When I ask Dina Moskowitz to describe SaaSMAX, the startup she founded and for which she serves as CEO, she tells me it’s the eHarmony of the software channel. This, for a former investment banker, seems like the most unlikely of spots for a career to lead. “It’s no one’s goal in college to be in the channel,” she laughs when we sat down to talk about how the cloud and Software-as-a-Service is changing the dynamic of the traditional IT channel. But she doesn’t see this as a disappointment, or even a challenge. For Moskowitz, her lack of history in the channel is exactly why she’s so good at what she does. In an IT world that’s looking more and more alien to seasoned veterans of a channel originally built around hardware sales and upfront revenue, her fresh eyes give her a perspective a lot of channel executives don’t have.
In retrospect, Moskowitz’s winding career gave her the perfect blend of skillsets for where she is now. In 1988, she leveraged her expertise in venture capital and private equity to found Corporate Business Plan Associates, working with organizations to develop business strategies that laid the tactical and financial roadmaps to achieving her clients’ visions. It’s a business she’s run for 28 years, and while one might think a business plan consulting startup would be challenging enough for any one person, Moskowitz is a woman who likes to stay busy. Very busy.
In the last 15 years, Moskowitz has founded or held leadership positions in six different organizations, many of them concurrently. She worked in business development and marketing for Spoken Translation, an automated cross-lingual communications platform. She co-founded a real estate brokerage called PineappleHut. She founded Critical Data Solutions, a SaaS-based data storage app. She even worked in marketing and sponsorship development for Jelly Belly’s sponsored cycling team. Along the way, she was named to the steering committee for the Cloud Network of Women (Cloud-NOW), a non-profit consortium of women in cloud computing whose goal is to use technology to give women around the world professional development communities. She’s a founding judge of the San Diego Women’s Hackathon and, as a cherry on top, she sits on the CompTIA Vendor Advisory Council.
So in 2011, when Moskowitz decided to turn her sights to bridging the gap between the SaaS world and the channel, it seemed like a natural evolution in a career that’s wound through finance, startups and the cloud. And she can’t imagine wanting to be anywhere else.
Software-as-a-Service, Meet the Channel
According to analyst firm Gartner, subscription-based software models have overtaken traditional, on-premise licenses to now account for more than 50 percent of new software implementations. Considering the market barely existed 20 years ago, it’s an astounding market shift that’s giving the IT world whiplash. IT veterans have long understood that companies simply can’t scale past a certain size without the channel, and there’s a certain power in that. In a very real way, the channel is what enables high levels of success in industry. The giants of enterprise technology are powered by the channel.
So just as VARs and service providers need to embrace the cloud to survive, the cloud and SaaS vendors need the channel in order to grow. It’s a symbiotic, if still uneasy, relationship. And though she didn’t expect it, it now seems almost natural that Moskowitz’s role is to play matchmaker between the two.
She calls it “crossing the SaaSm,” and while it’s a catchy phrase, it’s also apropos. “The first thing I did to identify if there was a need for SaaSMAX was put together two surveys,” she tells me, “one for resellers in the online marketplace and one for ISVs.” In 2011, those two groups were just starting to recognize the need for one another, and the survey results showed they were hungry for an online platform to help them connect.
Moskowitz wanted to take it one step further. If there was one thing her background in business development taught her, it was how to recognize market opportunities and strategically place a company to leverage them. The channel knew it needed to sell software, but didn’t really understand how to do it and make high margins. And the independent software vendors (ISVs) knew next to nothing about selling through the channel.