TalkingHeadz with Sippio COO Dawn-Marie Elder

by Dave Michels

Direct Routing and Operator Connect for Microsoft Teams allowed providers to benefit from the explosive growth of Teams. However, coming up with a differentiated offer isn’t easy. That’s one of the topics we cover with Dawn-Marie Elder, COO of SIPPIO.

SIPPIO offers a channel friendly approach to direct routing for Teams. A pure ‘pay-as-you-consume’ model is billed monthly without long-term commitments.


Dave Michels 0:12
Welcome to toffee here today Evan and I will be speaking with Don Murray elder of Scipio. But first, Evan I I’ve been traveling I saw you at you know, we were we were at a couple events together already this year you’ve been traveling, I’m beginning to realize that events and you know, going into an office actually has some upside positives, some things that I was missing or anything that you’ve been that you’ve been rediscovering as you’ve been getting out,

Evan Kirstel 0:39
well, I haven’t rediscovered COVID. So I’m really happy about that. I’m like the reporters at the White House Correspondents dinner the other night, who apparently all came down with COVID. So I’m still fairly cautious about getting inside in large groups.

Dave Michels 0:55
One thing about getting out is just your own neighborhood. You know, when you stay home, you get kind of disconnected from your neighborhood driving through town. Hey, this restaurant is closed. Hey, that building that that shot close, hey, the drycleaners are gone. You know. And so it’s nice to know what disappearing and your neighborhood when you that’s one of the benefits of getting out.

Evan Kirstel 1:15
I disagree. I think neighbors are overrated. I don’t like to know my neighbors. You

Dave Michels 1:19
play my you didn’t my stick. But then. But another another thing that I have appreciated that I didn’t quite realize how much I was missing is doughnuts. Nobody has doughnuts at their home going into these events. And they put up these trays of doughnuts. It’s like, Hey, maybe I should get out more

Evan Kirstel 1:33
often. Yeah, you and I need doughnuts, like we need a hole in the head. So I think you got to come up with something better than doughnuts and neighbors to get me out of the house. What about perks? Or swag or, or prizes?

Dave Michels 1:46
I’ll tell you the one of the perks is, you know, is that the poly event recently, and one of the perks is seeing all my colleagues that I that you unfortunately you weren’t there, I haven’t but always people that I haven’t seen in such a long time. And I have to say and you know, I might be might be a little biased here. But I have to say the UCC industry analysts crowd, you know, including myself, are probably among the best looking people on the planet. I mean, I mean, just just really enjoyable people to be with and to look at and we’re a great group.

Evan Kirstel 2:21
You are a great group, I’d say among the smartest slash worst looking group. Oh, but but definitely very intelligent people. Very nice. But definitely not beauties. Let’s say, Oh, well, I’m just kidding. You are all great. But I’m not an analyst. What do I know?

Dave Michels 2:38
Well, let’s get to our guests and find out about Scipio

god 2:42
let’s do it. Talking. It is a semi monthly podcast with interviews of the top movers and shakers and enterprise communications and collaboration. Your host Dave Michaels and Evan Kirkstall, both of which offer extraordinary services including research, analysis and social media marketing. You can find them on Twitter, LinkedIn, or at talking That’s points with a Z and Devon That’s Kr s t e l.

Dave Michels 3:12
Today we have with us Don Murray elder she is the ce o of Scipio. Welcome Don Murray.

Dawn-Marie Elder 3:19
Hi, Dave. And Evan, thank you for having me today. Appreciate it.

Dave Michels 3:22
I need to clarify for our audio listeners that Don Murray is hyphenated and it’s usually we usually see the hyphen in the last name, your hyphen in the first name. So it is where your parents like Donnie and Marie fans or you know what’s going on here.

Dawn-Marie Elder 3:37
So I was born in 1970, which is the era of the flower child my father fell in love with the movie Rosemary’s Baby, and they compromised with Dawn being you know, a common word back then, and I guess the the Maria, rosemary and hyphenated that you were

Dave Michels 3:56
named after a horror film. Yeah.

Dawn-Marie Elder 4:00

Dave Michels 4:01
And then I also want to point out that you are living in Charlotte. So you’ve actually got like three first names here going on.

Dawn-Marie Elder 4:10
That’s right. I have a lie. You would think I was royalty, but but I’m not just their regular person. But happy to be here. Yeah, we’re in the middle of Lake Norman. We live in a peninsula and extensive name.

Evan Kirstel 4:25
Let’s let’s dive right in. And great to meet you don Murray. So tell us we’re doing some research and we hear Scipio. And then we hear something called tele agility. And we’re totally confused. So what’s the difference between Scipio intelligibility?

Dawn-Marie Elder 4:38
Sure, so sorry about that. So our founder, Adam Cole. He’s been in the telephony space since I was in elementary school, I think. And he’s been an entrepreneur and had a bunch of different companies tell agility was really hosting voice services in the Avaya and Mitel space. And when he brought me into the company, Really 2019 We decided to kind of create a new identity for the collaboration space. So Scipio was born out of the need to just differentiate ourselves to our resellers and to the customer base that were voiced, enabling collaboration suites, such as Microsoft in and zoom. So intelligibility will be retired as that Avaya businesses retired and severe will be all things moving forward. But I

Dave Michels 5:28
like tell agility, that’s a great day when that when that name company is reborn themselves all the time.

Dawn-Marie Elder 5:34
Right? Yeah, we just thought it was to telco ish. And, you know, was the new thing.

Dave Michels 5:42
There’s nothing there’s nothing telco wish about the word agility. I just want to emphasize that.

Dawn-Marie Elder 5:48
Well, there used to be, but I think there is nowadays with everything changing. I think telcos getting very, very agile with players like Microsoft and zoom and others entering and kind of changing the direction of, of what the traditional players had set up.

Evan Kirstel 6:05
Awesome. Yeah, Dave likes anything with the word telephone in it. So he’s a big fan, right? But how do you explain what Scipio does? Exactly, I assume it’s something to do with sip.

Dawn-Marie Elder 6:14
It is. So we’re an aggregator of care services around the world today, to work through 74 different countries, what we do is we aggregate those carrier services, bring them in through a platform to enable initially direct routing. But now also assume so both the Microsoft and the XOOM collaboration suites, we can light up, push that dial tone into whichever one of them the customer or the partner is looking for. And then what we’re doing is we’re wrapping a subscription model or per user per month that marries the Zoom phone and the Microsoft phone system models that they have, and a toolset to automate everything for the activation and create a great, you know, end user experience, that they’re not having to code build, maintain, really create, you know, any sort of hands on type of work that they have to do and in what looks like a DOS Prompt window,

Dave Michels 7:11
you joined Scipio, or until agility in 2019. I guess that’s, that’s right, just before the Big Bang, I guess. And prior to that you were at both Avaya and Microsoft, who leaves Avaya? No, I don’t know anyone who’s left Avaya via when were you? What did you do there?

Dawn-Marie Elder 7:29
So I was that a via right before Scipio. So the for four and a half years before I joined Scipio in 2019. And I was head of channel for a couple of regions. And then I went into a digital transformation role. And it was trying to help them kind of transform how they were thinking about their model, how are we We’re thinking about going to market and helping their customers or partners to do the same. And by that time, I had kind of decided I needed to do something different. And Scipio was a really interesting possibility, because it was an opportunity to take the traditional world of desktop and desktop productivity, and telco and bring it together into one common interface called collaboration. And then leverage the experiences of both to see if we could build a successful model around that. So I would say that we were a little earlier nascent in our vision of, you know, full automation of a platform that is one platform for everything as opposed to building direct routing, one by one by one line one as one offs. that’s ultimately why I decided to join Scipio is because there’s been so much opportunity to kind of design it as we see it as opposed to fitting into somebody else’s vision.

Evan Kirstel 8:51
Fantastic. What did you do at Microsoft, another company? Many people don’t leave. Actually one of our guests was Jeff Teper. from Microsoft. I think he was there what day like 32 years 30 via What did you do there?

Dawn-Marie Elder 9:04
So Microsoft, I really kind of built my career. I say that those were my sophomore years, you know, I started as an individual contributor or left as a senior director, had a couple of different roles along the way, I ran the east region EPG business that was $2.7 billion, that at that time, I got to sit under the hotline with Kevin Turner. So that allowed me to learn and grow a lot as a professional. But my biggest claim to fame, there was in 2008, Mike decided to leave EPG and take a chance on what they call incubation. And at the at the time incubation was launching this little known product called the pause and be pause and as you know it today is now microsoft 365. So it’s sort of the first cloud sales team there with 16 people. No one want to listen to us don’t believe in the cloud. You know, we’re kind of fighting against all the sellers because everyone was paid on their truth. additional models of how Microsoft went to market then. So we had to shake hands and kiss a lot of babies in order to make that successful engagement. Always beg them to change the name, maybe

Dave Michels 10:11
take a baby, by the way.

Dawn-Marie Elder 10:15
Right, shake hands and kiss babies, not vice versa. But I was always encouraging Microsoft to change the name from the pause into something more mainstream. So I like to think that once they did that, because at first it was office 365, then that’s really what got a lot of notoriety and in the marketplace and allow them to make that business so successful. So I was proud to be a part of it.

Dave Michels 10:36
So if I got this straight, you learn a little bit about cloud at Microsoft and learned a little bit about communications at Avaya. Is that is that? Is that fair? Or how would you describe it?

Dawn-Marie Elder 10:47
Yeah, that’s exactly it. So that’s like the peanut butter and the chocolate that then

Dave Michels 10:52
going on food sandwiches.

Dawn-Marie Elder 10:58
But I think that’s what’s come together now with the ability to voice Nabal, Microsoft zoom in, and some of the other up and comer players.

Evan Kirstel 11:07
Fantastic. So SIP has been around for a long time, it’s pretty de facto standard. So why does the world need Scipio? Exactly. And how does it? How does it make the world a better place? I guess, is what I’m asking.

Dawn-Marie Elder 11:19
So I think what differentiates Scipio from some of the other providers out there is when we release our initial platform to market in June of 2019, we always set out to build something that was repeatable, global, scalable, not a science experiment. We never ever built a one off for direct routing, we built a platform for our partners, because we go to market through a channel ecosystem for our partners to be able to offer to their customer base to quickly enable the voice services that they needed in teams, if they were thinking about going down that that path. And the other thing I think that’s unique about us is from the get go, we decided no PowerShell, you know, we’re a SaaS model. And we want everything to be automated, streamlined, again, no science experiments. So we quickly came out with our tools that wrap around it, to activate the end user customer and allow them to manage their environment, but also the management partners business. And that’s something that some people may not know about us, our partners know it, because they use that toolset every day. But it helps the partner to manage their business and transform, you know, potentially from a CapEx type of world or selling an Avaya or Cisco into the SAS Type of world with monthly recurring revenue. They can do all their quote, to cash capabilities, their offer simple billing platform if they need it. Or they can do you know, take their own top line and build their customers themselves. It’s all API based, they can suck the data out of whatever system they may have. It’s got full cataloging features, so they can create their own skews. You know, we have some partners that add phones, and they just bundle Scipio in the phone into a package they put on their customers with other people that bundle it into contact center solutions with other people that bundle it with their purchase services or managed services wrappers. So sometimes they might decide to take their traditional professional services, and create it as a managed offer where the initial engagement and deployment is included, as well as Maxis throughout the lifetime of up their relationship with their customer. And then any decommissioning that they might do with those old PBX systems.

Dave Michels 13:41
I’ve always kind of associated Scipio with Microsoft, you mentioned zoom earlier, Evans litmus test for is whether it works with my fax machine or not, what what services do you work with?

Dawn-Marie Elder 13:51
So today, it’s Microsoft and zoom, we’re hoping in the future to add others on board, we have been looking at Cisco, blue jeans, GoToMeeting, etc. Really, any of the collaboration providers that are out there that you can voice enable, is what we’d like to add as options into the solution.

Evan Kirstel 14:10
And is the Scipio user experience and the admin, the same with teams and zoom and all these other platforms,

Dawn-Marie Elder 14:18
it is and the other thing that an end customer might like, because we always tried to design for what the end customer wants today and try to guess what they may want in the future with flexibility and ability to change their mind. You can change between zoom and Microsoft within that admin Council, or console and, and pop over from one to another. So we try to make that experience seamless. You know, there are some bipartisan environments that are out there and allows them to manage both. And

Dave Michels 14:49
so really, Scipio is really just a carrier. I mean, hey, I’m sorry, but you’re a carrier and you’re you’re you’re competing, you’re competing against what you’re offering numbers and minutes. And you’re competing against companies like AT and T Verizon and BT some of the biggest bull most well known names in the industry. How do you do that? How do you stand out.

Dawn-Marie Elder 15:12
So we have some of those names that you just mentioned, as partners, they although they are carrier, they don’t have the platform built the way that we have, they don’t have the automation built the way that we do. And they white label Scipio under their own name, and take that to to market, one of the ones that you mentioned, is one of our largest partners, and probably has the most number of seats with us

Dave Michels 15:37
that much of a partner, if you can’t say their name, yeah, the party,

Dawn-Marie Elder 15:39
well, we want to protect their, their right to brand to their end customers the way that they want to. So it’s not my place to say it’s their place to say if they want, because of the way that the platform is built. And we’re an aggregator of care services around the world, we can bring any, any carrier into our platform quickly and easily are part of the Microsoft operator connect accelerator program. And we’re also part of the zoom, cloud peering platform programs, say both of those, like 10 times really fast is kind of hard to do. Because

Evan Kirstel 16:17
we need like a five letter acronym. Yeah, we

Dawn-Marie Elder 16:19
do we do. But what that means is that carriers that maybe don’t have the infrastructure and the platform built, and or don’t have the automation layer built, can leverage Scipio and white, label it and put their own go to market together, run their dial tone through our platform, and offer their subscription or their product out to their customer base.

Evan Kirstel 16:43
Why would anyone not want to work with a carrier with such amazing customer service? I mean, you know, they have tremendous customer experience. That’s my attempt that sarcasm, but for the uninitiated Can’t you know most people think they could just order teams or zoom and start using them. Right, I thought the cloud was going to make everything just Point Click Call and done.

Dawn-Marie Elder 17:03
Sure. Well, there are some legacy telco things that influence that ability for the cloud to be so fluid. And one of those things is called porting. And porting is governed by the different regulatory agencies in every single country, you know, around the world, most all of it is not automated hasn’t been modernized to the extent of other things that have been modernized in our day and age. So that’s where some of the manual intervention or human intervention or the tools intervention needs to occur, which is the bridge that gap and make for a seamless user experience, to do to support from whatever they had and to where they want to go.

Evan Kirstel 17:43
Fantastic. So Microsoft direct routing really opened up a universe of opportunities in our space, for you know, the infrastructure makers, like UCaaS, providers carriers, to partner with Microsoft and benefit from the growth of teams. But aren’t direct routing experience is supposed to be all the same by definition as sort of a standard. How do you differentiate?

Dawn-Marie Elder 18:07
No, oh, no direct routing? If you look at it, and I think the reason why I’m getting ahead of the question, probably a little bit, but the reason why Microsoft brought

Evan Kirstel 18:17
in on the Tuesday steps behind, so

Dawn-Marie Elder 18:20
yes, yeah. So why they’re bringing in the concept of operator Connect is they didn’t really have standards, or certifications around direct routing, other than you had to use a certified SBC infrastructure, you really could build it the way that you want it. And it seemed like everybody jumped into, you know, that end of the pool, once they found out it was lucrative. And there’s kind of three ways that I see the most direct routing providers falling into one of these groups. One is I’m going to build it myself internally as the customer, right, because I have the resources and the knowledge or I think I do so I’m going to build it myself and use my existing carrier services. The next kind of group that we see is where a system integrator or MSP decided, I’m gonna go offer to build this for my customers one by one by one, so that they can have their own direct routing solution internally. And then the third way is the way that CBO decided to go about this, which is we’re going to build a platform that’s open and multi tenant, so that anybody can either subscribe to our work, carry services that we have running through the platform, or the carrier can bring their own dial tone and white labeling.

Dave Michels 19:34
You mentioned Adam Cole earlier. I guess he’s your boss, I guess. Is he the founder? I know he’s the president or CEO, but he also the founder, he is also the founder. Yeah. So I met with him at a conference not too long ago. I thought I thought he was very interesting. We actually invited him onto our podcast, but his office said that he’s kind of boring. The question for you is is it difficult to work with such The boring person.

Dawn-Marie Elder 20:01
So I guess I sort of attract visionary genius eccentrics, I worked with Michael sailor at MicroStrategy, during my career, Bill Gates at Microsoft in my career, and now out of coal at Scipio. And Adam is fantastic at staring at his fish tank and coming up with all these innovations and looking at where we think the direction of all this might go. And then crafting that vision and handing it off to you know, our team. So I’m one of those players, I’ve run sales and marketing, and I kind of craft the story around it, I run the channel organization and help the partners be successful. But the other piece of our business that’s really, really important, and we couldn’t be successful without is the development and innovation area that’s run by David Spindler. And David is the one that really takes all of Adam’s vision and puts it into the reality for the toolset.

Evan Kirstel 20:59
Well, I stare at my fish tank, and I come up with nothing. That’s impressive. Adam can do that. Who else is at Scipio that we might know. And he who else are the brains behind the technology?

Dawn-Marie Elder 21:10
Our chief evangelist is Paul McMillan, I think Dave knew him from another life, we hired him away from Tata to help us craft our vision and strategy. And really help just make sure that we, as a startup, were kind of growing and evolving and maturing in our business and how we were looking at things and telling that story. So Paul has been a great asset to us. You know, we’re pretty lean right now. We’re self funded. So we grow as we grow. And we take pretty much every penny nickel and dollar that we earn, and we put it back into that innovation.

Dave Michels 21:48
It’s great to have you on our podcast, we actually really tried to get more women on our podcast in the heart of this industry.

Dawn-Marie Elder 21:56
You know, being a woman in this in technology, I’ve not really had too many issues has been great opportunity for me, because I’ve been trying, I’ve been able to pave my own way. You know, along the way, I’ve got a daughter who’s headed off to college, his following in my footsteps. And I’ve been involved in a lot of STEM activities. And something I did recently, if you’re interested in getting more women that are in technology, or STEM type of careers to the table is a work with Gabriella Schuster. She was the channel chief of Microsoft for a number of years. And we just did a podcast, but it also included video. And she interviewed myself and my mentor Michael gorier. Ron who was head of strategy at Microsoft, when I was there, all about the way that we work together and the way that he mentored me over the 10 years that I was there our relationship and, and what that meant and about how you can use allies to really help your career and broaden it. So it’s kind of an interesting take a little bit different than some of your traditional podcasts and what you focus on. But there are some great resources out there to get you connected with more women that have you know, roles and opportunities like these.

Evan Kirstel 23:07
Awesome. So let’s talk something about gardening dog, your big gardener, you’re in North beautiful state is probably springtime, there, unlike Boston, which is like still winter.

Dawn-Marie Elder 23:18
Yeah, so I moved from Chicago, the city of Chicago to what I’ll call the suburbs. And I was pretty bored. And then we had those world events that happened in 2020. So I decided to start planting and gardening. So I think I have going on 50 rose bushes and a little over that in hydrangea. So I spent a lot of time weeding talking to them, spraying them for things that they shouldn’t have and admiring the beauty. So it’s been really it’s been, it’s been a good hobby to develop.

Dave Michels 23:51
That’s impressive gardening takes a lot of time and you’re tough executive. I also understand that you are a mother, but you just mentioned your daughter, do you have any advice to our listeners on balancing, work life, motherhood, whatever.

Dawn-Marie Elder 24:06
So the one thing that I always did is I always included my daughter Avery in what I was doing her work. There are videos of her that were used at national sales events at Microsoft, where when she was three and a half and could barely talk outside of that cute little way where kids don’t have diction yet. There’s videos of her like doing the pitch. So sometimes people would be like, Oh, well, she can do this pitch and learn it. I can do this, this pitch and learn it. She was also involved with me at a roadshow that we did at Avaya, where we taught people the concepts of blockchain. And she gave some perspective on her generation and what it means means to them and whenever I could, and it was appropriate, you know, to take her along with me and she knows everybody that I work with. She’ll know your name tonight because we’ll talk about it at dinner. But I just think keeping them involved even if you have to try and you’re not there. Although we’ve been here for the last two, two and a half years, pretty much straight. I think kids learn by osmosis. And they pick up a lot by what they hear and what you might be saying. Indirectly

Evan Kirstel 25:11
fun. Yeah, for me work life balance was marrying the person I work with. So we’re getting married in June. So problem solved. How does you know working from home the pandemic? How do you manage the boundaries at home out of curiosity.

Dawn-Marie Elder 25:26
So that’s funny. My husband retired when we moved to Charlotte, and he was an executive at a large medical center in Chicago, he went to work every day. So he did not understand the concept at all, whereas I’ve been working from home since 1997. So it was either work from home or go out and get on their plane and travel to visit a partner or a customer. So I would say our first six months and this was pre pandemic, we’re a little bit trying on the marriage because he thought I was just home all day to answer whatever random question, you know, where are the dish towels? Where’s the detergent? Should I let the dog out? What did you want the landscapers to come? So he had to learn during the workday and working and please don’t bother me. I don’t think that he’s like, 100% great at it. But he’s gotten better over that time. But today, I’ve got my daughter watching the dog during the podcast, she just went out and told the landscapers to not move along, because of course, they showed up right when this podcast was beginning. You know, you never know when they might show up during the week. But they seem to read my schedule and say, Oh, podcasts, let’s go now. So that’s how we balance it. It’s just communicating and making sure people are aware of important things in the schedule,

Dave Michels 26:43
dumber. It’s been really interesting talking to you. But we got to wrap up this podcast, we’re gonna do a just a couple more Scipio questions before we say goodbye. So you mentioned earlier that enterprises buy through your partners or your channel? That’s right, is that is that 100%? Is anyone by direct? Or how do you go to market

Dawn-Marie Elder 27:00
we 100% go to market through a channel ecosystem that’s made up of distributors, Master agents, traditional telco, resellers, Microsoft and zoom, MSP type of partners. And then also carriers think the only person that has a subscription that they got from us directly was our lawyer, that may have been two seats, but everything else is 100% ecosystem. And that’s why we’re focused on empowering that partner to be the best they can be with their customer base each and every day.

Evan Kirstel 27:30
Awesome. And so what’s next? What can we expect? Is it going to be onwards and upwards as growth? Or maybe you’ll acquire someone or be acquired? You never know, in this industry?

Dawn-Marie Elder 27:40
Yeah. So the second thing is something that we’re definitely looking at. So we’ll see what happens there. Because we want to grow and we want to expand and, you know, be more things to to all people, especially as we bring in other collaboration platforms. So we think about that, and, and, and talk about that every day. So we’ll see what what happens there. I can tell you from a innovation perspective, we’ve been thinking about the FMC or the fixed mobile convergence for about a year and a half now. So I expect to see some things coming from us later this year on that. And then we’re also trying to determine how do we innovate with moving away from the concept of SIP into, you know, free calling? How do we flatten international charges, because those can have a lot of ebb and flow to them, bringing 100 numbers on net, we’re thinking about a carrier exchange, Thomas Freeburg, of New York Times wrote a book called The World is Flat. And what we really think is, is the world is getting smaller social media started that and collaboration is really enabling it in businesses. So we’re just trying to look at what’s next after, you know, sip is fully commoditized. And we believe it’s the platform and the support of the customers to allow flexibility and choice and ease of moving from platform to platform or collaboration provider to clever ship provider if they so choose.

Evan Kirstel 29:12
Thanks so much. It was really great. Learning about you and your background and Scipio is clearly the right service the right time, the right place. So onwards and upwards. Congratulations.

Dawn-Marie Elder 29:23
Thank you very much. Enjoy the day Dave and Evan, thanks for having me. Thank you appreciate the time.

Evan Kirstel 29:31
Well, it was lovely chatting with Dawn Marie elder of Scipio, a company I knew nothing about and I didn’t realize this space was so dynamic. And I agree with Don Murray we need to find more leading women executives to come on the show. What do you think?

Dave Michels 29:47
I don’t know you got a little nervous that one of my questions there. But you know, to be fair, this is like the first episode where we went from bras to the world is flat in one conversation

Evan Kirstel 29:58
without getting canceled or out Hopefully we don’t get canceled maybe next show or find a way and yeah look forward to our next episode with Dave sipes the CEO of eight by eight really you know new new ish CEO I’m excited about that one.

Dave Michels 30:15
That’ll be good all right. You ever made a conversation with man you gotta get out of the phone don’t give your phone no

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