Thoma Bravo Buys Continuum, Plans To Help Drive Security Acquisition Spree

Private equity giant Thoma Bravo purchased global IT management platform provider Continuum to boost organic growth and M&A activity in the SMB security space.

The Boston-based vendor said it presented its ambitious 2020 growth plan to Thoma Bravo and was encouraged to accelerate it, according to Continuum CEO Michael George. Thoma Bravo is looking for Continuum broaden the IT services waterfront as part of an effort to redefine the category entirely, George said.

"As we've been rising as the platform leader in the category, we've been sought after by all the private equity players," George told CRN. "Thoma Bravo was top of the list for us, by far. They're smart and aggressive."

[Related: Continuum To Introduce Security Offering For MSPs After Suffering Own Incident]

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Continuum's legacy is in remote monitoring and management (RMM), and George said the company recently bought its way into backup and disaster recovery (BDR), security, cloud monitoring and document management spaces. The company today employs more than 1,400 people worldwide and has some 5,800 channel partners.

The company is now accelerating its organic investment in security by building out its security operations center (SOC), opening up a second SOC facility, and hiring like mad, George said. He said Continuum hopes to buy into the categories where the company is partnering today.

"Priority number one is security, priority number two is security, and priority number three is security," George said. "We are manically focused on that for the foreseeable future."

Continuum is looking to build an end-to-end security offering tailored to small and midsized businesses, George said. The offering will include perimeter and endpoint defense, firewall-level security, anomaly detection, the ability to isolate a problem to a particular user's system, and remediation through its existing RMM, SOC and network operations center (NOC) tools, George said.

"Security is a broad and complex thing," George said. "It isn't like you buy one thing and solve for it."

In addition to technology, George said Continuum is looking to address the security needs of solution providers from a people perspective. Most other security tools depend on the MSP to provide the personnel needed to address the issue, George said, while Continuum can augment the channel partner and provide support through its help desk and NOC.

This is critical since any employee with security certifications and skills will have Fortune 500 companies fighting over them, George said, with employers willing to pay a 40 percent or 50 percent premium to bring them on board. In fact, George said MSPs already have a hard enough time staffing a help desk.

"There's a massive void on the security side of the equation for MSPs," George said. "Thoma Bravo saw what we're doing and said, 'This is the category killer.'"

This is not Thoma Bravo's first foray into the IT services management space. The private equity firm partnered with Silver Lake in October 2015 to purchase IT infrastructure management vendor SolarWinds, owner of SolarWinds N-Able (now SolarWinds MSP), and announced plans to up their investment in cloud, hybrid and MSP environments.

Eight months later, SolarWinds purchased IT services management firm LogicNow and combined it with SolarWinds N-Able to boost capabilities and scale.

Although Thoma Bravo holds a stake in both SolarWinds MSP and Continuum, George said there are no plans to integrate or combine the two companies. Continuum was acquired by a different Thoma Bravo fund than SolarWinds, George said, and no members of the team that invested in Continuum have a relationship with the folks at SolarWinds.

"You're talking about a distant cousin," George said. "You're not talking about a blood relative by any stretch."

Continuum was purchased by a Thoma Bravo growth equity fund focused on finding category leaders and growing them aggressively through acquisition, George said. The Thoma Bravo fund that acquired SolarWinds had a different investment thesis focused more on financial engineering than a growth strategy, according to George.

"There's more than a Chinese firewall between the two of us," George said.

Continuum customer ComTech Computer Services has been asking the vendor for quite some time to provide user monitoring and network scanning tools that can protect the end client against ransomware, viruses and hacking, according to Robert Vander Meiden, director of technology for the Temple, Texas-based MSP.

"I really need Continuum to start looking more into security," Vander Meiden told CRN. "The products on the market today that are good tend to be extremely expensive."

ComTech has been a Continuum customer for eight or nine years, Vander Meiden told, and leverages the vendor primarily for help desk support around issues such as password changes or malfunctioning applications. The MSP recently sent a survey to its customers and found them virtually everyone seemed to be happy with the help desk services provided by Continuum.

"With being just a one-man shop, I need their help desk and their tools," Vander Meiden said. "As long as the product stays the same [under Thoma Bravo], I'm happy."