Microsoft Inspire, is world’s largest congregation of Microsoft Partners. Period.
Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft mentioned that more than 97% of Microsoft revenue comes from its partner ecosystem, 17M+ people are directly employed by this community and there are more than 365,000 partners in total. Those are staggering numbers. Microsoft has the world’s largest partner ecosystem, and it is a great feeling to be a part of this incredible thriving community. This year the Microsoft Inspire summit was at Las Vegas and I am sharing my experience in the lead-up to the event, during and post the event.
When we attended our last year Microsoft Inspire 2017 Summit at Washington DC, we at RackNap had a exhibition booth to showcase our offering. We were able to see some results. We wanted to do better this time around in 2018.
The planning for the 2018 event started 6 months ago, when we were brainstorming what to take to the event as a unique offering, should we have a booth, who should travel, how much we can invest etc. Having a booth has its own advantages as this increases credibility, people can associate a name to a face and have meaningful conversations in your ‘space’. The downside is that you are able to talk to customers/prospects who come to your booth and you might miss out on action elsewhere.
We decided, let’s do a walk-about this year and go-to where the action happens (in the community hub, regional lounges, sessions), rather than having a booth. Apart from Partners in Las Vegas, there are Microsoft sellers also there for their annual ‘Ready’ conference too. That added up to approx. 40K people in total that week. Our aim was to meet as many Microsoft team members this year, evangelize our product offerings, secure as many ‘relevant’ leads who we could convert to tangible wins.
On a personal front, we were expecting our second baby at home. I was given an easy choice to stay back at home to take care of my wife or go to Inspire. The new baby arrived a few weeks early to our relief and made it a bit easier for me to decide what to choose ! With the attendees confirmed, it was agreed that I will focus on customer/prospect/technical related conversations and Munesh Jadoun, CMD will focus on attending product related sessions, leading strategic discussions etc. so that we maximize the number of prospects who we can see in the event.
We took our flight from Jaipur to New Delhi and we had a flight scare where our flight dropped several feet due to turbulence. We overcame that and then took our flight to San Francisco. In year 2017, we were in the first inaugural flight between New Delhi and Washington D.C. We were provided royal treatment by the ‘Maharaja’ airline (Air India). We hoped we would have some surprise this time around too. It turned out to be a tame affair. A 75-year old elderly passenger, Gurpreet (not our CEO Guruprit) gave us company in the flight. We decided to do a road trip from SFO and explore the Silicon Valley, the beaches on the way to Las Vegas.
After a bit of drama at the rental cars location, we finally got our car and drove down to Las Vegas with a brief stopover mid-way. The left-hand drive cars proved to be a bit tricky but was manageable (My Redmi Note 5 camera shows the pic here as right hand-drive here. Puzzled right? me too !! Its the mirror settings BTW). We had the first taste of the food that we had to persist with for the rest of the week. Huge portions, fatty stuff.
We reached our Airbnb and it was like a place in heaven. Everything immaculately placed, decorated beyond perfection. The place you can dream of and see in ads! Did a video tour of the house to the family!
We attended the welcome reception at the event on Sunday, did a bit of networking and retired back home to conserve our energy for the week ahead. A bit of jet-lag was on us. We shook it off. We were all set for the big week. Now about the ‘real’ stuff where the main event happened i.e. the Mandalay Bay Convention Center (MBCC). This is the same place where in 2017, 58 people were shot down by a rogue gunman. Let’s keep the sad part aside.
Expo-Hall Booths: All the exhibitors had done their ground work over the weekend and got their booths ready. The venue was big-enough and our pedometer showed that on our first day, we had walked about 7.9 kms. Huge arena. You start looking at your competitors and try to interpret/listen to their messaging and convincing yourself that you have got the best pitch! Team RackNap Go for it. The LinkedIn lounge was interesting with some useful tips on how to brush up your profiles etc. The distributors had their huge booths and with August 31st deadline for CSP Tier 1 to meet the direct bill requirements, they were gearing up for huge footfall to onboard new Indirect resellers. RackNap was fully ready to support the partners to comply with this requirement.
Community Hub: The Community Hub brings to life the partner to partner connections in a casual environment where you can network and learn from each other. The International Association of Microsoft Partners (IAMCP) and Women in Technology (WIT) were all having their respective areas and that is the place where you can focus your energy and make some smart business moves.
Regional Lounges: This is the best place to meet your prospects. Typically, every partner of Microsoft is a prospect for us. We decided to position ourselves in the midst of these lounges. You don’t really make eye-contact to start with. You make contact at what’s hanging around their neck! Yes, you find out who they are by looking at their name badge. Ahh !! You are Mr. X. We have talked many times on the phone. This was repeated so many times as you start remembering familiar conversations with your prospects. They start realizing, that we are ‘real’ people and do exist in this planet! This area is where the action happens pretty much. Had awesome productive conversations. Was eager to show how we can help them in their business – strategically and tactically. Synchronized daily with the team so that they can start working on certain items immediately.
Awards: Microsoft rewards top partners in this event and this is a huge prestige statement for the partners. RackNap was nominated in the IAMCP awards in the regional and world-wide category for making real impact with fellow partners. This was going to be a big credibility statement for us that RackNap has truly arrived in the international stage.
We were awarded the bronze medal in the global category. Munesh collected the award on behalf of the company. Being recognized by your peers/customers is extra special. We did the usual Social Media posts pretty much real-time. The team back-home were extremely delighted that their hard work in building a truly world-class platform was recognized. They insisted on looking at the live streaming of the awards ceremony though it was going to be 4.00am in the morning for them in India. This award is for them, for their sleepless nights, tiring work and for their sacrifices. I love my team! Our eyes welled up in some of the thank you speeches. IAMCP felt like a close knit community. Congrats to all the winners. Memorable day – 17th of July 2018.
Core Notes: These are not-to-be-missed, hair-raising, spine-tingling, I-was-there moments. Everyone longs for these moments once in a life-time. Satya Nadella’s speech was the most anticipated this year too and he didn’t disappoint for sure.
Some notable words from the man himself:
“The most profound technologies are those that disappear. They weave themselves into the fabric of everyday life until they’re indistinguishable from it.”
“I always say this to any student who is joining Microsoft or looking to join Microsoft. I say to them, look, if you want to be cool go look for someplace else. But if you want to join a company that is committed to making others cool, join Microsoft.”
Those words touched a chord among us. Gavriella Schuster, CVP was very down-to-earth and her speech was something that we could relate to. Judson Althoff , EVP announced the focus for FY 2019, and the six new solution areas.
Sessions: There were huge number of useful sessions happening everywhere on different topics. Carefully decided on some sessions that are must to attend. I finally saw (from a distance) our Partner Development Manager (PDM) Luis Panzano, who helps us day-in-day out in our quest for success. We are hugely indebted to him for all the help he is offering us remotely. Unfortunately, due to busy calendars we couldn’t spend time for a proper face-to-face meeting.
Logistics and Food: Logistics was very well planned. With Transport to different venues, food for regional choices (Indian, Halal etc.), plenty of water to keep everyone hydrated in the 43 degrees centigrade heat (we didn’t miss Jaipur in that weather for sure), meeting tables etc. all were arranged very nicely. We could have had some local buggies moving people around the venue. BTW, One of our Uber driver was a Hardware Engineer from HP, who used to build servers. America is a land of opportunities! and you realize that you have got to make a living somehow if things don’t go your way. I typically wish to try different cuisines everyday when I am out and about. With Munesh insisting that Lacha Paratha (layered flat bread) and Dal (split lentils) combo is the best food (huh?) that we should be eating every day, I had to succumb to his request. After all, he pays the bills. I did try chinese, vietnamese, greek cuisines by sneaking out in the pretext of customer meetings :-). Pizzas and Burgers are not my kind of food.
A trip to Vegas is not complete without shelling out some money on the casinos. We did try our luck there with a few dollars but we know what the outcome was going to be. We typically tag these kind of expenditure as “donations for improvement of mankind”. Took some customary selfies in the casinos (not for public domain!!).
Well, we finished all our planned meetings and it was sad to leave our temporary home. We flew back to San Francisco, and then back to New Delhi. No dramas on the way back home. Was fully motivated to wrap up all my email follow-ups during the 16 hour flight. And I did stick to my plan (in-flight entertainment was not working anyway). It was time to meet the loved ones back home, put your feet up for a good night sleep after an intense week..and to continue the search…a name for the new born baby.
Overall, I got the sense that there is no better time to be in the Technology Industry than now. Being a part of the ‘Intelligence revolution’ sweeping the world, working with the best of minds in the industry, looking to build that next gen technology product that becomes a fabric of everyday life (as Satya says), are the ones that keeps me awake at night. I am still buzzing from the event.
I leave you with this art work which captures the whole essence of what a Microsoft partner stands for. At RackNap, we are proud to be one of them. We will be back next year at Microsoft Inspire at Las Vegas again. We have a lot to accomplish by then ! Team, buckle up for the ride ahead.