Former BlackBerry Cylance channel leader May Mitchell joins iboss as company scales up channel in push upmarket

Iboss just took a new funding round, and is aggressively pushing market expansion with some of that money, hiring new sales and marketing people, and looking to expand its channel with skilled partners.

May Mitchell, Senior Vice President of Marketing, iboss.

iboss, which has built up its business since 2003 selling secure web gateway solutions, has been transitioning with the shift to cloud. The company now defines itself primarily as a Secure Access Service Edge [SASE] cloud network security services provider. They are also leveraging their offering’s natural scalability and pushing to continue to expand in large enterprises which have been making increasing use of their products as workforces go remote. That involves making even greater use of channel partners than previously. To lead that push, they brought in Matt Hartley from Forescout Technologies as Chief Revenue Officer late last year, and more recently, former Cylance and then BlackBerry Cylance channel leader May Mitchell as Senior Vice President of Marketing.

Iboss had been transitioning its Go-to-Market efforts to focus more on channel, and that transition has intensified under the twin pressures of cloud and COVID.

“As is the case with many technology transitions, the analyst community was on target, but early, in predicting the impact of cloud, although no one could have forecast COVID,” Hartley told ChannelBuzz. “The most important thing happening now, as users have left the traditional perimeter, is that companies which had taken a crawl to the cloud have begun to walk. COVID was the second part of the one-two punch in the move to cloud services. The entire stack had been predicated on a populated campus. Companies have gear sitting in the campus, and no one in the campus. On-prem stuff is static while cloud is elastic, and having a static amount of on-prem compute does not make sense. iboss can scale horizontally, a very linear approach no one else can do. That’s our differentiation, which is something you can’t do on prem.”

The company’s co-founders, the Martini brothers, still run the company, which has over 150 points of presence worldwide, and over 4000 customers globally. Iboss has  put plans in place to expand that reach, announcing another $145 million in new funding earlier in January, which will be spend on both engineering and expanding Go-to-Market activities.

“There’s a tremendous amount of opportunity now, as companies re-evaluate their networks,” Mitchell said.

While a lot of the details of the 2021 strategy are still being finalized, the general contours involve a push further into the enterprise, and an augmentation to channel efforts as a key way of accomplishing this.

Of iboss’s 4000 customers, 95% have been sold through partners.

“There is a direct sales force, but to be really scalable, you need three legs – field sales, channel and a sales engineering component,” Hartley said. “When all three are right, the Go-to-Market is at its fastest scaling potential. Even though I’m hiring as fast as I can, we need the channel to get that growth and scale.

Matt Hartley, Chief Revenue Officer, iboss

“I’m very excited about the ramp-up in 2021,” Hartley continued. “We are building up the Americas market first. That’s where the overwhelming majority of our install base is. As we look outside U.S. borders in the second half of 2021, that could scale to hundreds of new partners. But we have to assess that. I’m not a fan of overextending with partners. While we need scale, and partners with global span, we don’t want to sign up everyone under the sun. We want partners with regional or global specialization. We also want as much deal registration as possible –and training. I can’t train and enable everyone, but I can train and enable those who heavily invest with us.”

Mitchell’s role as head of marketing will be to work closely with Hartley, and to that end, her staff has also been expanded with the new resources, with eight or nine net-new hires starting over the next couple of weeks.

“For marketing to be successful, it has to work closely with Matt, and we are both scaling up our teams” she said. “We are both responsible for the Go-to-Market. From a marketing standpoint, it was an inbound engine before. We are going outbound now.”

In the last few weeks, some tactical enhancements have been made to channel management.

“We earlier added an additional incentive for the channel that was very well received, and we are now extending that for the first half of 2021, to reward those who help us scale quickly,” Hartley said. “By summer we will be rolling out a Go-to-Market program both for internal and channel people. We want to have a channel enablement program that is second to none, with technical proficiency. There is great demand for that kind of technical training.”

Close collaboration with partners is critical in the current economic environment, Hartley stressed.

“It’s still a difficult economy, and there isn’t a customer who isn’t asking for price concessions right now,” he said. “We want to collaborate with partners around this. The key is getting there early to expand the conversation around the full stack. When partners bring us in early, rather than just respond at the time of an RFP, we can show value and demonstrable ROI and defend against pressure for the inevitable discount. That’s where you see the difference between companies who talk about being channel-friendly, and ones who actually are.”

Hartley said iboss welcomes dialogue with potential new partners who want to grow with them.

“It’s a massive market, and we have a leading technology and architectural differentiation,” he stated. “We see ourselves competing against ZScaler, and winning.”