WATCH: ‘We tore up the business plan’

Starting a new business during a global pandemic sounds like a terrifying prospect. Getting a new company off the ground is hard enough, without also having to face the everyday challenges that the Covid crises threw at businesses.

But CRN spoke to channel business founders that have done just that at our upcoming virtual MSP Transform conference which goes live next week.

The panel focuses on channel start-ups, and the advantages of starting a new channel businesses with a blank slate, especially during the pandemic. This discussion includes Scott Nursten, founder of ITHQ, Hayley Roberts, founder of Distology and Ben Boswell, founder of D|OPS Digital.

The conference brings together more than 25 channel business leaders to discuss the trends shaping the channel as it begins its Covid recovery.


Nursten founded MSSP ITHQ months before the pandemic hit Europe, while Boswell launched D|OPS Digital when the UK was in the throes of Covid.

Nursten and Boswell tells CRN during one panel discussion at the conference focused on channel start-ups that they were forced to remodel their business plans as the pandemic hit, but claim they emerged as stronger businesses as a result.

“We were trying to establish new customer relationships, and of course everyone was being very cautious; budgets were tight and people didn’t know what was coming. As a result we pulled back completely on our sales efforts and focused inwardly,” said Nursten.

“In terms of the business plan and the forecast, we just tore that up and we were lucky in the fact we were quite well financed, so we could do that without having to focus on sales to stay alive.”

Boswell added that he had to delay the launch of D|OPS Digital by three months after the pandemic hit. But added that a surge in demand for software during those months played into his company’s hands.

“We sat down with our leadership team, the board and the investors to talk about what our plan A and plan B would be… But what we saw in that 90-day period between 1 March and 1 June was a massive focus on software development and delivery,” he said.

“HashiCorp, for example, saw over a million downloads of their free software as organisations rapidly tried to automate and orchestrate their software delivery capability.”

He added: “Once we sat down the with investors and talked about how to conserve cash and bootstrap the business as much as possible, we decided to pull the trigger in June and the focus that gave us around our business plan and execution helped us to be as successful as we were that year. There was zero waste in our model.”

CRN’s MSP Transform conference goes live on 23 June and includes a jam-packed agenda addressing all of the issues facing the channel as it begins to recover from the Covid crisis.

The agenda includes a private equity panel digging into what’s causing an influx in MSP acquisitions this year. CRN is also joined by channel commentators including Forrester’s Jay McBain and host of the Business of Tech podcast Dave Sobel.

See the full agenda here