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What it Takes to Build a Cloud Video Solution

Ryan Murphy
May 8, 2019

Reselling for established cloud video service providers yields some limited returns. Yes, you get to piggyback on their marketing efforts and benefit from name recognition, but you’re left with very little power over the relationship with a customer after they’ve been sold. And good luck trying to get in on renewals. It can be thankless work – especially if you’re a business owner trying to put some recurring revenue on the books.

So it may occur to some, as it did to us, to build their OWN solution. Invest in the infrastructure, develop an interface, and head out into the market to compete with the giants.

We developed RP1Cloud in conjunction with our partners at Polycom (now known as Poly). But it wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t quick. This blog is about the trial-and-error process by which we built our platform, complete with hints and tips, and what we wish we had available to us when we started.

At the beginning

Pragmatic has been involved in cloud video for seven years. We entered the arena selling for an up-and-coming (but already well-established) video platform. We enjoyed (and still enjoy, in fact) a terrific relationship with them – integrated into our office, fly our teams down to their offices – our CEO even gave a speech at their yearly kickoff one year. This was as polished and happy as a partner relationship could be.

But no matter how good the relationship, and how preferential the treatment we received, we were still only making 20% on every hard-fought sale. Our solution-Provider partner was always good for tagging us in renewals when the time came, but at the end of the day these weren’t our customers – they belonged to the service provider. Billed on their paper. All product info sent through them. Once we sold them, they were gone.

So a clever member of our team had an idea: what if we turn to another partner – Polycom – and invest in several bridges and build our OWN cloud video solution. That way we’re selling our own product and holding onto our own customers. We had the technical proficiency from years of working with the hardware, and we knew how to sell cloud video thanks to our long-established work with our Service-Provider Partner.

All we’d need is a brand and a customer interface through which they can join via browser (in addition to the SIP/H.323 that was already established), record, and otherwise manage meetings. So that’s what we set about to do.

Building a brand and UX

Developing a front end for a cloud solution doesn’t happen overnight. We have an in-house dev team, of course, but it would still be a while before we have it up and running. And with the bridges in place in Toronto and New York, we were chomping at the bit.

Through some industry connections, we got in touch with a company who had developed a basic interface for this very purpose. It was simple and a little crude and didn’t offer the features that would put us on par with the bigger players in the game, but it was a start.

Our Marketing Team went through the exercises to build a brand and voice, and we called it “RP1Cloud” – because at the time, the Polycom Platform we were using on the back end was called “RealPresence One,” and we were bringing that to the cloud. We slapped our brand on the box, as it were, and took it to market: websites, campaigns, sales.

Polycom’s stack and solution made the quality of our calls top-tier – an exciting edge. We marketed as such: “Use RP1Cloud for the highest-quality calls from your room systems, browser or mobile device. Leverage your existing hardware and make it easier to use!” And so on.

The Features War

But we were sorely losing in the feature war. Established players had glorious customer portals with fancy reporting capabilities, not to mention provisioning, recording and meeting controls. When viewed side by side, our “premium” product looked like the scrappy upstart that it was.

Our next step was clear – we had to invest time, money, training, and more time to developing a customer portal and back end that could compete. This was – and continues to be – one of the most time consuming and costly aspects of running our own service. It’s a lot of work and takes a precious-high headcount. But we did it, and the product we ended up with makes us quite proud: the RP1Cloud portal is now a sleek tool that lets you manage meetings from your computer or mobile device.

No time to sit back and revel in our accomplishments, of course – the features war rages on, and we must continue to develop and innovate. But now it’s from a place of parity.

Making it easier for partners

Through sheer will and stubbornness, RP1Cloud has established itself as a major player in a booming market. Our timing could not have been better – thanks to luck as much as industry know-how.

We moved from direct sales to a Channel Partner business model, much like what we were on the other side of for so many years – offering 20% commissions for partners to sell, while making the service-provider margins we’d craved for so long.

But then another clever member of team came up with another terrific idea: given our own long march to developing a viable product, would it not be ideal to sell a white-label Platform as a Service for our partners to brand and sell as their own? Have them purchase connection pools on our bridges and make service-provider margins themselves? Could you imagine if we had that option available to us when WE launched this process?

So this is our latest effort, born of years of our own trial and error (and our frustrations therewith): RP1PaaS – a solution that our partners buy into, brand, and then sell into their own customer base while relying on us to support. They net margins of up to 70% and don’t have to worry one bit about developing or maintaining the solution. They own the customer relationship, renewals, and bill on their paper.

It’s everything WE ever wanted, and now we offer it to our partner community. And it feels good to save them the trouble.