We recently chatted to Chris Samila, co-founder of Partnership Leaders and VP of Partnerships at Crossbeam, about his experience using Morphed’s tech to create an Ecosystem Catalog that showcases the depth of the Partnership Leaders’ ecosystem. Partnership Leaders is a global industry association for partnership professionals at modern technology companies.

Without further ado, here are Samila’s insights.

“Today we’re going to learn a little bit more about Partnership Leaders and why you decided to create the ecosystem catalog, with Morphed. So, just to start, can you tell us why you created Partnership Leaders?”

CS: The Partnerships function at technology companies is still a relatively new career path and the best way to learn is through engaging with peers who are also building partner programs. When I transitioned into a leadership role with a company called FullStory I needed to quickly learn a variety of new skills. This led to the realization that our profession really needed a curated community where partnership professionals could learn, network, and get the resources they needed to be successful in their careers.

The community was originally free and it organically grew quite quickly. Within a year we realized that we needed professional staff and software to continue scaling the benefits we offered so we transitioned to a paid community. At the same time, we narrowed our focus to a specific set of personas within the partnership industry to ensure the content and member network was extremely relevant. This highly focused approach ended up being very successful and we now have 800+ partnership executives and practitioners from many of the largest technology companies in the world. 

We’re consistently trying to think of ways that we can add value for people, and one of the challenges right now is the technology landscape for our partner teams; it’s pretty challenging to figure out what’s out there. So we realized there was an opportunity to build this marketplace to help them find valuable technology solutions.

So that need is what inspired you to create the ecosystem catalog?

CS: At the core of it, we are on a mission to help the partnerships industry really transition into this world of ecosystems. So we consistently bolt on additional member benefits and one of the ones we realized would be quite valuable was this notion of a marketplace. Both so the partner teams could find those solutions, but also to help the partner tech companies, including companies like Morphed, to be able to reach this audience. Because if you go to G2, or other large repositories of technologies, it’s not highly focused on the partnership team as the persona. It’s mixed in with customer success, sales, and marketing, and so it becomes very confusing. Instead of seeing 100-ish technology tools, which is about how many we have in the ecosystem catalog, you end up trying to sift through thousands, and many of them are not really custom-built for partner teams.

What are you hoping to achieve with the ecosystem catalog?

CS: I think success probably looks like people consistently going to the catalog to find the latest and the greatest partner technology solutions. We also hope that early stage partner technology companies see the marketplace as a way to get recognition for the innovative solutions they are building. We are highly focused on supporting these entrepreneurial businesses because the tooling for partner teams is going to evolve tremendously over the next decade. This is why we also have an angel syndicate as part of Partnership Leaders called Partnership Leaders Investments (PLI).  For the later stage companies that are more established, we want to provide them a venue to really highlight what they’ve built and how much momentum they’ve gotten in the market.

Why did you decide to work with Morphed to create your ecosystem catalog?

CS: There are a number of components. One of them is the sheer energy and desire of the Morphed team to build a really compelling product. Also, you deeply understand the challenges facing modern tech companies. Everybody on the team is being really thoughtful about their product roadmap.

As we talked to the Morphed team, we realized they weren’t just trying to stand up the vision that we have, but they were really good about thinking through elegant ways to create a user experience that they didn’t even have functionality for in some cases. We would sync on something and we would think, okay, what are we trying to accomplish? We’d collectively try to figure out an interesting path forward, and then they would go off and build it. Which becomes a demonstration of what the technology can do.

As just one great example, I don’t think many marketplaces have search functionality that mimics what many high-end ecommerce websites offer. This is such a critical part of the user experience too. I was really impressed with how Morphed’s search functionality hits the mark in this regard. 

I think we had a lot of faith that the Morphed team understood the strategy of what we’re trying to accomplish, but also have the technical acumen to actually execute on that. 

Do you have any particular favorite features of Morphed’s tech that you enjoy working with?

CS: The way that partners can load up their information into the marketplace is really well designed. It’s easy to understand and we’ve had very little friction with people getting stuck in any way. It’s a great experience for them.

I think the ability of the Morphed team to get what is in essence a very customized need, built very quickly, and still be coherent to the partners is very cool. It’s been a variety of things that we just keep over time building even more and more functionality, and I feel really proud of what we’ve put together with the team ultimately.

What has the feedback been from ISVs and your members since the launch of the catalog?

CS: We definitely have people who are visiting the site and they’re finding it really useful. Number one, just because of the problem we’re solving. There’s no single place to find a curated list of partner technology companies. Shortly we’re going to launch the services side, which will create even more value for people. We’re also thinking about some stuff with the Morphed team to show recently added companies or most popular companies, and making it feel more dynamic over time. But I think the foundation is really solid, the feedback has been really good, so thumbs up.

Great! Have there been any interesting findings since the initial launch to now that have surprised you?

CS: The time on page is pretty long, so I think a lot of people are doing research and trying to figure out what they should be potentially buying. So it’s solving one of the goals, which was to be that destination for people to browse through all the partner tech companies.

What other things do you think are important for SaaS companies to evaluate when it comes to marketplaces?

CS: I think a lot of times they will have a ‘build vs. buy’ dynamic, where they’re like ‘well we could just go build this ourselves, it’s just a webpage with some tiles on.’ And that is very short-term thinking, for a variety of reasons.

One of them is the admin burden of trying to update all those profiles. You need to make it really easy for partners to get in there and update that information.

The customization around how it works is another area where, depending on what you need, if you want something to really line up with your branding, you need a marketplace that has the ability to be quite flexible from the UI and UX perspective. We hit that happy medium with Morphed, where there’s an underlying template that they could leverage to give them a starting point, and then we customized heavily from there.

And if you don’t have everything figured out, that’s another reason to work with a team that’s open to a dialogue around how to create the best experience. [With Morphed] it wasn’t just us telling them, ‘here’s how we want it to work’ and then them just going off and building it. It was really a lot of back and forth, and that’s where the strategy side and design experience comes in.

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