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Google Apps Partner Profile: In Business, Sometimes Timing Can Be Everything

With the cloud emerging as a model for delivering IT services, three channel veterans envisioned a new kind of company, one that would erase the traditional lines separating distributors, VARs, SIs, and ISVs. By ChannelPro

Four years ago, Michael Cohn, Eran Gil and David Hoff saw an opportunity. With the cloud emerging as a model for delivering IT services, the three channel veterans envisioned a new kind of company, one that would erase the traditional lines separating distributors, VARs, SIs and ISVs. "With the cloud emerging, we believed there would be an opportunity to develop a different type of a channel," recalls Cohn. "We thought in the cloud we could do it all."

Cloud Sherpas logoIn May 2008, the three IT pros founded Cloud Sherpas in Atlanta to bring their concept to fruition. With backgrounds in the messaging and collaboration market, the co-founders opted to focus on that space. When they explored partners offering cloud-based messaging and collaboration applications, Google was the only significant player in the market. The Google Apps suite included email, calendaring, web-based documents and other collaboration and communication tools delivered through the cloud. After contacting Google in June 2008, Gil worked to develop a relationship even though Google had yet to launch a formal partner program (The reseller program began in January 2009). It turned out that the timing was perfect, as Google was looking to expand the reach of its Google Apps offerings. "When we approached Google about our goals," says Cohn, who is vice president of marketing, "they were looking to get into the same space as well."

The Cloud Sherpas founders were on to something. What began as a fledging idea has now blossomed into a multi-million dollar business — revenues grew from just under $1 million in 2009 to about $6.5 million in 2010 — and Cohn expects triple-digit revenue growth this year. Much of the revenues are recurring and derive from selling Google Apps licenses. In addition, Cloud Sherpas develops its own products; its SherpaTools administrative suite is available in the Google Apps marketplace. In line with the founders' vision, Cloud Sherpas offers a range of services such as data migration work, custom application development, and training.

Cloud Sherpas is now an authorized Google Apps reseller and a member of the partner advisory board. The company has approximately 50 employees and 400 customers, and has completed around 100 Google Apps deployments. Cloud Sherpas also has 100,000 end users under management — end users who have purchased Google Apps directly through the company.

Since partnering with Google, Cloud Sherpas has expanded its target markets to encompass the mid-market,(organizations with 250 to 3,000 seats), enterprise accounts (3,000 seats and up), and most recently SMBs (less than 250 seats). And while timing certainly has played a part in Cloud Sherpas' success, Google has played a primary role. "The sheer fact of the Google brand creates a significant volume of opportunities," says Gil. Another advantage: "The level of attention we get from Google, and the level of openness that we have to resources within Google, are better than anything we would get from another partner," Gil adds. Now, with the launch of Google's new tiering program for Google Apps resellers, Cloud Sherpas is looking to solidify its relationship and business opportunities even more.

Cloud Sherpas is also excited about the recent announcement regarding changes to the Google Reseller Program, including the addition of tiering. "We saw the value of the cloud in the enterprise early on and have been excited to partner with Google from the beginning to deliver added value to our customers," Gil says. "We are thrilled to be a part of a program that is constantly evolving and rewarding partner excellence. The new tiering program and tracks for Google Apps Resellers will provide additional incentives and resources for Cloud Sherpas to further impact our customers' businesses."

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