Blue skies ahead

Comms Business caught up with Stephen Garrood, CloudBlue’s recently appointed UK managing director, on what lies ahead for the Channel and his plans for UK growth.

Bringing a wealth of experience in telecoms and sales leadership, CloudBlue’s Stephen Garrood began his role as UK managing director with a solid foundation for success. Appointed to the role last autumn, Garrood speaks keenly about what’s ahead for the company and his plans for its growth in the country.

Describing itself as a marketplace platform for XaaS (everything-as-a-service) solutions, CloudBlue powers the end-to-end business for subscription and vendor management for global software distribution giant Ingram Micro.

“The attraction to me is building up the UK entity to catch up with the rest of what CloudBlue is doing under the Ingram Micro umbrella – it’s a big opportunity, it’s going to pull on a lot of my vertical experience over the past 30 years or so,” Garrood told Comms Business, speaking about his recent appointment.

He explained that the company’s key players are Channel – telcos, distribution, resellers – but that his knowledge of ISVs and ISPs comes into play from his time working with start-ups and scale-ups, such as Truphone.

Elsewhere in his 30 years of previous experience, Garrood’s held senior roles at big names in telecoms such as T-Mobile and Deutsche Telekcom.

Shifting the mindset

“Effectively what [Ingram] did, they built a platform to automate and orchestrate the subscription business as it was, so moving from traditional ‘let’s shift boxes and discs’ to ‘we’ll give you a digital licence,” Garrood explained of the company’s starting journey.

“The platform they effectively started building 15 years ago was CloudBlue. They built that technology, they’ve invested nearly £500m into it, they’ve acquired companies and added additional components whilst taking out some of the competition so that the platform you see today, which has now evolved fully into a SaaS platform as well as the traditional on-premise version … operates with its own P&L but it has that heritage that it’s the underpinning technology and a key enabler for that software business that Ingram Micro runs.”

He pointed out that he has some targets for the company’s UK growth which, although not necessarily simple to achieve, are supported by the company’s recent success in EMEA.

“Last year the EMEA region had an outstanding year,” Garrood said. “What I need to do with the UK is to get it up to speed and to be one of the pillars of the EMEA region.

“We’ve got to grow and scale and we’re on a good footing to do that … The challenge is we need to be on the map. I’m a competitive person, I want to be front and centre globally, not just EMEA. Small steps, we’ll get there.”

The biggest challenge for the UK, he believes, is that the UK market has “gone through a spurt of transformation, but peel back a layer and it’s quite traditional” – there needs to be a mindset shift, Garrood affirmed.

“When you look at telco and distribution they’ve not wildly transformed. They’ve grown and the term marketplace is very commonly used for an e-commerce front end. Is it a marketplace as CloudBlue see a marketplace, with 400 vendors and easy access? No, it’s not,” he said.

“One of the things from my Deutsch Telekom telco heritage, we were always struggling to build value and build up ARPU, increase our revenue in an increasing and declining marketplace. So you bring on new products, you bundle, you add value, but to onboard for example an antivirus product in the mobile phone or connectivity space can take two years.

“It’s not an agile process, there’s heavy operating systems in the background so you need something that can get you to do that quickly and really open up that scale, be it hyperscale or just unique software vendors.

“I think it’s getting people’s understanding that the traditional view of ‘this takes a lot of time, this takes a lot of effort, is it really worth it’ – it’s actually a lot easier now, so it’s changing that mindset. There lies the challenge.”

On the horizon

Acquisitions and growth into new regions will be a trend Garrood believes we will continue to see accelerate as the year goes on, with mergers and acquisitions throwing ‘curveballs’ into the UK market.

“The UK market is so closely linked to Europe and EMEA as a whole so most of the telcos or disties or resellers have existing [presence] or aspirations to grow into Europe,” said Garrood.

“I can name a handful that are already saying ‘Germany’s a growth region for us, Benelux is a growth region for us, so how do we manage the compliance, the currency, the logistics of operating in multiple geographies’…

“That is one that still has to be nailed down, but again, this is why our platform was built to do what it does, it’s multi-tiered, it’s multi-currency, it handles all of those things.”

This interview appeared in our April 2023 print issue. You can read the magazine in full here.