Earlier this month we announced Microsoft invited us to join their ScaleUp Accelerator Program. Being involved with this program gives us access to sales, marketing and technical support around Microsoft’s enterprise cloud technologies. It’s a big ecosystem with enormous potential for Bigleaf and Microsoft’s enterprise customers. And it’s a big ecosystem to navigate, too.
We recently hired Michael Pickens, one of the leaders of Microsoft’s cloud sales efforts, to help us navigate it. We grabbed a few minutes in between customer meetings to ask Michael about his experience and what it means for Bigleaf.
What attracted you to Bigleaf?
I really like the startup environment. My first job out of college was at a web conferencing company called Envoy Global. We were something like 50 employees. Envoy was acquired by Placeware where I managed some of the company’s largest global accounts. As happens in the tech industry, Placeware was acquired. The acquirer was a little outfit called Microsoft.
Microsoft isn’t necessarily what people think of when they think of startups.
No, it definitely isn’t. But at the time, I was part of the early startup teams inside the company. We started at dollar zero as the first unified communications business within Microsoft. We were the incubation unit that spawned IM presence in Office, Microsoft Lynk and, today, Skype for Business. It was Microsoft’s first foray into the cloud. I was out in the field selling UC to large communications sector companies like Disney, Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile and News Corp.
What was your thought process making the jump from web conferencing to SD-WAN?
I wanted to be in Portland and part of a company tied into Microsoft that was doing something new and hot. This is a hot market right now. The cloud is not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when.
What are some of the challenges you see customers facing based on your experience at Microsoft?
Just about all unified communication solutions have experience issues right now. And the people who most want to use them are executives for things like team events. Understandably, they don’t want to risk their reputations on spotty connectivity, so they often fall back to the traditional phone. Also, most enterprises have Skype deployed with just IM or presence. They aren’t using a lot of the advanced features that are available to them. There is a ton of ROI sitting on the table. Our job, my job, is to help Microsoft’s customers see that.
Where do you see opportunities for Microsoft and Bigleaf to work together?
It’s one of the rare relationships where saying it’s win-win is really a win-win. Microsoft is obviously a major force that adds scale to Bigleaf’s sales and marketing efforts. There are lots of SD-WAN companies out there, but we’re the only one that is truly cloud first. The new Microsoft is cloud-first and cloud-only. If a company is a Microsoft customer, they should be a Bigleaf customer. There isn’t a space we don’t fit, whether it’s a five-person company, a large global enterprise or one of the hidden enterprises in the messy middle that too often gets overlooked.
What do you mean by hidden enterprise?
Ten to fifteen years ago, what we call small and medium-sized businesses never had access to the technology and tools major, large revenue multinational corporations did. These hidden enterprises are the retailers with registers spread across different stores, car dealers with showrooms across a geographic region and medical practices with dispersed doctor offices. They now have access to and are using the same tools as a 150,000 person company. It’s a huge change. They all have the same challenge of maintaining an expected quality of service for their customers and users. Luckily, we have the solution.