Bennett, who had been the Chief Revenue Officer at Webroot, talks with ChannelBuzz about his coming to Axcient, the ideas that will guide his strategy, and how he plans to take the MSP-focused data protection vendor to new heights.
This week, Axcient announced that David Bennett will take over as the company’s CEO, effective March 4. Bennett was most recently the Chief Revenue Officer at endpoint security vendor Webroot, which has posted 19 consecutive quarters of double-digit growth with a go-to-market strategy focused exclusively on the MSP channel. He had previously held senior sales roles in the EMEA region with Lenovo, Kingston Technology and Sony.
Bennett’s appointment at Axcient was announced less than a week after his old company, Webroot, was acquired by Carbonite. The coincidence is a dramatic one – but Bennett said that it is just a coincidence, as the process of filling the vacant CEO slot at Axcient following Matt Nachtrab’s resignation last summer had been ongoing for an extended time.
“I had been in discussions with Axcient about this for a while,” Bennett said. “The CEO at Webroot and I have had a great relationship, and we agreed that I would stay at Webroot until the signing with Carbonite, which took place last Thursday. I officially start on March 4 at Axcient, but I’m now finished at Webroot.”
Bennett was attractive to Axcient because as sales leader at Webroot, he had led a midsize company committed to a channel model around managed service providers through a sustained growth period. That’s exactly what Axcient wants him to do in his new role.
“We are going through a growth curve now at Axcient,” said Eric White, Axcient’s president, who performed the CEO functions during the interval between Nachtrab’s departure and Bennett’s hire. “With David, we are bringing in someone with deep insights into the MSP community, and someone who has actual experience scaling up an organization based around MSPs. That experience was fundamental to his selection.”
Bennett sees strong parallels between Webroot and Axcient.
“If you go back at my years prior to Webroot, I have a lot of experience in very big organizations,” he said. “I found that big companies tend to do small numbers of things with lots of people. Smaller companies typically do lots of things without enough people.”
That’s not a good strategy for smaller companies, Bennett indicated.
“When you aren’t a number one or two in your area, you have to be very thoughtful,” he said. “You have to take a deep look at what we bring to the table around our technology and what challenges that we uniquely solve. With Webroot, we focused on the MSP go-to-market, and recognized that it would be impossible to outmarket the leaders in the space with the money they spend on that. So we went after the SMB specifically, concentrated on the MSP focus, in particular, and focused on doing that specific thing better than anyone else. We worked on truly understanding our customer and how to build a technology stack that uniquely solves that. That’s what we did at Webroot. I see the situation as very similar at Axcient, particularly as the MSP marketspace is still growing 14 to 15 per cent a year. There is room for very big growth.”
That focus on the MSP channel is not new for Axcient, nor for eFolder before it, but White said part of the market still isn’t aware of that.
“We have been doubling down on that messaging around our strategy over the last six months – but not everyone has gotten that message,” he indicated. “If they have been listening, it is clear that we are committed to this channel.”
Bennett said that Axcient wants to expand the number of MSPs they work with, although they want to be intelligent in how they enlist new ones.
“In North America, here are about 40,000 MSPs, and Axcient has 3500, but there is still a long road to grow the business,” he stated. “There are still many, many VARs trying to become MSPs. They are the green fields there. So we want to grow our partner base, but to do so strategically.”
When the eFolder-Axcient merger was initially announced, then-CEO Nachtrab was jubilant, declaring that the goal of the new company would be to dethrone Datto. Bennett is more circumspect about that, saying that Axcient needs to focus on mechanics and execution rather than big picture objectives.
“We don’t want to focus on the wrong thing,” he said. “We want to be the best supplier of our stack to uniquely solve MSPs’ business issues. That’s our focus. It’s not to grow into a midmarket or an enterprise player, but to be the best partner to MSPs, above all else.
Bennett said that it’s still too early to say if any big changes will be made.
“I’m not even through the door yet, although I will say that every company has the opportunity to improve certain things,” he stated.
White expects that changes are inevitable, and that it’s a necessary part of the process.
“Any leader of any company that thinks they don’t have anything to shake up is kidding themselves,” he said. “We always have to make sure that our product is optimized for our market, and that we optimize the after-sale experience. There’s a lot of internal things we work on every day.”
“We think that we are uniquely positioned, with our high-touch focus towards MSPs, and with our Business Availability Suite,” said Angus Robertson, Axcient’s CMO.
The Availability Suite, which brings Axcient’s different solutions together rather than being sold as separate point products, was introduced last November at the same time as the company was rebranded from the cumbersome Axcient/eFolder
“You will see a lot more messaging around the Business Availability Suite as opposed to single point solutions,” Bennett said.
Bennett also addressed the issue surrounding the quick departure of Jason Bystrak, the Vice-President of Worldwide Channels and Distribution who left Axcient for D&H last month after coming over from Ingram Micro a year earlier. Bystrak had been the most visible face of the company to partners at events.
“People always come and go,” Bennett said. “We stay absolutely committed to channel-only and focused on enabling the MSP as trusted advisor, and doing it better than anyone else. The goal here is to build a scalable growing company. It’s not a quick one year gig. It’s a long-term plan to build a long-term company.”
“Jason remains a friend of Axcient, and we expect we will be doing business with Jason down the line,” White added.
Pewaukee, Wisconsin-headquartered 2W Technologies is a partner of both Webroot and Axcient. Mark Jamieson, the company’s President and CEO, does not know Bennett personally, but said that Webroot’s strategy had been “right in our wheelhouse,” and saw MSP-friendly parallels in the strategies of both companies.
“There is a real strong analogy between what Webroot has done, with their clean solution that was designed for MSPs, and what Axcient is going now, with their commitment to MSPs,” he said. “Bringing in Bennett is just one more element showing a commitment to that strategy. Axcient has made a commitment to MSPs, and have always excelled in support and going the extra mile for their clients. Bringing in a guy from another organization with that same mindset shows that they will continue to be MSP-focused.”