Exclusive: Richard Paul of SnapperNet – Part 1

Richard Paul, SnapperNet director and owner, talks to Heather Wright about industry changes, the founding of his company and life beyond technology.

Richard Paul jokes that SnapperNet, launched April 01, 2001, was a good April Fool’s joke – and one that’s now been going 13 years.

Co-founded by Paul and Ultra Computer’s John Gould and Mark Forbes, the genesis of SnapperNet formed within Ultra. The local computer assembler had begun importing networking gear, with Paul looking after that area of the business.

With Ultra wanting to focus on its core business of PC assembly, a decision was made to spin off the division into its own business.

Gould and Forbes would prove to be valuable mentors for Paul.

“Mark had tremendous experience with administration and logistics and John had an accounting background which was essential because that was somewhere I was weak. Their assistance was invaluable.”

Four years ago, Paul bought the business off Gould and Forbes. “By then, we had a formula that was honed and working. Nothing much has changed since then as far as the way things are done.”

Early days…

Paul’s entry to the world of technology wasn’t so straightforward. At school, technology held no interest. “To be fair, it was the days of Apple’s Lisa, and we had four in the computer suite and that was about it,” he says, laughing.

While Paul describes himself as fiercely competive (‘I can remember throwing some serious temper tantrums when I, or my team, lost anything when I was a young fella!’), when it came to a career, he didn’t really know what to do.

He did know he didn’t want to go to university, despite being a ‘good’ student. “I couldn’t find the right thing to do at university, and I couldn’t see the point in it,” he says now.

The technology bug bit when he got a job at the Apple centre in Sydney. After two years working as a bank teller and with his father’s food distribution business, the Apple job got Paul excited about IT.

“Even then it was really fast paced, things were changing all the time, there were always things to learn. And the social side of it was fantastic as well.

“Eighteen months of working in Sydney with Apple related product and being close to the Apple people there, I had to come back to New Zealand for a rest,” he laughs.

Jobs at component sellers Computer Connection, and later NJS Technologies, marked his return to New Zealand. When NJS was bought out and closed, Paul decided that, having dealt with resellers during his time there, he’d try his hand at reselling.

“I thought how hard can it be, I’ll have a crack at this.

“I learned quite a lot, including how difficult it is in reseller land and having to deal with end customers. After a couple of years doing that, I really had some empathy for those people who had been my customers and were about to become my customers again.”

Paul had decided that he enjoyed being in distributor land more, and approached an old customer, Ultra Computer, for a job. And so came SnapperNet.

“When we first started we had literally five products and that was enough to sustain a small distribution business. Prices were high, the margins were quite good.

Five products, 30 resellers and we did $1 million in nine months, which was a pretty good start,” he says.

“Now the 540 ethernet switch we sold for $2500 dollars is worth $25, so guess how many more we have to sell. But the appetite for product is keeping up with the lower costs and lower margins.

“So we are actually selling thousands more units because people are using technology for things you wouldn’t have dreamed of 13 years ago.”

The distributor now has 2500 listed SKUs, with access to about 10,000 products across its vendors, and has around 800 resellers and integrators it supplies to on a monthly basis.

For Part 2 – check back to The Channel on Thursday.

This story was originally published in the April issue of The Channel Magazine, click here to subscribe

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