VARTECH 2022 Analysis: BlueStar Challenges VARs, ISVs to Ditch Their Comfort Zone

By: Jim Roddy, President & CEO at the RSPA

Don’t judge a book by its cover, and don’t judge a trade show by the photos and videos you see online. If you did that for VARTECH 2022, BlueStar’s annual partner conference held Sept. 11-13 at the Rosen Shingle Creek in Orlando, you might assume the event was party after party after party (followed by an after party).

Yes, BlueStar entertains its VAR, ISV, and vendor partners to the max, but the distributor also overtly challenges them to spring outside their comfort zone and stay ahead of the technology curve. For example, at the Canadian Regional Meeting, BlueStar Canada President (and RSPA Board Chair) Michel Sirois challenged nearly 100 VARs and ISVs to examine multiple new offerings and consider expanding their linecard. When Sirois asked for questions and comments, one reseller expressed skepticism, explaining those technologies would be better suited for 20- and 30-year old business leaders, not the 50- or 60-somethings in the room.

Now, I’ve been to a bunch of partner conferences and have seen how this typically plays out. The vendor or distributor hosting the event falls into flawed the-customer-is-always-right thinking and apologizes for their suggestion. But at VARTECH, Sirois was polite but did not back down. After an exchange of perspectives, he found common ground with the VAR but still guided him and the rest of the room to do more. “Yes, this technology might not be for everyone. But not exploring it? I don’t know,” Sirois said, slightly wincing. “I think we all need to unlearn and relearn. Unlearn and relearn. We need to be curious and explore new stuff.”

Visit the RSPA Solution Center – a web platform designed to connect VARs and ISVs to providers of innovative solutions

More broadly, BlueStar challenged its solution providers to consider reselling electric vehicle charging stations as-a-Service (EVCSaaS), programmatic digital out-of-home advertising (pDOOH), and more. Dozens of upstart ISVs filled the VARTECH exhibit hall while breakout sessions focused on edge computing, robotics, the metaverse, emerging technologies, and, of course, EVCSaaS and pDOOH.

Resellers in the 90-minute EVCSaaS session I attended carried much of the conversation, peppering the presenter from Loop with probing questions about installation expenses, the decision-making process, profit margins, and more. This did not appear to be a group content to sit still.

That attitude was pervasive among the nearly 150 solution providers I presented to during a session titled “A POS Industry Update.” When I declared to the room “the ‘POS industry’ doesn’t exist anymore and has been replaced by the retail technology ecosystem,” there wasn’t any pushback. I saw and heard a let’s-roll-up-our-sleeves attitude and confidence to embrace the change.

Our channel is sure to take some body blows in the near-term future because of acquisitions, behemoth POS providers, and other breakneck changes, but VARTECH showed our industry is ready.

In fact, I think we’re primed for it.

More Thoughts & Quotes from VARTECH 2022

  • I’ve struggled the past 18+ months to cleanly describe solution providers as either a VAR, ISV, ISO, or DISD (Direct Independent Software Developer) because those business models are being blurred. I saw that firsthand when I asked the room during my presentation to identify their business model. Several solution providers said they fit into two or three of those categories.
  • I also took the temperature of the room asking if they generate more revenue through payments or services. Believe it or not, services led the way. That sure wouldn’t have been the case five years ago. It’s good to see payments revenue as a healthy part of a reseller’s revenue stream but not the dominant revenue component.
  • BlueStar said VARTECH 2022 attracted nearly 1,400 attendees from over 45 countries. This was truly the first post-COVID global VARTECH.
  • I couldn’t jot down many notes during the cannabis technology panel I participated in, but I was sure to capture this quote from Cathy McCorquodale of new RSPA member MJ Menu/Standard Insights: “The (cannabis) opportunity is worth the risk 10 times over.”
  • “We’re finding out that we’re all connected in some way. We all breathe the same air and have the same problems. Our focus at BlueStar is on how we can come together and succeed.” BlueStar President & CEO Steve Cuntz
  • “Product is starting to flow again. I know it’s been difficult to manage but it has been getting better. Thank you for your patience.” Cuntz
  • “VAR 2.0 is about partner-assisted ecosystems. Partnerships are the new way to win.” BlueStar VP of Marketing Dean Reverman
  • “If you can solve a problem for one, then you can scale it and solve it for many.” VARTECH keynote Mick Ebeling of Not Impossible Labs

Don’t forget to visit the RSPA Solution Center – a web platform designed to connect VARs and ISVs to providers of innovative solutions

Jim Roddy is the President and CEO of the Retail Solutions Providers Association (RSPA). He has been active in the retail IT channel since 1998, including 11 years as the President of Business Solutions Magazine, six years as an RSPA board member, one term as RSPA Chairman of the Board, and several years as a business coach for VARs, ISVs, and MSPs. Jim has been recognized as one of the world’s Top 100 Retail Influencers by RETHINK Retail, a Leading CannaTech Influencer by The CannaTech Group, and is regularly requested to speak at industry conferences on SMB best practices. He is author of two books – The Walk-On Method To Career & Business Success and Hire Like You Just Beat Cancer – and is host of the award-winning RSPA Trusted Advisor podcast. For more information, contact