IT management, MSP, Small business

The Secret to Continuum’s Success (So Far)

Continuum CEO Michael George
Michael George

Four years and four months into his journey leading Continuum, CEO Michael George offers up this quote from famed author Douglas Adams: “I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.”

That pretty much explains Continuum's approach to business, software development and MSP partner support. Some cases in point:

  • Software Deadlines: I've lost track of the number, but I believe Continuum's RMM (remote monitoring and management) platform has received on-time monthly updates for roughly 50 consecutive months.
  • Hiring Deadlines: Continuum has grown from roughly 430 employees in 2011 to roughly 1200 today. First up was a management team buildout, then came key hires across RMM, NOC (network operations center), BDR (backup and disaster recovery), marketing, sales, support and so-on.
  • Analytics-driven Deadlines: CMO Jeanne Hopkins, a Hubspot veteran, arrived in 2013 and launched data-driven marketing programs, allowing the company to more effectively measure its progress -- while marching toward the next business goal.
  • Build-out Deadlines: Faced with an expiring office lease in Boston, the company earlier this month relocated its headquarters to the city's financial district -- where it now neighbors numerous technology and financial companies.

Today’s Office Ribbon Cutting: Continuum CEO Michael George (left) and Jay Ash (r.), secretary of Housing and Economic Development for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Continuum hosted a ribbon cutting in that new headquarters this morning. Amy Katz (my business partner) and I stopped by for the festivities -- which involved more than pomp and circumstance.

During the group gathering, George described the rise of SMB IT services over the past decade, and Continuum's growing role in shaping the MSP ecosystem. Sources suggest Continuum's annual revenues grew about 40 percent in 2015, though George politely sidesteps the revenue question every time I pose it to him.

No doubt, Continuum faces plenty of intense competition. And numerous rivals (names like Autotask, ConnectWise, Kaseya and SolarWinds N-able) now pitch "single vendor" solutions that blend RMM with PSA (professional services automation) software. At least three of those rivals enjoy strong double-digit annual growth, ChannelE2E has confirmed. Instead of following that single vendor PSA-RMM trend, Continuum has stayed the course -- focusing on deadlines and platforms that lighten the load for MSPs.

Where It All Started

Rewind to 2011, and few would have predicted Continuum's current momentum. The company was born when Summit Partners acquired the RMM 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 Continuum -- which was known as Zenith RMM at the time. The two companies had no financial ties, but skeptics could have painted a "guilty by association" picture. Instead of waiting for the dust to settle over at Zenith Infotech, the newly installed Zenith RMM management team 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 I've eaten crow multiple times.

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.

Where It's Going Next

Continuum remains in growth mode on multiple fronts. The company's new Boston-based headquarters houses about 80 of the company's 1,200 employees. But the location has enough space for roughly 70 more hires -- perhaps even more.

The company's partner base also is evolving. Sure, bread-and-butter MSPs that offer SMB server, desktop and mobile support remain core to the company. But a new generation of MSPs also has emerged within Continuum's ecosystem.

H. Glenn Grant

A case in point: G2 Technology Group -- a Boston-based MSP -- leverages Continuum's platforms while offering DevOps services to SaaS startups. More specifically, the SaaS companies focus on software development. And G2 offers the operational expertise to automate and support each new SaaS enhancement atop Amazon Web Services. Take a closer look, and you'll notice that G2's CEO is H. Glenn Grant -- a veteran of Thrive Networks, a well-known MSP that Staples once owned. Admittedly, DevOps remains a rare topic of conversation for most MSPs. I suspect G2 is roughly 18 to 36 months ahead of the SMB curve on that one.

Meanwhile, Continuum also has some cloud-driven growth opportunities -- which are far more mainstream -- for MSPs. The company's Continuity247 platform runs in the IBM SoftLayer cloud, and is catching on as a data protection platform for MSPs and their SMB customers.

Keep an eye on the IBM-Continuum relationship, by the way. During last week's IBM PartnerWorld conference in Orlando, Continuum was just about the only MSP-centric software company at the show. And if you poke around the web, you'll notice several hosting and cloud providers now use Continuum's BDR software to protect customer data.

Lesson Learned

Admittedly, I've spent the past three or four years underestimating the growth opportunities for RMM, NOC and now BDR services. Michael George and the Continuum team didn't.

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.