When ConnectWise acquired Continuum in November, the deal's leadership plan called for ConnectWise CEO Jason Magee to lead the combined companies, and Continuum CEO Michael George to exit the combined businesses.
A few days before the ConnectWise-Continuum deal was announced, sources told ChannelE2E that the transaction was imminent. In anticipation the deal, ChannelE2E published an October 27 blog that highlighted Continuum's rather incredible and unlikely business journey. Deep within the blog, we mentioned the ConnectWise deal was imminent.
Under George's leadership from Day One, Continuum evolved and emerged as the largest, most successful provider of outsourced NOC (network operations center) and help desk services to MSPs worldwide. To put that journey in context, we've included some snippets from that October 27 blog below. We've also added some new wrinkles about George and Continuum to help readers more fully understand the sale to ConnectWise.
Continuum and Michael George: The Start of a Journey
To truly appreciate George's leadership style and Continuum's market position ahead of the ConnectWise deal, you need to rewind to the company's challenging birth in 2011.
Continuum was born when Summit Partners (a private equity firm) acquired RMM (remote monitoring and management) and NOC (network operations center) assets from Zenith Infotech. Around the time of the deal, Zenith Infotech defaulted on a bond payment, and that company ultimately wound down in 2014.
In terms of perception, the Zenith Infotech fallout could have tarnished and perhaps even sunk Continuum — which was known as Zenith RMM at the time. Skeptics could have painted a “guilty by association” picture as Zenith Infotech imploded. Instead, the newly installed Zenith RMM management team -- including and led by Michael George -- in 2011 focused on a corporate rebranding (i.e., Continuum) and endless road trips to meet the company’s MSP base.
During my conversations with Michael George at the time, he could sense my skepticism. I openly wondered: Did the world really need another RMM company — especially one that was led by enterprise-class executives rather than SMB entrepreneurs? Fast forward to the present and most readers know I've eaten crow.
Continuum Management, Staff Save the Ship
Michael George and the Continuum management team — culled from companies like Citi, IBM,OATSystems and Sallie Mae — brought discipline to the business and its far-flung operations, including key offices in Pittsburgh, Pa.; Boston, Mass; and India.
George demanded a repeatable, scalable approach to software and services delivery. This quote from famed author Douglas Adams best expresses how Continuum has executed under George's leadership for almost a decade: “I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.”
The journey has involved organic growth coupled with M&A, including:
- 2014: Continuum acquired R1 soft for BDR (backup and disaster recovery).
- 2017: Thoma Bravo acquired Continuum from Summit Partners.
- 2018: Continuum acquired CARVIR for SOCaaS (Security Operations Center as a Service).
- 2019: Continuum acquired BrightGauge for MSP business intelligence.
Continuum Executive Leadership Evolves, Succeeds
Amid the business journey, Continuum's executive team has scaled and evolved ahead of the ConnectWise deal to include include:
- John Mandel, senior VP of engineering
- Fielder Hiss, VP of product
- Geoffrey Willison, CFO
- Tasos Tsolakis, senior VP of global service delivery
- Tina McNulty, VP of marketing
- Robert Kocis, chief revenue officer
- Ai-Li Lim, senior VP of human resources
- Steve Cardillo, VP of corporate development.
Those leaders, and many of the Continuum executives who served the company this past decade, paved the way for the company to offer MSPs such services as:
- Continuum Command: For RMM.
- Fortify: For security.
- Recover: For backup, disaster recovery (BDR) and business continuity services.
- Assist: A service rollup that leverages Continuum’s NOC, SOC and help desk services.
- Enable: For MSP training, certification and sales coaching.
That's right: Instead of just developing software, Continuum connected all that automation code to its help desk, NOC and SOC services -- essentially allowing MSP customers to focus on sales, marketing and other business-building activities.
Continuum Challenges and Opportunities
Sources suggest the business is in solid shape amid the sale t0 ConnectWise. Still, I believe Continuum's MSP security initiative has faced multiple challenges over the past year or two.
Indeed, Continuum and the broader industry have been working overtime to make security easier for MSPs to manage and monetize, and easier for MSP end-customers to consume. With those goals in mind, Continuum has partnered closely with such security companies as Fortinet, Netsurion, SentinelOne and Webroot.
There are signs of progress -- such as a Continuum's new SOC in Pittsburgh -- but many MSPs are still struggling to formulate and activate their cyber strategies.
Continuum's Anticipated Evolution
Ahead of the ConnectWise deal, ChannelE2E reported that Continuum may be for sale -- with ConnectWise as a potential buyer (see items 3 and 7 here). Then we accurately predicted that the deal would surface at the ConnectWise IT Nation 2019 conference in Orlando, Florida.
A few weeks before the formal ConnectWise-Continuum announcement, multiple sources told us the deal was coming. Plus, George was remarkably relaxed during the company's October 2019 conference in Pittsburgh -- roughly a month before the ConnectWise deal was announced.
During a conversation with me at that Continuum event, we spoke extensively about life, family and personal legacies. I'm not sure why, but I didn't poke and prod about potential merger scenarios. I sensed that George had achieved a certain type of peace or clarity -- perhaps in life, perhaps in business, perhaps across both.
Michael George's MSP Market Legacy
In a way, I sensed that Continuum's business journey would continue under new ownership. I also sensed that George's personal business journey building and evolving Continuum was nearing its end.
Fast forward to present day. Our sources were correct. ConnectWise now owns Continuum. And George has exited the business. The Continuum scorecard under George's leadership is rather impressive. Roughly 6,000 MSPs now outsource various business automation, monitoring, NOC, help desk and security services to Continuum.
It took more than private equity dollars for Continuum to succeed. The formula for success also required a CEO who combines long-term vision with day-to-day execution. Namely, the Continuum journey from 2011 through October 2019 required Michael George at the helm.