CRN Exclusive: Ex-Fortinet Channel Chief Joe Sykora Lands At Bitdefender To Support Global Push

Bitdefender has snagged former Fortinet channel champion Joe Sykora for a newly created position focused on standardizing the company's partner program across the globe.

The Bucharest, Romania-based security vendor has tasked Sykora with developing more consistency around the structure, benefits and governance for Bitdefender's partner program. Sykora started Monday as Bitdefender's first-ever vice president of worldwide channel development.

"There are no barriers for partners anymore," Sykora told CRN exclusively. "They're all selling projects across the globe."

[RELATED: Sources: Fortinet Channel Chief Sykora Out, Security Vendor Appoints Former Proofpoint Exec Bove To Lead Partner Sales]

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Bitdefender embraced more of a regional channel structure prior to Sykora's arrival. But given the company's high growth rates, Sykora said Bitdefender wanted to get someone in place that could ensure what it's doing is best for all channel partners regardless of geography.

"The larger you get, the more difficult it is to correct problems," Sykora said. Bitdefender conducts all of its business through the channel, and in 2015 reported having 4,200 new qualified reseller partners, according to the 100 percent channel company.

Sykora spent the past seven years at Fortinet, where he was most recently responsible for the company's inside sales teams, distribution teams, reseller engagements, and enhanced technologies groups in the Americas. He left the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based security vendor in September and was replaced by Jon Bove, formerly Proofpoint's senior director of North American channels.

During Sykora's tenure at Fortinet, the company grew its year-over-year channel sales between 40 percent and 50 percent, as compared with between 20 percent and 25 percent under his predecessor, according to Sykora's LinkedIn profile.

At Bitdefender, Sykora plans to spend his first couple of weeks meeting with channel partners across the globe to figure out what's been working and what hasn't been working. He plans to look at Bitdefender's top channel partners today as well as solution providers who could invest more heavily in the vendor going forward.

Sykora said he plans to keep Bitdefender's existing regional channel leadership in place so that he can improve upon what's already working.

The hiring of Sykora is Bitdefender's latest investment in the channel, and follows the rollout of a new deal registration program earlier this year that gives additional margin to all partners across the globe, as well as an enhanced marketing program that increases the market development funds available to partners. Sykora said deal registration, MDF and lead generation are vital to partner success.

"Those are what partners what, and I'll make sure they're all making money," Sykora said. "That is key."

Sykora praised Bitdefender's investment in its enterprise technology suite, particular as it relates to consolidating the endpoint, cloud and hypervisor security into a single solution. This type of an approach makes cybersecurity simple and effective for partners, according to Sykora.

Bitdefender is making inroads into the partner community and becoming a stronger channel player through Sykora's hire, according to Douglas Grosfield, president and CEO of Kitchener, Ontario-based Five Nines IT Solutions. Grosfield said Sykora's experience in all things firewall at Fortinet would put him in a good position to address the evolution of the endpoint at Bitdefender.

"Fortinet has a strong channel focus and a strong partner program, so I would imagine that with Joe moving over, the mind-set would follow him," Grosfield said.

A vendor's channel focus tends to get diluted when operating purely at a regional level without a single, overarching direction from on high, Grosfield said. Having a cohesive, global approach to its partner program should make it easier for Bitdefender to deal with customers in different geographies in a consistent manner.

"It's a great move to have that oversight on a global level," Grosfield said. "This is a new path for Bitdefender."