Channel technologies, MSP

BitTitan: Office 365 Cloud Services Enabler Almost Wasn’t

Geeman Yip, CEO, BitTitan
Geeman Yip

At first glance, BitTitan is an overnight hit. The company, which helped to define the cloud services enabler market, recently raised $15 million in Series A funding and hired Frank Johnson-Suglia to drive its MSP partner program. But take a closer look and you'll discover that BitTitan's current success involved a major personal and corporate pivot around 2010.

To understand BitTitan's transformative journey, you need to rewind to 2007 or so. Geeman Yip was wrapping up a successful run at Microsoft. He wanted to go off and do something new. His concept: Build a cloud storage ecosystem and online marketplace where people can purchase digital goods. "I was going to be the titan of all your digital bits," recalls Yip.

Hence, BitTitan was born. But after 2.5 years of platform development, Yip realized that the market wasn't ready for BitTitan's original vision. "Nobody trusted online storage at the time. I couldn't get my brother to use the platform -- not even for free."

By about 2010 or so, BitTitan and Yip were running out of money. The familiar "entrepreneur-in-crisis" scenario emerged. Yip maxed out his credit cards, took a second loan on his home and essentially liquidated everything.

"I looked at all of my options. I thought about consulting, professional services and perhaps returning to Microsoft." And therein Yip found the solution -- for himself, BitTitan and channel partners looking for the Next Big Thing.

Office 365 and Cloud Services Enablement

Up until that point, BitTitan had focused on the consumer market. But Yip's earlier career at Microsoft was focused on enterprise software.

As he took a closer look at Microsoft, he spotted a pain point for the company and for channel partners. At the time, Microsoft was promoting BPOS (Business Productivity Online Suite), the precursor to Office 365.

  • The good news: BPOS and its Office 365 successor would make IT spending far more predictable for end-customers and channel partners.
  • The bad news: Customers would likely have to spend large amounts of money to migrate from their on-premises systems to BPOS (and Office 365 when that finally arrived in 2011).
  • The solution: Yip pivoted BitTitan right into the Office 365 migration market -- helping to automate the process for channel partners and their customers.

"I started thinking: What if you could come to a web site, punch in your credit card and migrate your data from point A to point B," he recalls. In the months and years that followed, BitTitan launched a range of services -- including an Exchange to Office 365 migration solution. At the same time, Yip lived on a personal budget that was far below the American norm.

Did Yip know the pivot would succeed? "You really never know," he concedes. "Otherwise everyone would pivot into the right markets and everyone would be rich."

BitTitan Today (And Beyond)

Still, the concept and BitTitan's technology caught on. Fast forward to present day and the company's migration services involve far more than Exchange to Office 365. The lineup also addresses HIPAA compliance, public folders, enterprise archives, GroupWise, Lotus Notes, and plenty more.

In some ways, Yip sees the current MSP era as a replay of the ASP (application service provider) era from more than a decade ago. VARs and systems integrators, he says, are evolving to MSPs that offer professional services and managed services wrapped around applications and hosted offerings. (ChannelE2E often calls them Total Service Providers.)

As BitTitan's B2B cloud focus started to generate market buzz, venture capitalists and financial pros came knocking on the company's door. Over 100 investment firms have expressed interest in the company, he says. But ultimately, the company aligned with TVC Capital and Tao Capital Partners. The recent $15 million funding marks the first time BitTitan has raised any capital since its founding in 2007.

BitTitan hasn't begun to deploy the money yet. The company had 200 employees ahead of the funding but expects to hire 100 more team members over the next 12 months.

"It will be very important for us to staff up over the next 6 months," Yip says. "The vision we have is a very large vision. In 2017 you'll see us transform -- you could even say reinvent ourselves as a company. We're constantly doing macro pivots."

Hmmm... Perhaps clues about BitTItan's next pivots will emerge at Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference 2016 in July.

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.