Datto’s Rob Rae Jumps To Pax8: ‘Their Passion For MSP Growth Is Second To None’

‘This is going to be working with a lot of the great people that are already at Pax, a lot of the great teams there, leveraging my experience to bring some of this together, leveraging some of my connections to be able to bring all this together as well and then also being able to stay really active in the community and out there, which is something that I enjoyed quite a lot.’ says Rob Rae, corporate vice president of community and ecosystems at Pax8.

Rob Rae, the longtime face of Datto who’s built a reputation as a fierce advocate for MSPs, is taking his channel talents to Denver-based distributor Pax8 as the corporate vice president of community and ecosystems, a new role in the company.

“Pax8 is growing significantly quickly,” Rae told CRN. “The leadership over at Pax8 is significant. I‘ve known Nick [Heddy, chief commerce officer] and Ryan Walsh [COO] for more than a decade. Just watching these guys work, watching them interact with each other, talking to other Pax8 employees, seeing them out on the road…everybody’s just so overwhelmingly happy with this company. Why would you not want to be a part of it?”

In his new role, Rae will continue to improve and grow MSP relationships, provide guidance and consultation to implement new programs and partner with the Pax8’s channel team on industry events and community operations. He will also be hosting Pax8’s inaugural Beyond 2023 conference in June.

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“Going through this interview process and meeting with a number of different organizations through this process, their view and passion for the growth of the MSP is second to none,” said Rae.

After nearly 10 years, Rae left his position as senior vice president of business development at Datto in October just months after Miami-based Kaseya bought the company for $6.2 billion, even after Kaseya CEO Fred Voccola said Rae would be staying on after the acquisition. Since departing Datto, Rae has remained silent on where he was headed next as the acquisition shook the channel and garnered a huge response from the partner community, leaving many questioning Rae’s next move.

“It has been fun to watch the different forums theorize what would be the best fit for Rob Rae,” Nick Heddy, who Rae will be reporting to, told CRN. “Rob Rae has developed an amazing brand and what I admire about it is it‘s always been Rob Rae, a Datto employee, it’s never been Rob Rae the individual. I think a lot of people have theorized it would make perfect sense [to see the] evolution of Rob Rae, the Datto employee to Rob Rae, the ecosystem evangelist.”

The ‘Worst-Kept Secret’

For months the channel has speculated where Rae would go next after leaving Datto with many guessing correctly that he would land at Pax8.

It‘s funny because…it’s like this worst-kept secret and I think that‘s probably going to be the reaction of everybody, like everybody knew this was going to happen,” Rae said. “But there were rumors, even Nick and I connected about it and said, ‘Are you hearing these rumors because I’m hearing these rumors.’ Apparently people are making up where we‘re all going to work next.”

Heddy said Rae has been a presence over the last 25 years in the channel and he expects the same to be true moving forward.

“It was a natural fit and I think everybody saw it,” Rae said. “You see an organization like Pax8, great culture, great organization and channel-only. You see somebody like me that‘s passionate about all those things and I think it was just a normal, natural fit for everybody. And then everybody just assumed that that’s what was happening. So I think that’s probably where it was all stemming from, whether that fueled it or hindered it I don‘t know. But ultimately at the end of the day it worked out.”

Heddy said “similarities in our DNA” make Rae and Pax8 a good fit. Pax8 is all about helping MSPs grow their business and Rae will be the subject matter expert on that very topic, he said.

“What I love about Rob‘s title and why a lot of people think it’s very avant garde is absolutely where we‘re going,” Heddy said, explaining that Rae’s role will include influencing and amplifying what Pax8’s vendor partners do.

“An ecosystem is the scientific definition of a group of organisms and how they interact with each other and their environments,” Heddy said. “Rob is absolutely going to bring that channel, that MSP lens into everything we do at Pax8. He‘s going to amplify that message into every department and every stakeholder that we have. Rob has done a great job of developing that brand and we just want to take the amazing work he’s been doing for 25 years and amplify it through the Pax8 lens.”

And he hopes Rae’s reputation will attract more MSPs to become a Pax8 partner.

“I think one of our challenges is we do a lot of great things, and sometimes it feels like we‘re trying to do too many great things,” he said. “Rob Rae is going to work to land the right message with the right partner because I think there are lots of partners who don’t know all the value that bring. So yes, that is part of the charge.”

Rae Will Help Sell It

As both a Datto and Pax8 partner, Wayne Roye, CEO of Staten Island, New York-based MSP Troinet, said Pax8 needs Rae.

“Datto had a way of reaching out to partners and keeping them in the loop,” he told CRN. “Pax8 is a great company but that outreach needs to be stronger. I think if he can bring what Datto did in communicating with the channel, that’ll step it up for Pax8.”

He said MSPs are very busy, and companies need to be “that shiny thing on the beach for me to notice you. You can’t just be one of the shells.”

“Datto did a good job doing that, making you stop and say, ‘Oh OK, you said something relevant. Let me stop and see what you’re talking about,’” he said. “If he can bring that to Pax8, that would be phenomenal.”

Michael Cervino, vice president of operations at Radnor, Pa.-based MSP Circle Square Consulting, believes Rae is an “amazing hire” for Pax8 and echoed Roye’s sentiment.

“Pax8 doesn’t really help me sell, and Rob is going to help me sell it,” he said. “I think the one thing Pax8 is lacking is sales enablement and think that’s what Rob is going to bring.”

He recalled a time when he was deciding between Datto and another vendor for a product and the other vendor’s pitch was, “Our technology is better.”

“But Rob said, ‘Look man, technology is technology. I’ll help you sell it. We’re going to give you everything you need to know to go to market and make a lot of money,’” Cervino said. “And that just sold me on it. He knows the channel and I’m fairly confident that he will make sure that the MSP is taken care of. I think he’s going to do great things for Pax8.”

Rae Is “Going To Make People Look At Pax8 A Little More.”

Heddy said Rae has developed a brand of always giving unfiltered advice. He recalled a time he chatted with Rae 10 years ago and remembered Rae giving him “honest, authentic advice.”

“I think Rob is going to help everyone in the channel, and it‘s no longer just partners who are consuming Datto,” he said. “I think it’s going to be partners who work with Pax8, vendors who work with Pax8, the employees at Pax8, everyone in our ecosystem which is why I love this title for him.”

Many partners in the channel are not surprised by the move and believe bringing on Rae will have partners paying closer attention to the cloud-based distributor.

Mark Essayian, president of Irvine, Calif.-based MSP KME Systems, said he is “shocked, but not shocked” about the jump to Pax8.

“I think it shows a lot about Pax8’s culture,” he told CRN. “I think they‘ve got some really good, smart people there, and he’s going to bring a lot of experience and a lot of partner knowledge. A lot of partners are going to go, ‘Oh, he went there? I need to take a look at them again,’ or, ‘I don‘t really do business with them but now I should do business with them.’”

He added that Datto went from a “very small company to a very big company,” crediting Rae for much of that growth.

Henry Timm, president of Rolling Prairie, Indiana-based MSP Phantom Technology Solutions, believes bringing on Rae will help Pax8 re-engage with their communities and expand their partnerships.

“He obviously will bring his well-respected skill set to a wide network of individuals that he knows,” he said.

Timm also believes this was a good move for Rae as he was “a little handcuffed by the previous acquisition.”

“This put him in a position that will hopefully give him a little more freedom and autonomy,” he said.

Heather Simek, vice president of RJ2 Technologies, a Schaumburg, Ill.-based Datto and Pax8 partner, had a feeling he was jumping to Pax8.

“I‘m super excited to see what he’s going to do with Pax8,” she told CRN. “I think he’s going to make people look at Pax8 a little more, if they‘re not already partners, because they trust Rob. He would not go work for a company that isn’t worth looking at.”