Attack surface management vendor Censys launches partner program as part of channel first strategy

Matt Hurley, Censys’ CRO, intends to build up the company’s channel from next to nothing to 80% by the end of next year, which will also include a Canadian channel presence.

Matt Hurley, Censys’ Chief Revenue Officer

Michigan-based Censys has been a significant player in the search space for years, during which they basically sold direct. More recently, they have expanded into Attack Surface Management, and with that have built out a channel, culminating with the announcement of a worldwide channel partner program.

“Censys was originally known for its search product that found vulnerabilities in the network, and also scanned cloud providers for vulnerabilities that they didn’t know  about,” said Matt Hurley, Censys’ Chief Revenue Officer. “Two years ago, as the company got some success, they thought about becoming a commercial enterprise and began to build out a commercial team, in a new space, that was approaching the beginning of Gartner Hype Cycle Management. This was the  Attack Surface Management products. Now the Search solution is typically used by Red teams while the Blue teams use Attack Surface Management. These are SaaS solutions, and we typically target ours at the midmarket and up.”

Hurley, who had been the channel leader and then the CRO at OneLogin before their acquisition by the One Identity business of Quest, came to Censys with several other executives as part of their B funding round.

“I was brought in to scale up the company globally, and build up customer success globally,” Hurley said. “We aimed at triple digit growth, which we will make this year.”

While ASM is a new area, several companies have risen up to move into the space, but Hurley said that Censys has an advantage because of their search background.

“When you get into a hot space that’s early in the market, you find that some are doing ASM, but some are doing other things like discovery without remediation,” he stated. “It’s a very noisy space right now. Censys is known for its search, and for having the best search product with the fewest false positives. Many of our competitors at one point in time used us for search when we weren’t commercially focused.”

When Hurley arrived, he put Censys’ first channel team ever in North America and put a small team in Europe.

“Previously, there were channel plans around the space, and we had some major partners like SHI, Guidepoint, and Optiv. But there was no structure, and no portal,” Hurley said. “It’s one thing to have an incentive scheme, but until you have a real portal you don’t really have a workable structure.”

The new program adds a lot of structure that was not there previously.

“I’ve hired a very senior team that has done this multiple times before,” Hurley noted. “We made sales force compensation neutral, and added the richest incentive play in this vertical. We have a deal registration program which lasts for 90 days and is extensible We also added bonuses for new customers, which for us, is basically every customer.”

While Censys started its channel business and program almost from scratch, Hurley stressed that the mission was to be a channel-first organization.

“This quarter changed how we go to market,” he said “We now pause in the early state of the sales cycle to send in our best channel player. We will go from low single digits in channel business to 30-40% channel by the end of the year. The intent is to get to 80% by next year.” In terms of raw numbers, that involves moving from approximately 10 partners today to over 30 partners by the end of this year.

Censys’ initial channel focus is on larger security VARs.

“It’s all about focus and who you can get the most lift from in the path of least resistance,” Hurley said. “We serve the enterprise the best, especially the 2500 seat and above market, and so large VARs fit well with us. Many of them are also launching services around this space. We will be part of SHI’s Statascale service next month. The next natural step is talking with some large GSIs, but that’s an inherently slower step in the process.”

Hurley spent seven years at Bell Canada earlier in his career, so is familiar with the Canadian market.

“I know most of the business community here,” he said. “We have dedicated coverage in Canada, and we are putting marketing dollars behind it. Insight is the key partner in the Canadian market.

“We are in what I would call smart recruitment mode,” Hurley indicated. “We could sign up 100 partners – but that’s not the measure of success. We know we have a winner product, and there are some boutique partners who are close to being signed up.

“I would be very happy to talk to people across Canada,” Hurley concluded.