Safetica looks to turn MSPs to MSSPs with new North American partner program

Safetica introduced a branded DLP offering to the North American market last year, an enterprise solution simplified for SMBs. Now with a new partner program focused on training MSPs how to offer a proof-of-concept to customers, they are looking to grow the partner base from dozens to thousands.

Luke Walling, Safetica’s North American GM

Czech data leak prevention [DLP] vendor Safetica significantly expanded its North American presence last year. Now they are doubling down on the MSP component of their channel with a new partner program, designed to teach them how to present a full proof-of-concept to prospects and customers.

Safetica’s primary presence in North America has been through an OEM relationship with Slovak-headquartered global anti-virus company ESET, in which they provide the DLP component in ESET’s software. Safetica had also previously done some direct selling in North America as well. Last year’s creation of a North American subsidiary was their first attempt to build a channel of their own here. The strategy has been to take DLP – which is complex and has primarily been focused at the enterprise – to the SMB market, with a simplified enterprise feature set.

“The product is very advanced and is pretty complicated,” said Luke Walling, Safetica’s North American GM. “Within that context, it has done extremely well.”

When Safetica started operations in North America, the expectation was that the channel would be about half VARs and half MSPs. A year of operations has demonstrated to Walling that MSPs are a better fit for the product.

“About 25 per cent of our growth has been from the VAR channel, and it has worked reasonably well,” Walling said. “However, we have had to do a great deal of service delivery ourselves to make these partners successful. By focusing on service-centred partners – MSPs – we believe that they will help us grow faster. It’s easier to scale, and more lucrative for us, because scaling won’t require us to have to hire a lot of new engineers.”

Most of the successes to date have been in the SMB space, particularly with customers who are focused on compliance.

“Capaxion, a New Jersey MSP, which had a security business, but had not previously offered DLP, has had great success with this,” Walling said. “It helped them move upmarket. We believe that DLP is the kind of solution that can help MSPs move into the MSSP space, precisely because it is complex. It’s too complex for customer self-service.”

The goal is to assemble a large MSP channel, but that remains a distant goal.

“I’d like to see us recruit thousands of partners, and we’ve done dozens,” Walling said. “As we’ve been taking the product to market we’ve learned to do things differently. What’s most important is teaching the partners how to work with the product, and doing that is how we will grow the channel.”

That teaching function is the focus of the new channel program.

“Many channel programs are focused on traditional marketing and training,” Walling said. “This one is teaching partners about something that will be an entirely new service for them.”

Walling said there’s a clear need for DLP in the market, and that it has multiple use cases, from combating phishing to preventing salespeople from taking customer lists with them when they change jobs – something that can be devastating for a smaller company.

“The product’s value and its multiple use cases is why we believe it’s feasible to go from dozens to thousands of partners,” he said. “To do that, we have to help partners express its value clearly to their customers.”

While the program does emphasize the kind of ‘table stakes’ things partners expect from a program, the main focus is helping partners understand how to deliver DLP-as-a-service.

“The program shows them how to use Safetica to perform an audit,” Walling said. “The partner can complete a full proof-of-concept, and provide an assessment that goes beyond what traditional vulnerability assessments can provide. This is also something that they can charge for. Its value is substantial, given that it is something that they can deploy for free as part of a channel program.”

The program does not have formal certifications, but Walling said that the onboarding process provides its equivalent.

“Every partner is onboarded in such a way that I would consider to be the equivalent of a certification, particularly as they will be able to complete a full proof-of-concept,” he said.

Walling said that Safetica will build out other elements of a broader partner ecosystem, but that this will be done slowly, as demand dictates.

“We need to forge alliances and partnerships and integrations, but do them over time based on demand,” he said. “It’s a substantial effort to build these things. I’ve managed lots of them in the past [particularly in channel roles at AVG and Avast] but we don’t have enough demand for them today. Over 2018, we will start to form partner advisory groups, however.”