Ottawa’s Titus building channel on the homefront

Mark Fitchett

Titus channel chief Mark Fitchett

As is the case at many partner conferences, Canadian resellers were in the minority at Titus’ first-ever partner conference this week. What makes that somewhat remarkable is that the conference – like Titus itself – is based in Ottawa.

Titus, which specializes in message and file classification software for a variety of messaging, collaboration and operating systems, hosted 29 partners from 16 different countries this week in Ottawa. And that international crowd represents an international business – although it has big contracts in the U.S., a lot of Titus’ business today is outside of North America.

That’s all in the process of changing, though. While it remains focused on building internationally, Titus channel chief Mark Fitchett says it’s a priority to get better known at home.

“As a company that’s based [in Canada], you almost have to leave here and be successful before you can be successful here,” Fitchett said.

It’s a lesson that’s been learned over and over again in fields like entertainment, where acts like teenybopper Alanis toiled in relative obscurity before rebranding as Alanis Morissette and becoming a star in the U.S.

But Titus’ focus outside of North America is about more than just fickle loyalties at home or some sort of innate Canadian desire to only accept those accepted elsewhere. It’s just simply a fact that the messaging classification business, Titus’ core focus, is more advanced in Europe than it is here at home. But with the U.S. now requiring message classification in government and certain other verticals, and Canadian legislation likely to follow suit, that’s about to change.

“Other markets have taken our attention first,” Fitchett said. “But the delta is narrowing.”

And as that delta narrows, the company is building its Canadian channel community. Fitchett boasts six partners in Canada so far, mostly based in Ottawa and Toronto. That’s fine for now, Fitchett says. He doesn’t want to “flood a market” with channel partners, preferring to have “three, or maybe four” partners in a given geographic region. That said, there’s still room to grow, particularly outside of Ontario.

Fitchett said the ideal Titus partner knows and understands DLP and has a strong Microsoft focus. “I like to see an established base, a mid-sized partner of 15 to 20 employees with a strong base of clients,” Fitchett said.

While public sector – both government and military – is still the biggest market for Titus, its private sector business is 15 per cent of the business and growing strongly, up from five per cent last year. The company’s biggest commercial vertical is financial services, so a partner with a strong base there is particularly attractive.

Like many startups, Titus started out with a direct sales focus, and decided a little further along the process (about two years ago) that the channel is the best way to scale at home and abroad, said Scott Morin, vice president of worldwide sales. That’s when Fitchett was brought aboard and when the company turned its focus on building a channel – to the point where the company does more than 80 per cent of its business through its partners, and only does direct deals “pretty much when the customer dictates it.”

Fitchett said the company has opened up 17 new markets in 2010 and 2011 through its partners – and in those markets, has 11 customer wins in the new markets, including seven of eight “strategic wins.”

The company’s expanding channel also has expanding opportunities. Fitchett detailed the company’s expansion in product lines – adding a streamlined product, Titus Aware for Outlook, as well as a classification product for Lotus Notes and for Windows systems on the whole. Titus has also expanded its focus, adding SharePoint classification and security to the mix.

“No other vendor has the breadth of classification products that Titus does,” Fitchett told partners.

For more on Titus and its channel plans, please check out the next edition of the Podcast, which features an interview with CEO Tim Upton.