One Bournemouth-based IT consultancy has launched a Dragon's Den-style initiative for distribution to forge and promote vendor-channel partnerships.
But unlike on the TV show the negotiations will not be made public.
The Tech Crowd has selected a panel of 10 distributor representatives - dubbed the Channel Dragons - to assess the potential of vendors and their products, and sign up those that make the grade.
Jamie Plumridge, managing director of The Tech Crowd (pictured), said the current Dragons are Tech Data, Exertis' Micro-P and Gem, Enta, Spire, CMS, Centerprise, Platinum Components, 2Tech and Beta.
"We choose the best and strongest of the vendors - based on what their unique selling points of their product are, what their global marketplace is like, their UK and European market strategy, look at how they are going to support their channel and so on - and present them to the distributor, going out to meet the Dragons," he said.
Vendors must qualify at each stage of the process, with a view to the successful brands getting exposure to a range of suitable partners without having to go out and arrange individual meetings, and enabling distributors to meet a range of pre-screened vendor prospects.
"Each vendor pays £250 for making the initial connection, which is good value for money. For £3,500, they will get the benefits of being exposed to 10 major experts in distribution," Plumridge said.
"They pay a £1,500 fee per distributor they sign up with - and they're getting a guaranteed initial stack of orders with that investment all paid for. Thereafter there are no up-front fees, other than a percentage-type system for everything that is supplied."
Unlike on the well-known TV show Dragon's Den, however, the panel never meets in a room together - which means that information that is commercially sensitive or competitive can be divulged in private.
"That would be a disaster, for obvious reasons," said Plumridge.
He said the scheme kicked off with a soft launch in August-September last year that signed two new vendors to two new distributors.
That initial success prompted The Tech Crowd to begin a "harder launch" to the market this month, he said
Dragon population could grow
Etailers, retailers and other resellers may become Dragons in future quarters as the service develops, Plumridge added.
"I've been 18 years in this business, most of that time spend working with emerging technology vendors - we were behind the successful launch of TPLink over the last few years," he said.
"We thought this is something from which everyone could benefit; vendors get guaranteed access, distributors get a product management or development team out there looking for new products for them for free."
Plumridge said part of what The Tech Crowd does is research vendors and products. Some of its research is done online, but it also visits firms and goes to trade shows to follow leads and research companies as well.
"We're expecting a very busy first quarter in 2014, when a series of further pitches will be presented to the Dragons for their approval, and we can't wait to see what further partnerships could be just around the corner," he said.
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