Startup ArmorBlox focuses on channel with new partner program for its DLP platform

Brian Harmon, who leads Armorblox’s sales and channel efforts, has modelled the go-to-market model on those of previous employers Palo Alto Networks and Trend Micro.

Brian Harmon, Armorblox’s SVP of sales and channel

Data loss prevention [DLP] startup Armorblox has formally launched its first partner program. As important as the program itself is the spirit and strategy behind it. The Armorblox program was built by Brian Harmon, the company’s  SVP of sales and channel, whose focus was formed by stints at Trend Micro and Palo Alto Networks, and their channel-centric model. That’s the goal here, starting with a select and regionally-focused channel strategy to sell Armorblox’s highly differentiated platform.

Harmon got into security in 2003 with Trend Micro, and ran their North American operations for five years. He then went to Palo Alto Networks and was there until 2013. He then spent the last five years at other startups until joining Armorblox on March 1st.

“This one caught my eye because it addresses a pretty big gap – phishing, spearphishing and spoofing,” he said. “There are other solutions, but they focus on metadata of attacks, and rely on reputation. None address the human element – attackers counting on humans to make mistakes, because it only takes one.”

The Armorblox Natural Language Understanding (NLU) platform is specifically designed to address this.

“What we bring is an element of looking inside the messages, by looking at the style of resolution,” Harmon said. “This includes understanding an individual’s persona of writing, like their salutation changing from normal.”

The Armorblox platform started with email and has added integrations with major collaboration vendors like Slack and Dropbox. It uses the NLU by assessing the risk of a particular message and alerting the user, asking them whether it should be released or not.

“It creates policies on the fly, sending a hashtag for confidential in which the content of the email will automatically become confidential,” Harmon said. “It stops people not in the confidential chain, and their message will be flagged, quarantined and identified as a risk. It’s a self-triage, and the goal is to stop SOCs from being overwhelmed.”

The primary focus is the enterprise, because it has the biggest threat vectors, but it extends downmarket as well, Harmon noted.

Today, the platform is being sold as a complementary technology with other security offerings, but in the longer-term, Harmon believes that it will displace some of them in the DLP space.

“Over time I believe it will replace certain technologies,” he said. “It was like with Palo Alto Networks, where we started by coming in and plugging into an existing firewall. The market at that point in time wasn’t ready for us to replace the traditional firewalls, but that’s what happened, eventually. Over time some of the solutions that haven’t adapted to current attacks in DLP will become irrelevant in same way signature-based AV has become less relevant.”

Harmon said that because Armorblox is a platform, modules can be added as new threat vectors surface.

“We will augment other email security solutions,” he indicated. “We are looking to partner with several companies where it’s a true augmentation, like with spam and malware detection, which are commoditized.”

While Armorblox has been in business and developing the platform for two years, it reached General Availability in March at RSA.

“The channel came in very early, which is something I brought to the table,” Harmon said. “We have built a direct sales team but they are the high touch. The  channel is the force multiplier who accelerate our growth. Both Trend Micro and Palo Alto Networks were 100 per cent channel. The channel is the important element to build around.”

The program was just formally announced, but it has been there informally for several months, and launched with twelve partners as members.

“We will rely on partners who are trusted advisors to customers, and who like to present companies who are rising to the top,” Harmon said. “The challenge for CISOs with the hundreds of solutions out there today is keeping ahead of the curve, which they can’t do alone.”

The goal will be to build out a select value channel of that kind of partner.

“We are initially looking at expanding in the U.S. on a regional basis,” he said. “That’s our initial effort. We aren’t looking at the big national providers just yet. With startup vendors, the larger solution providers tend to come in later, when they lose deals. We want focused regional partners with good relationships in the right accounts who can carry a product from cradle to grave, not ones who bring us in and expect us to run the deal.” Three or four partners in each major region would be ideal.

Over time, Harmon said that they will expand coverage to other regions, and wants to bring in key partners like the Herjavec Group in Canada to open up that market.

The program has two tiers for VARs, Preferred and Premium.

“The Preferred commitment is to be able to bring in a number of demos and Proof-of-Concepts,” Harmon stated. “They all have a quarterly business review. We are looking to have a one-to-one ratio on new deals – they bring in a deal, and we bring in a deal.” The Premium Tier is the same, but for higher volume partners.

There is also a separate tier for MSPs.

“We are talking with several companies who are showing interest,” Harmon said. “The model is slightly different, and there is more flexibility on billing and growth of licensing in their accounts.”

Armorblox is still selective with their MSP strategy.

“It’s still our reputation that is on the line as a service, and that’s especially important for a newer company,” Harmon said. “Some resellers get into managed services who don’t have the right infrastructure and can damage the market

The program benefits are the standard meat and potatoes, including deal registration, and similar to what Harmon has done in the past.

“I understand the channel value wholeheartedly, and know all the players,” he said. “That’s what’s really important here. They understand how I operate.”