ZeroNorth recruiting select partners around risk-based vulnerability orchestration solution

The Boston-based startup has named Chris Riley as SVP of Sales and will look to expand to the next stage of growth with a channel-first strategy. 

Chris Riley, SVP of Sales, ZeroNorth

Boston-based ZeroNorth has appointed Chris Riley as their new Senior Vice-President of Sales. His over 25 years of sales experience most recently saw him serve as VP of Enterprise Sales, North America for Mimecast. Riley joins ZeroNorth as the company is showing high startup growth rates, and is looking to scale out further in their next stage of growth. The channel will be key to that growth, although it will be a select and focused channel to which ZeroNorth will look to help drive repeat sales.

ZeroNorth just raised a $10 million Series A+ funding round in March, led by Crosslink Capital. They are also coming off a year of over 300% ARR growth, and a doubling of their customer base. Riley said that ZeroNorth is an attractive proposition because they have a differentiated offering that solves a key pain point in the DevOps world.

“The jump-off point for what we do is that almost every organization and government entity is becoming a software company, offering programs and services, but based much less around bricks and mortar and more around software and technology,” Riley told ChannelBuzz. “DevOps has emerged around this, but with little regard for vulnerability and risk because they all use their own proprietary development systems.”

ZeroNorth is focused on solving this problem around DevOps security, by bringing existing scanning tools onto their platform and leveraging them to address this issue.

“The ZeroNorth platform takes all scanning tools from the app vulnerability and risk point of view, many of which are from the open source world, and brings all the findings together in a common picture to see where opportunities exist to address vulnerabilities, and does this at DevOps speed,” Riley indicated. “Our value is the platform’s ability to bring in these existing scanning tools once, and use them many times. Our platform is the secret sauce that capitalizes on these integrations and brings them in and leverages them in the platform.”

The result, Riley said, is that ZeroNorth provides a common picture of multiple vulnerabilities and risks across application lifecycle deployment, and takes a big bite out of ongoing support costs.

ZeroNorth complements the vulnerability and application security scanners, rather than competing with them.

“We complement those scanners because we rely on what they are doing,” Riley noted. “There’s really no direct competition from a commercial point of view. What we have found is a number of large organizations like Fortune 500 companies or federal agencies have attempted to cobble these together to provide this common picture. Our real competitor is this custom work companies build themselves.”

ZeroNorth is not exclusively focused on large customers – the nature of an organization’s development processes plays a role – but the most likely prospects are enterprises and government agencies.

“Size has something to do with it, but any organization that does a lot of their own application development in a rapid DevOps lens can use us,” Riley said. “Our targeted firms include financial services, high tech companies and manufacturing, but also any organization that builds a lot of their own applications themselves and iterates over and over again.”

The Go-to-Market strategy for this is highly channel-centric.

“As we are in early stage opportunities, we have a direct sales and presales presence but that doesn’t mean we take the orders direct,” Riley said. “We  are trying to drive all of the business through the channel,  and whet an appetite from our early partners. We give them a front row seat in pre-sales engagement and effort. They keep the front row seat as the customer places the order, and stay engaged through the success cycle. That is what we have done to date, and is our vision going forward.”

The strategy is to build a select channel rather than a large one, to make sure partners are skilled from the services point of view, and that they don’t trip over each other looking for deals.

“We are recruiting partners, but not doing so en masse,” Riley said. “We are not just looking for resale partners, but ones who have the ability from a service point of view to support the pre-sales motion. That’s very important to us in terms of partner criteria.

“It’s also very important to not out-recruit the opportunity,” he continued. “It’s about us investing in the partners and enabling the right types of partners. There are specific security and application development partners on the regional side, and national partners who work with very large companies and agencies.”

Riley indicated that the channel today is still in single digits in terms of numbers, and that the immediate goal is to recruit to expand it incrementally, perhaps by 50% in total.

“We want to protect the opportunity for the most enabled and engaged parts of the partner community,” he stressed.

ZeroNorth does have a channel program today, but it is fairly rudimentary, and enhancing that will be critical for partner enablement.

“I want to grow it in two ways,” Riley said. “I want to take what has been a  very grass roots enablement program and get enablement to scale and make it repeatable. I also want to formalize the business and commercial side of the partner program so that it incents the right partners to want to engage with us and hunt for us.

“I’ve got a lot of history and experience launching these programs,” he added. “It can never be a case of ‘build it and they will come.’ You don’t put out a release and the right partners just show up at your door. We have steep but attainable goals, but I don’t want 30 deals with 30 different partners, and to be opportunistic with too many partners just for the sake of getting a deal done. We are recruiting, but not for partners who might have a tactical opportunity, but might not be a strategic fit and might not want much after that first deal.”

Riley acknowledged that ZeroNorth will be carrying the ball for a while in terms of marketing and lead generation

“The Give to Get ration will be out of kilter for a while,” he said. “We will  bring opportunities to partners. That’s an investment from our side. If we do it with the right partners. it will pay off with them reciprocating over time.”

In addition to the select partner recruitment, ZeroNorth will be doing its own hiring, with the ability to work with partners being a key consideration.

“We will add talented sales professionals and pre-sales professionals,” Riley said. “Partner DNA in the field personnel we will recruit and hire will be very important. This is very much a partner-first story.

Riley said this year he will also be doing a lot of listening and learning.

“We don’t have all the answers out of the gate in terms of building the perfect program,” he indicated. “But for partners interested in committing and partnering with us on the earliest opportunities, we are committing in getting input in terms of what our program should look like from a detail point of view. We will have our ear on the rail on terms of learning about program details people want.”