As a channel-centric company, VAST’s success is driven by our partners’ success. We believe in giving our partners the tools to win and supporting them when and where they need us, enabling our customers to capitalize on the promise of AI.
That’s why we’re so pleased to welcome Gregg Machon, who joins VAST as Vice President of Channels. Gregg is a veteran channel leader with a consistent track record of building fast-growing channel programs. He’s a recognized industry leader with several CRN Channel Chief and other industry awards, and more than 20 years of channel experience.
We sat down with Gregg to get his thoughts on building channel ecosystems, the amazing potential of AI in the channel, and how a coaching mindset shapes his teams and day-to-day work.
Hi Gregg and welcome to VAST! From the outside looking in, what was your impression of VAST? And now that you’re here, what excites you about VAST?
It’s fantastic to be here, thank you! I’ve been following VAST since it was in late stealth mode getting ready to announce itself to the world in 2019. I was fascinated with its vision to give customers a simpler and better-performing storage solution by collapsing all tiers onto a disruptive, software-engineered, commodity flash and storage class memory platform. The vision was clear, bold and highly-differentiated from anything I had seen in my two decades in the market.
Candidly? As an outsider and competitor, I wasn’t sure if the story was a bit too good to be true.
Being on this side now as (I’m proud to stay) a new VASTronaut, I can see that not only is this vision not too good to be true, I think there’s a lot more that can be done with our data (not storage) platform. There is so much more innovation that VAST can do from an engineering perspective as well as from the perspective of how our customers consume our product and how we go to market with our Partners. I told my wife last week over dinner that I’m having a tough time sleeping because there are so many exciting thoughts swirling around in my head on what we can and should be doing from a leveraged Channel perspective. Now, it’s about prioritizing those ideas and initiatives.
Do you have a philosophy on building channel partner ecosystems? How do you find the right partners to work with? And how do you ensure they maximize their VAST partnership?
I do. I like to approach building an ecosystem of partners from a logical framework. We start off with asking ourselves:
“What customers and prospects are right and ripe for our offering?” That’s our Ideal Customer Profile.
“Which solutions providers, integrators, resellers and service providers serve those customers most effectively?” That frames our Ideal Partner Profile.
“What do those groups of partners need from VAST to be most effective in deploying their own business models?” What I can tell you is every single one of them wants an infrastructure partner who is easy to do business with, is focused on a large and growing addressable market, offers them a compelling business proposition (which is more than just a technology value proposition) and who can be counted on to do what they say they’re going to do.
Behind that, there are a few distinctions in the programmatic needs and GTM needs of these disparate groups of partners. As far as ensuring our partners maximize their VAST partnership, I think it comes down to two things. The first is their confidence that they can bet their business models on VAST’s future. Based on our record-setting growth in the first few years, our financial health and some recent and upcoming product and alliance partnership announcements, the answer should clearly be “Yes”.
The second thing is this. There’s a great quote from Teddy Roosevelt that I often think of and occasionally quote, particularly to my sons. “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care”. Relationships and partnerships come down to caring about each other and trusting one another. That happens by making sure we do the right thing and that’s not always easy. But over time, it makes all the difference. So I believe our partners will maximize their opportunity with VAST if we show up, follow up and deliver on what they need from us to deliver the best possible solutions for their customers. Simple as that.
AI is a very hot area right now, as we know. How can we ensure partners have the tools they need to be successful in this new frontier?
Man, is it ever! What an exciting (and potentially scary) time we’re living in with the developments accelerating within AI. VAST is extremely-well positioned to help customers and our partners leverage technology, tools and infrastructure built for AI deployments. In addition to VAST's unique architecture that powers deep learning applications and accelerates training and inference time, we're enabling partners with dedicated resources to build out their own AI practices.
AI playbook on our Partner Portal with curated content for the channel
AI webinars that dive into the latest in technologies and best practices, hosted specifically for our partners
VASTronaut 2.0 content with AI-enablement
Technical enablement sessions already with innovative partners like Trace3, Lambda, CDW, Insight, WWT, Computacenter, SoftServe and others, featuring VAST's CTO of AI and Emerging Technologies as well as our VP of Systems Engineering to educate partner Solutions Engineers on how VAST systems complement their AI offerings.
We are dedicated to helping our channel partners build successful, profitable AI centers of excellence to deliver immense value to their customers in an increasingly AI-driven world.
You’re very enthusiastic about your personal and professional mission of helping people and businesses evolve. What does that look like here at VAST?
Truth be told, there’s a Coach underneath this exterior. Maybe it’s because I’m a middle-child but I love to help people and businesses evolve. I think that perfectly defines who I am and why I’m on this fantastic planet. Occasionally, I even take my own advice!
Coaching, leading and serving others ALL starts out with being able to listen to and observe the people and teams with whom you surround yourself. I love the fact that VASTronauts work on perfecting what we call “The Art of Discovery” with our partners and customers. It’s all about gaining a better understanding of what we can do to create a better experience. I don’t think there’s a Team meeting or a 1:1 that I host that doesn’t start out with my asking “What can I do to help you” or “What obstacles can I remove to help you go faster?” And I’m so fortunate that I’m working with people across the world inside of VAST who have the same mindset.
We are here to make a very positive difference for our customers and partners. Everything that we do from creating technology, to building consumption models, routes to market, partnerships, programs and enablement is with that singular purpose. But speaking of AI and just between us, I’m still trying to figure out how I can better use ChatGPT. Ha!
Granted, you’ve only been on the job for a month or so, but what does the next chapter of VAST’s channel strategy look like? Any plans for new programs or partner advisory councils you can share? Are there any geographic areas of expansion on the horizon?
That’s a fantastic question! Yes. Remember those thoughts swirling around my brain that won’t let me stay asleep for long? They’re all about what our Partner experience should look like and how that impacts the way we interact with them and the programs, tools and enablement we deliver. I think our Partner ecosystem (which, by the way, is evolving based on our AI and data platform innovation) should expect that we have some big news to share with them late this year in preparation for 2024.
In between now and then, we are quickly expanding our geographic markets from North America and Europe to the Middle East, Africa and Asia Pacific. We’ve got coverage in all of those areas now, including customer and partner-facing teams and we’re building out our partner ecosystem to make sure we’re maximizing our reach and scale.
And as far as creating a Partner Advisory Council (PAC), the answer is ABSOLUTELY. I’m a huge believer in the power of a committed and diverse group of focus partner leaders coming together to discuss the state of the industry, technology, and our business, as well as their own and what things we need to do and be focused on. I’ve had the chance to lead a few PACs over my career and they’re incredibly useful tools - when executed correctly - to help grow our collective businesses. So, our Partners should expect that to be rolled out later this year.
How do you measure success in the channel for VAST?
I think I have a balanced measure of success between what we expect of our partner ecosystem and what they should expect from us. After all, this is a partnership. The basics are things like:
Are our partners helping us open new markets (geographic or vertical)?
Are we getting into customer conversations that would be more difficult, timely and expensive for us to engage on our own?
Is the partner deeply engaged in the life-cycle of delivering a solution to our customers?
Are we creating a superior offering (through services and other infrastructure solutions) to our customers?
Is there an irrefutable and strong return on the investments we make with our Partners?
Is VAST helping our partners differentiate themselves?
Is VAST creating incremental value and revenue streams through a unique offering?
Is VAST helping our partners wrap services around our offering?
Some of these metrics are quantifiable and easy to measure and inspect from SFDC. Others are more qualitative and we discuss in partner business reviews.
Are there any open positions are we looking to hire?
Yes! VAST has many open positions given our accelerating growth and I’m looking for Channel experts in many parts of the world. Check out vastdata.com/careers or reach out to me personally at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn what else may be opening up.
Where can partners go to learn more?
The VAST Partner Portal is one of the most comprehensive asset repositories I’ve seen. There’s a ton of great content, training, and other resources to ensure partner success. If you’re not yet a VAST partner and would like to learn more, check out our partner page and get in touch!