Security Staff Acquisition & Development, Business continuity, Content, Storage

Axcient CEO David Bennett Explains MSP Data Protection, Simplified

When Axcient hired former Webroot Chief Revenue Officer David Bennett as CEO in 2019, he arrived with a strong track record for growth.

Indeed, Webroot achieved 19 consecutive quarters of double-digit growth during Bennett's time at the cybersecurity company. And much of that growth involved MSP partner engagements across the SMB (small and midsize business) sector.

Still, Axcient's opportunities and challenges were different than that of Webroot. Indeed, while Webroot helped to pioneer endpoint security business models for MSPs, Axcient competes against numerous rivals in the more mature backup and disaster recovery (BDR) market. And many of those BDR companies already have MSP engagements.

Instead of taking aim at any one rival (Datto, StorageCraft, and the list goes on), Bennett went into listen mode -- meeting with Axcient's internal developers, along with partners -- especially MSPs. The result, Axcient asserts, is an increasingly simplified solution set for data protection.

In this ChannelE2E interview, Bennett describes his first year leading Axcient -- key learnings, key milestones, and some potential moves ahead. Here's the interview.

ChannelE2E: February 2020 will mark one year since Axcient announced your hiring as CEO. Has the business journey (so far) aligned with what you expected when you arrived, or were there some key wrinkles in the business or industry that you didn’t expect?

Bennett: My personal philosophy is plan for the worst, but expect higher than the best. It's been a fast passed year so far. The journey has been as expected, and the outcome that the teams have delivered has exceeded! There has not been a wrinkle, but until you step into the CEO seat, you really only then realize what it means to be a CEO. Clearly every CEO can benefit from connecting and engaging with peers and coaches – continual learning and reading is a must.

ChannelE2E: Although the MSP market continues to grow, I sense that the rate of growth may be slowing a bit – particularly in North America. How are you seeing the overall MSP market –particularly from the perspective of Axcient and your partners? 

Bennett: For Axcient partners, we see strong, double-digit growth in our core tech within the X360 platform. Many partners that have standardized on the tech stack business are doubling year over year. We are also seeing the MSP be pulled further up-market toward the mid-market and enterprise, segments that three or four years ago would not have looked to the MSP to solve their issues. This will be a big revenue driver in North America, with a similar trend in EMEA – IT certainly isn’t getting easier.

ChannelE2E: Regarding the Axcient leadership team, do you have the right people in the right seats as 2020 kicks off, or are there particular roles you’re looking to fill at the executive level?

Bennett: Absolutely YES. We have the right leadership team in place now. 2019 was the year of change and acceleration, as we changed up every business function within Axcient. We are through that now and heads down on acceleration.

ChannelE2E: Regarding the Axcient product portfolio, walk me through some of the company and/or product milestones from 2019. Where did Axcient make the most progress?

Bennett: First and foremost was ensuring quality and the best partner support. We really listened to our partners, took that input, and translated that into progress that mattered to the MSP. This was predominately under the veil of simplification. My philosophy is that business should be easy. Axcient before I was CEO wasn’t. We moved from more than 1,500 SKU down to 11, simplified billing, eliminated storage overage charges and contracts within minimum commits. Then, we focused on making the technology easier to use and look the same . You can now trial our X360 portfolio in under five minutes. Product releases grew by over 25% vs 2018 as we implemented the new portfolio and agile software development practices.

ChannelE2E: You launched X360 on October 31. Any initial learnings from the market?

Bennett: Reception has been great. Phase one of X360 was focused around providing a frictionless experience for our Office 365 product within a single portal for products. Billing, management, training, and automated co-marketing now happen in one platform. Phase two is about to launch, and that brings in the Anchor sync and share solution with an updated look and feel matching the Office 365 solution.

ChannelE2E: I think you launched Office 365 per-user backup pricing in mid-2019. Any key learnings or next moves based on that launch?

Bennett: Correct, under the earlier banner of simplification we moved to a fixed per user price with unlimited storage and retention. The key learning is that we should have made the change long ago! It is now our fastest growing product, well over 200 percent year over year.

ChannelE2E: What do you see as the key priorities for Axcient in 2020?

Bennett: Security, Security, Security and continued to focus on the X360 platform, creating deeper partner relationships, and do what we said– make our partners lives easier and more successful.

ChannelE2E: Any other key themes you'd like to touch on?

Bennett: Outside of Axcient, I truly hope the industry focuses on making the MSPs' life easier and secure. A major personal annoyance is the IT Industry feels like it needs to add variants or features. Then the vendor nickels and dimes the customer! That's Madness!! (How hated are the cable TV companies for this?) We have the opportunity to change that. Additionally there has always been a lot of collaboration in the security market. I feel it's time the back-up and business continuity industry not only intrinsically connect itself to the security challenge, but also figure out how  BDCR vendors products can work well together in a multi-layer tech stack.

Joe Panettieri

Joe Panettieri is co-founder & editorial director of MSSP Alert and ChannelE2E, the two leading news & analysis sites for managed service providers in the cybersecurity market.