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‘I’m Not Being A D*ck:’ Kaseya CEO Voccola’s Freewheeling Town Hall Spotlights Culture Clash With Incoming Datto Employees
‘I’m going to make this question easy for everybody. Do you think that Kaseya [would have gotten] valuable enough to buy Datto if it treated its employees like sh*t, made dumb decisions and had bad benefits?’ Kaseya CEO Fred Voccola said after an incoming Datto employee asked about benefits during a town hall meeting to welcome Datto into the Kaseya fold.
[Editor’s note: This article contains coarse language in an effort to maintain the authenticity of the source material.]
A profanity-laced two-hour town hall meeting hosted by Kaseya CEO Fred Voccola to welcome new employees in the wake of the company’s acquisition of Datto cemented Datto employee concerns that the open, socially conscious corporate culture they loved at Datto will disappear.
During the in-person session held at Datto’s Norwalk, Conn., headquarters, Voccola lashed out at a former Datto leader and also said that Kaseya chooses not to take a position on any social issue, a stance that threatens the ongoing existence of Datto employee resource groups aimed at supporting marginalized populations, according to a video recording of the session produced by Kaseya and later shared with the incoming 2,400 Datto employees, which was viewed by CRN.
Voccola’s unvarnished style was on full display as he repeatedly insisted throughout the session that he was “not being a dick.”
Following the July 7 meeting in Norwalk and another held in Boston, multiple current and former Datto employees expressed anger in interviews with CRN over their concern that the Datto culture—which Kaseya had vowed to keep—is vanishing overnight.
“Three weeks ago, I would have said this is my dream job. I have a purpose and the freedom to execute on my goals,” one incoming Datto worker who asked to remain anonymous for fear of reprisal told CRN. “After the town hall, and the first few days here [at Kaseya], myself and everyone on my team have applied for multiple jobs.
“[Voccola] seems completely out of touch with anything going on around him. He was more like a showman than someone who cares about how things are being handled,” the employee added.
Another incoming Datto employee who requested anonymity for fear of reprisal said that he believes the merger is sound when it comes to the business and technical aspects, but his view of Voccola and the changes being made are hard to stomach.
“I think the merger is not a bad idea, but they have changed so much, so quickly. They have changed the culture 180 degrees in a week and a half,” the employee said. “Since [Voccola] introduced himself to Datto there was a sense of zero [caring] about the people and the culture. Listening to him bash the company that we made was annoying. We are in a league of quality and security that is much larger and better than Kaseya’s. The fact is they are planning to ride off the back of Datto to look better to MSPs. But MSPs are a lot smarter than Fred thinks.”
Benefits A Major Concern For Datto Employees
Several incoming Datto employees expressed concern about what benefits they will have as part of Kaseya, peppering Voccola with questions about time off, maternity leave and health care. Datto employees are operating under their existing benefits until the end of the year, but they wanted to know what would happen come January.
Voccola told employees decisions about the coming year had not yet been made, as Kaseya, like many other U.S. companies, renegotiates health care and other benefits annually.
“Last thing in regard to benefits,” one employee said during the town hall session. “It seems like come next year we’ll probably be adopting what Kaseya’s benefit package is, is there somewhere we can see …”
“Hold on,” Voccola stopped him. “I don’t think that’s a fair statement. At all. Every year is like starting over. We have a lot more people. The benefits should be a lot better because you have more buying power. I’m a Kaseya employee. I want the best benefits for my family as well. I’m being a wise guy, but it starts over every year, for every company.”
The employee started again.
“The benefits are one of the highlights of working for a company like [Datto]. That, and they made me feel like I wasn’t number whatever employee. They generally cared about their employees. I can talk to C-levels like [Datto Chief Customer Officer] Chris [McCloskey] regularly. The benefits package was a big part of that work-life balance and …”
Voccola again interrupted.
“I’m going to make this question easy for everybody,” he said. “Do you think that Kaseya [would have gotten] valuable enough to buy Datto if it treated its employees like shit, made dumb decisions and had bad benefits? I mean, come on.”
“I don’t know, I guess is there a …” the employee began again.
Voccola again stopped him.
“Of course you don’t know. Because no one knows. We don’t know what the benefits are next year. No one knows. You don’t know. You don’t know what Datto’s are. No one knows. We’re beating this to death. I’m not being a dick. It is what it is.”
Voccola also said during the session that Datto employees would have been better off if they had been able to join Kaseya’s benefits package right away rather than staying pat as negotiated.
“That’s unfortunate because I think Datto people got fucked on that,” Voccola said. “Kaseya has in most areas—and I’m not saying Kaseya is great—just better, advantageous benefits that could have been [provided to incoming Datto employees].”
Voccola Calls Former Datto Leader ‘A Petulant Child’
At another point in the meeting, Voccola intimated that an unnamed former Datto leader stopped the sides from talking for weeks after the deal was announced by raising the prospect of a “second review” at the Justice Department. Voccola called that person a “5-year-old petulant child” whose “ego” created anxiety and confusion for employees left in the dark about the strategy behind the deal longer than necessary, which Voccola deemed “utter fucking bullshit.”
“I’m going to say something that might hurt some people’s feelings,” Voccola told the crowd. “There’s tissues outside, I guess—That’s supposed to be funny. … The way this transaction went down was bullshit. ... I don’t think anyone would have thought there’s a monopolistic concern here, and if they did, they don’t understand business.”
Voccola lamented that many employees in the room had only recently heard the “whys” behind the acquisition. “For the first six weeks there was no communication between Kaseya and Datto. Then the communication was very limited, it was like pulling teeth. I say that not to shit on anybody who’s not here anymore. I tell you because of this: We’re sitting here 14 weeks after we announced the deal. Many people in this room have only heard the strategy of why in the last 10 days ... That’s utter fucking bullshit. ... It’s not fair to you folks that that happened ... That was not what was designed to happen ... If you make another human being’s life miserable because you’re withholding information or because your ego got a little upset about something and you’re going to act like a 5-year-old petulant child at the expense of 2,000 some-odd people, that’s bullshit, and I wish this organization didn’t have to deal with that because this acquisition is going to be amazing.”
In an interview with CRN in response to questions raised by the town hall meeting, Voccola said he anticipated more business-related questions during the session and fewer questions about benefits.
“I’m the CEO of a company, I was expecting a lot of business questions. And some of them got very unique and specific, which is fine,” he said. “Instead of ducking the question, and being like, ‘I don’t know, talk to your HR leaders,’ I was trying to at least give as much as I could.”
Voccola said his focus on maintaining Datto culture focuses largely on retaining its strong relationships with MSPs and that he sees things like benefits as a separate question.
“I got asked the question, ‘Are you changing the culture of Datto? You said you weren’t going to. What’s up, dude, you full of shit?’ We bought Datto for its culture, its brand, its people. Datto is awesome to MSPs. Datto really takes care of its customers. They have great tech, and they have a culture of innovation. Datto and MSP are like synonyms. That’s the culture we bought. That’s what I mean when I say we don’t want to change that culture,” Voccola told CRN. “What we do with our health insurance, or our 401k matching, they are important to employees. No doubt. I don’t view that as culture. I view that as how do we make sure our employees are compensated at the top end of the market. Compensation is cash, equity, stock benefits, all that kind of crap. And somehow, the message has been mixed.”
Datto Founder Blasts Kaseya
Datto founder Austin McChord took to GitHub the day after the town hall meeting to blast Kaseya, saying the integration of the two companies so far was like watching a football team you love have its “legs broken” by the new owners. He took Kaseya to task for several issues, including employee benefits. CRN has reached out to McChord for comment.
Kaseya CFO Kathy Wagner seemingly responded to McChord July 11 in an internal email that was shared on Reddit in which she claimed “false information” was being spread online. She reassured employees their benefits would be provided exactly as Voccola stated during his town hall meetings, where, on video he repeatedly told employees he did not have any answers on what the benefits would be next year.
In addition to potential changes to benefits, Datto employees expressed concerned about the culture loss that will happen if the employee resource groups that are designed to support marginalized populations disappear. Under Datto, each group was led by a C-level sponsor. When an employee asked about the future of Datto supporting those causes, Voccola said as a company, Kaseya takes no position on any issue.
“Here’s our company’s strategy regarding social issues and political issues: We don’t have an opinion. Period. We don’t. We are not going to talk about Pride. We’re not going to say Pride is bad. We’re not going to talk about George Floyd, or say George Floyd is bad,” he said.
A worker took exception to that, telling Voccola the position the company takes is “hurtful.”
“There are people here at Datto who have come here because of our [employee resource groups], and because they are accepted by everyone, no matter the background,” she said. “It is a social issue, sure, but why don’t we have that?”
Voccola said, “We can. We choose not to. Because we don’t take positions on any social issue. Period.”
However, to reassure the audience of Kaseya’s strengths in diversity, he told them an anecdote.
The lawyer that Kaseya used when it secured financing from investment firm TPG—which announced $500 million in funding to Kaseya in 2019—was led out of his office in handcuffs owing to his involvement in the “varsity blues” tuition scandal. The lawyer, Gordon Caplan, was eventually convicted of one count of mail fraud and served time in federal prison for hiring a proctor to change his daughter’s ACT score.
The arrest, according to Voccola, led Kaseya to being audited by TPG. Among the items the audit discovered is that Kaseya is the most diverse company with between 1,000 and 5,000 employees, he told the audience.
“No. 1 in terms of the various measures of diversity hires, diversity hires in management, diversity of the management team, women in management positions. There’s a whole series of things that came in as No. 1. I don’t know if it’s good or bad that we scored No. 1. I don’t care,” he said.
He later told CRN he does not have the specifics for the ratings Kaseya was given.
“I look at our company as we hire the best people on the planet. Whatever their ethnicity, race, sexual orientation, I don’t give a shit. As long as they can get the job done and they are committed,” he said, “I don’t care who they are or what they believe in.”
Voccola also said in the interview with CRN that the fate of Datto’s employee resource groups has yet to be determined, noting that it’s only been three weeks since the close of the deal.
“I think I was pretty clear in the message, and I’ll say it again. Prior to the Datto acquisition, our approach is we are one company with one employee base, and we’re all Kaseyans. That is the approach that we have taken, for better or for worse. I think it is better, but that’s the approach that we have taken. Datto has a different approach,” Voccola said. “We closed the deal three weeks ago. I don’t know. I don’t know. And that’s not a shitbag answer avoiding the question. I answered why Kaseya hasn’t done it in the past. What will we look like nine months from now? It takes awhile to integrate companies. Don’t know.”