the product has been placed, provides a complete channel management strategy, including account management, stock profiling, pricing, position strategy and sales training.

‘We do everything a UK office would do for the manufacturer. We make sure the product is set up properly, in terms of where it sits, how it’s delivered in store, and the customer experience. We also answer all calls and emails and host regular update meetings as well as developing marketing and PR opportunities.’

The (Tech) Crowd is also planning to bring on more Channel Dragons this year. ‘We want to create a lot more pull as well as push for our vendors. We want to increase our etail and retail Channel Dragons and bring value-added resellers into the chain, to drive new business for our vendors, which will increase the maturity of the revenue streams more quickly for everyone.’

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