CRN Exclusive: AirTight Networks Hires First-Ever Channel Chief; Aims To Make It 100 Percent Channel

Kester Kyrie

Cloud-based wireless specialist AirTight Networks has hired former Aruba Networks sales leader Kester Kyrie as its first official channel chief, who plans to make the company 100 percent channel.

"My goal is to make AirTight the most channel-friendly Wi-Fi vendor in the market," said Kyrie, in an interview with CRN. "Everyone in my position says that, but we can really make it happen based on the attributes of our product and [team] focus ... We will scale our two-tier distribution strategy and reroute any direct business to the channel."

Kyrie, vice president of worldwide sales and channels at AirTight, has more than 25 years of experience in the sales industry, previously spending 10 years at Aruba with his last role as head of sales for the Western region. He also served as vice president of sales at Cyphort, where he helped build out the sales and channel organizations of the company, as well as held sales positions at IntruVert Networks, Alteon WebSystems and Shomiti Systems.

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AirTight created the new channel chief position for Kyrie as part of its revamped channel strategy, which started back in 2013 when the Mountain View, Calif.-based wireless specialist switched to a channel-led sales model.

The following year, it launched a new partner program called EZ Street, aimed at growing solution providers' managed services footprints through new opportunities around social media and big data analytics. The company reached more than 50 percent of its business through partners by the end of 2014 and currently stands at approximately 75 percent.

Kyrie said he plans to rapidly increase that number to 100 percent within the next few weeks.

"In five years, you'll be looking at a company that is much different than it is today in terms of revenue generation and global scope, but with the same focus on midmarket and service provider," he said. "Our pricing structure, combined with our zero-touch installation and remote management make our solutions purpose-built for channel sales."

AirTight partners are expecting their sales to grow under Kyrie's leadership -- touting his sales experience with Aruba.

"We're excited he's here, and we think it's a great move," said Drew Allgeier, vice president of business development at Contingent Network Services, a West Chester, Ohio-based AirTight partner. "He has the type of pedigree that to us bodes very well."

Paul Gillmore, vice president of sales at Industry Retail Group, a Bethesda, Md.-based AirTight partner, is convinced Kyrie will help drive partner sales with his 25 years of enterprise and channel sales experience in wireless, security and networking.

"You have to believe he is the right man for the job," said Gillmore. "I know he is excited to be joining the AirTight team at this exciting stage in their history."

Kyrie isn't the only industry veteran who has recently joined the AirTight executive team. In December, the company hired veteran Rick Wilmer as its chief operating officer, who was previously CEO at Leyden Energy and held roles as vice president of operations at Aruba and Seagate. AirTight also hired Mike Anthofer, a 28-year industry veteran, who was formerly CFO and executive vice president at Tessera Technologies.

AirTight is actively seeking partners with a "passion" for Wi-Fi delivery targeting the midmarket, whether directly or as managed service providers, said Kyrie. The company is currently focusing on the North America market, but will be expanding globally with partners in South America, Europe and Asia Pacific.

"Our products and functionality make us better positioned than other companies to meet the needs of the fastest-growing market segments in the fast-growing Wi-Fi market," said Kyrie.

AirTight's C-75 802.11ac Access Point was named CRN's Tech Innovator Award Winner in 2014 due to its speedy setup time, by coming preconfigured with service set identifiers (SSIDs) and back-end software that allow guests to log into the access point using a Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter account.

"We are completely committed to the channel and well-structured for it. It's built into everything we do at this point -- the starting point for pretty much every discussion we have," said Kyrie.