Lookout Channel Chief On The ‘Fantastic’ Partner Opportunity In Mobile Security And SASE

Following a major acquisition and launch of a new partner program, the company is expanding to deliver an end-to-end security offering, Lookout’s Gert-Jan Schenk tells CRN.


Lookout is expanding beyond its roots in enterprise mobile security to provide end-to-end security offerings—“from the endpoint to the clouds”—while also targeting SMB and midmarket customers with the help of channel partners, the company’s channel chief told CRN.

The San Francisco-based company has had a busy 2021 so far, expanding into the Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) market in March with the acquisition of CipherCloud and then going on to launch an updated global channel program in April.

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The moves all add up to strong growth opportunities for the company’s partners, said Gert-Jan Schenk, chief revenue officer and channel chief at Lookout, in an interview with CRN.

Entering the SASE market is “a huge expansion in our addressable markets, which is also a fantastic opportunity for our channel partners,” Schenk said.

Lookout’s updated channel program simplifies its structure with two partner levels, Elite and Select, instead of three. The program also introduces a new training and certification platform, the Lookout Partner Academy, as well as a refreshed partner portal that “dramatically” increases the amount of information available to partners, Schenk said.

Meanwhile, Lookout is also seeking to work with partners to bring its offerings to SMBs and midmarket customers, branching out beyond its focus on enterprise, he said.

Earlier this year, Lookout launched a new managed security service provider (MSSP) program and is planning to expand the program at the end of June, said Schenk, a cybersecurity veteran who previously served as president of EMEA for Intel Security (formerly McAfee).

The Lookout MSSP program is a key way that the company is seeking to bring its offerings to a greater number of SMB and midmarket customers, he said.

What follows is an edited portion of CRN’s interview with Schenk.

What are the biggest ways that Lookout has been evolving in recent years?

Over the last six years, we’ve been focusing a lot on developing our enterprise customer base, which has been very successful. We managed to secure the No. 1 leadership position in the mobile endpoint security market, and we’ve been recognized both by IDC and Gartner for our position. We’re very much focused on large enterprises—we’ve managed to win a lot of large enterprise logos, both in the private and public sectors. We have a very strong position in the U.S. in the federal space. Over the years we’ve also expanded our mobile platform. Initially we were very focused on mobile endpoint security, then we added app reputation and compliance bundled [with] it. Two years ago, we were the first mobile security company that also added phishing protection on mobile and also network-based protection for man-in-the-middle attacks. We’re very focused on protecting the user on the device, to make sure we protect the data on the device from a privacy and compliance perspective. I think that always remains very important for us—securing data, making sure that companies are complying with regulation but also respecting user privacy. What we have seen in a lot of our customers is that they were quite challenged with the VPNs that they were using—the impacts on the user experience, especially a clunky user experience. A lot of companies, mainly over the last year, were faced with such a huge expansion of their office environment where in the past maybe a large organization had five, 10, 20 branches, but now with work-from-home, some organizations have 5,000 branches or more. So the need for protecting not just the data on the device but also securing the data in the clouds became something we were asked for more and more.

You also have started to focus on the SASE market?

[The SASE market] really made us make the move to look at an acquisition. We found CipherCloud, which we felt was a great addition to our portfolio. It’s a great fit, with no overlap, which has really enabled us to deliver on the vision to secure data from the endpoint to the clouds. And that’s also the logic for us delivering mobile endpoint security, zero trust network access, software gateway functionality and CASB functionality to enterprises. And this is really the model that Gartner refers to as SASE. CipherCloud is extremely complementary and it really helps us to deliver an integrated endpoint-to-cloud solution, where we protect the data from the device all the way into cloud applications, in a managed and unmanaged environment.

How much of an expansion of your addressable market does this acquisition provide?

If you look at the market for mobile endpoint security, that’s between, let’s say, $1.5 and $2 billion. If you look at the SASE market, there are guesstimates between $12 [billion] and $20 billion. So it’s a huge expansion in our addressable markets, which is also a fantastic opportunity for our channel partners.

What makes this such a big opportunity for your partners?

The solution that partners can offer is really a total solution, including mobile endpoint security integrated with mobile device management—in an unmanaged or managed fashion—and making sure that the data that we are protecting goes all the way into the cloud applications that companies are using. The good thing is that our partners will now be able to deliver that end-to-end security experience where not only are they able to secure the device and the data in the clouds, but they can now offer a solution from a compliance and regulatory perspective. And they can also make sure that user privacy is being respected.

That also provides a partner opportunity for professional services and an integration opportunity. That’s also one of the reasons why we decided to simplify our channel program to go from a three-tier program to a two-tier program. The entry-level partners are sometimes focused more on point product solutions, while for the Elite level, we see that really as the expert level of partners that we are having. The reason for the change was also that we are a very strong believer that a good channel strategy should go quality over quantity—where our focus is on enabling partners, training partners and providing them with the best knowledge. That provides them really a great opportunity to build a customer base where they can deliver their professional services, where they can also build a very healthy subscription revenue base on the back of our solution. And that’s the benefit from both the mobile endpoint solution and the cloud solution—it’s subscription-based, which is something that is a great opportunity for our partners.

What did you have before in terms of tiers in your channel program, and what do you have now?

In the past, we had a middle tier in the program that we’ve decided to remove from the program. If you’re an Elite partner, you are fully trained on the end-to-end solution, going through all the trainings and certifications, and getting full access to all the training materials that we also provide to our own internal employees. Plus, they get direct access to our services organization and professional services organization. The other tier is a lot more focused on transaction-based partners. And we felt that for clarity for end users, it’s better to have two tiers—one tier that is the Elite partners where customers can really go for a complete end-to-end solution, or if they’re looking for a more transactional, point product partner, they might choose a Select partner. We’re also seeing the Select level as an incubation level, where hopefully over time we can develop that partner towards the Elite level.

Along with enterprise customers, are you also looking at growing your customer base in smaller and midsize businesses?

Absolutely. We have also recently announced an MSSP program because we see a very strong need for resellers to start offering more monthly billing offerings to a customer in an MSSP program. And I think that’s largely focused on the SMB/midmarket, where companies are relying a lot more on the partner’s expertise instead of having their own internal IT and security expertise. So that’s another area for us where we are really focusing on enabling partners to offer our products.

Focusing on that SMB/midmarket, together with our MSSP partners, is something we have introduced this year. We launched it at the beginning of the year, and we’ve been trying it with a select number of partners. And we are looking to do a bigger launch at the end of June.

One of the new elements in your channel program is the Partner Academy. What do partners get out of that?

We have invested in a learning management system, including certification, which we initially introduced to train our own salespeople better. And we thought this would also be great to use for our partner base, for the partner enablement. Because I think for a lot of partners, it’s sometimes very frustrating to work with vendors with direct [sales] people—where if you’re a partner and you feel that you are not having the same level of information to work with your customers than the vendor, it’s very difficult. So what we have introduced is this learning program that [includes] all the training we are providing to our own people. For example, when we launch a new module later this year—we are going to introduce the mobile EDR module—and what we are doing then in parallel with training our own people, we are also training our partners. I think that is a very good thing for partners and for end users—that they can always be assured that both Lookout’s partners and employees are very well trained and equipped to deliver the best service.

We have also dramatically increased the information made available to our partners, especially to the Elite partners where we have provided them a lot of information which formerly was only available for our own people. In many cases where partners have had to come to our sales teams or channel managers to ask for information, we’ve decided to provide Elite partners a lot of information, which a lot of other vendors might not share with their partners. But we believe that it will really help our partners to differentiate themselves more, and also provide a better service to our customers.

How do these channel program changes help partners to expand their business?

The SASE market is a huge market and rapidly growing. It provides partners a chance to offer more professional services around our system. We’re also introducing them to an ecosystem of alliance partners that allow them to integrate Lookout—for example, we’ve got a very strong alliance relationship with Microsoft and with Google. So that is a great opportunity for a lot of the partners.

For Microsoft, what have you seen from them in terms of their investment in their security offerings in recent years?

I think Microsoft’s focus on security is great because it has really given the market a very strong signal about the importance of security. We’ve also seen them focusing more, for example, on their mobile security. That has been a real game-changer. You’re seeing vendors like Microsoft and Google—but you see it also with Apple—focusing more and more on security and privacy. That awareness about securing data, both on the endpoint and in the clouds, is extremely important. The other thing that’s interesting with Microsoft is that in the past, they were very focused on managed devices. However, they’re also focusing more and more on the unmanaged devices. And I think that that’s another great opportunity for our partners. It’s not about just focusing on the managed, corporate-owned devices, but increasingly on the unmanaged, bring-your-own devices. Because there’s a huge risk for shadow IT, and that’s another concern that a lot of customers are seeing. And there is a lot of opportunity for our partners to help organizations to get a better view on the shadow IT that exists within their organization.