CEO Kovacs Recasts AVG As Cloud Player

Delivering a keynote at AVG Technologies' first-ever Cloud Summit, CEO Gary Kovacs shared with hundreds of the company's partners details about AVG's new cloud-centric course while not hesitating to admit past missteps.

Kovacs, who came to AVG just over a year ago, made clear that the Amsterdam-headquartered global software developer wasn't done building out its remote security and management technologies.

But what surprised some partners who came to Phoenix was the unusual bluntness with which Kovacs, who previously was CEO of Mozilla, admitted that AVG had been "unclear" in the past about its commitment to the SMB market and to developing the technologies needed to "being a real world-class security company."

[ Related: AVG Kicks Off First-Ever Cloud Summit]

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"I think it's an area we have significantly under-invested in in the past," Kovacs told partners. "Going forward, you are going to see a very different AVG."

Moving away from its legacy end-point security business, AVG has set sights on becoming a major developer of online security and management platforms by which MSPs can administer their customers' IT infrastructure. To achieve that goal, AVG has recommitted itself to three primary areas: products, investments and connections, Kovacs said.

"Most of those investments came from your direct feedback," the CEO told partners, who he said had been asking for better, more-diversified IT management solutions.

"We're working hard at it," through significant investments in engineering, as well as marketing and partner development, he said.

The course correction undertaken a couple years ago spawned the company's two flagship products: CloudCare, a security management solution that includes online backup and email protection, and Managed Workplace, a comprehensive IT management platform built on technology obtained last year through the acquisition of Level Platforms.

At Cloud Summit, AVG is unveiling major upgrades and new capabilities for both those products.

"Our number-one investment area, by far, company-wide, is in our technology," Kovacs told partners.

That involves making improvements on the backend that improve system performance along with new interfaces and capabilities that allow MSPs to better manage data, devices and users from a single dashboard, he said.

AVG's investment in marketing and partner development has also increased significantly, and the company, which staked its new position from some strategic acquisitions, will keep looking to purchase quality companies.

"We can't get there without you," Kovacs told partners. For that reason, AVG will work harder "to make a stronger commitment to you, the channel."

NEXT: Partners Pleased

Several MSPs attending Cloud Summit told CRN they were pleased with how the company was executing its shift to offering cloud-centric security and management products and that they were involved in shaping it.

Jordan Sargisson, operations manager for Calgary,Canada MSP Hurricane Computer Solutions, found the new tack particularly interesting "because they're taking a step away from where they were."

"It's cool to see how they're staying relevant. And a CEO said they were wrong. That's refreshing," he said.

Layne Huber, an IT analyst at Hurricane, also was pleased by Kovacs' frank statements.

"The CEO admitting past mistakes makes me feel more comfortable working with them," Huber told CRN.

Job Cost, an MSP from Naperville, Ill., was a satisfied Level Platforms partner for eight years and came to partner with AVG after acquisition of the remote management vendor.

VP Michael Courtney said he was initially concerned about what would happen to the Level Platforms products his company relied on to remotely manage their customers' IT systems once AVG took over the company.

Before CloudCare was introduced in 2012, "it seemed to be like they were doing more direct sales, more consumer than SMB. Now it's more SMB," Courtney told CRN.

"We were concerned that AVG would push partners out. But they've gone the other way," he said. "They are developing for partners, listening to partners."

Courtney said he's been impressed with the moves AVG has made to further develop the platform since purchasing Level Platforms and with the company's desire to work with resellers.

Bob Spreitzer, a senior network engineer at Job Cost, a company that's been around since 1979, said it's clear vendors like AVG, as well as business customers, are concluding that the changing IT landscape makes them even more dependent on the channel.

"Businesses are finally realizing they can't keep up with this world as it's changing. They need us, just like AVG is realizing they need us. Their products are really meant for us," Spreitzer told CRN.

My IT Company, an MSP based in Warrenville, Ill., was both a Level Platforms and AVG partner before the companies merged.

When My IT President and CTO Donald Howard started working with CloudCare soon after the security product was released, he saw the remote management industry was transforming through acquisitions.

"All major players in the RMM tools space were being acquired to bring in-house capabilities," Howard told CRN.

So he wasn't particularly surprised when AVG bought Level Platforms.

While a year ago "the security side was great," Howard said AVG's cloud management offerings were then weak. That's changed as the company "has started to listen and grow."

So has Howard's company. My IT has seen 600 percent growth year-over-year.

"We took a big gamble with them and it paid off," Howard told CRN.

Howard said he is pleased that AVG is listening to its partners, adding his only frustration "is that this kind of industry change and innovation doesn't happen overnight, especially with a public company, where there's a level of secrecy as to what's behind the curtain."

"AVG has been a wonderful partner for us, helped us grow, doing innovation and open to the suggestions we had," he told CRN.

It's the kind of endorsement that gives credence to Kovacs' claims of developing the next-generation of products through tight cooperation with the channel.

"We need to work better with you, and I'm making a commitment that we will do a great job. A much better job than we have done before," the CEO said in his keynote.