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Axcient CEO: ‘Our Business Is Essentially The Last Line Of Security'

'In the security world, security vendors have been used to being tested: Prove you can stop this, prove you can do this, can you really stop someone attacking me?' says Axcient CEO David Bennett. “In the backup world, no one was asking any backup vendor, can you prove you're doing what you're actually saying you're doing?'

David Bennett, who’s seven months into his role as CEO of Axcient, said he uttered what will be a guiding principal of the data backup and disaster recovery company only about three seconds after walking through its doors.

“The way to think about business continuity, backup and recovery is…our business is essentially the last line of security,” Bennett said last week during a visit to CRN's Westborough, Mass., offices.

The Denver-based company’s mission is to “eradicate data risk” for managed service providers (MSPs) and be able to prove it can do so easily, according to Bennett, who joined Axcient in March after serving as chief revenue officer at Webroot, a Broomfield, Colo., cybersecurity company acquired by Carbonite earlier this year.

“Being in the security world, security vendors have been used to being tested: Prove you can stop this, prove you can do this, can you really stop someone attacking me?” Bennett said. “In the backup world, no one was asking any backup vendor, can you prove you're doing what you're actually saying you're doing?”

Bennett sees his security expertise from more than 9.5 years at Webroot as critical to his leadership of Axcient.

“It's up there like the most important thing,” Bennett said. “If you're looking after someone else's business, that's a pretty important job.”

Bennett shared more of his takes on the data backup and disaster recovery (BDR) market, including Axcient’s internal goal of using automation to help MSP customers reduce their headcounts by one person per year and his outlook for the industry.

Reducing MSPs Headcounts

The BDR space hasn't changed in 20 years, according to Bennett, who ran Sony's tape backup business about two decades ago. Most BDR vendors still operate today with the same kind of ethos around putting the burden on customers to manage backups, manage solutions and make sure things work, he said.

“This makes no sense to me,” Bennett said. “Particularly in our space, most companies have grown by acquisition. They've grown by acquiring piece parts of other backup technologies, but most of them never spend any time integrating the technology. It's all different look and feel. You might have one piece of technology that backs up Windows…one piece that backs up Office 365, one piece that does something over here, but they operate like four or five different vendors.”

It’s particularly vexing if those companies are selling to MSPs, according to Bennett.

“He might as well go out to five different vendors versus buy five products from me,” he said.

Axcient’s strategy under Bennett is to make things simple for MSPs, because “time is money,” he said.

“My remit to the organization is, as a vendor, we have a selection of really good pieces of technology,” he said. “How could I build this technology stack in an integrated way (where) I could go to an MSP and say, ‘I can eliminate one headcount in your organization by automating systems processes -- how you manage the technology, how you bill it, how you automate backups. You can either eliminate a person, or that one headcount can go make money for you.”

“The highest expense that an MSP has is people,” Bennett said. “If I can spend my time and effort and say I can prove if you convert to our technology stack, we can eliminate essentially one body per year, that's a monumental business shift.”

“Our measure of success is we should be able to go back to an MSP in a period of a year or a year and a half and say, 'Hey, walk me through the impact I had on your business. If you added up the hours from different parts of the business, does it equal a full headcount?'” Bennett said. “If it does, we've done a good job. If it doesn't, we need to do more. We're working to understand your business, understand the impact the vendors drive into your business, and how do we have a material impact today.”

Bennett said he has "absolute confidence" that Axcient can live up to that goal.

“I've said it to MSPs, 'Hey, you need to let us know how you manage your business. How's your business shifting? How are you dealing with the time and effort to manage technology?’” he said. “That's going to drive our roadmap and the things we're going to do versus can you add this little feature to go and do this and things like that. And that's what we're driving back into our product group: Is the piece of technology we're going to release...going to have a fundamental impact to the profitability of MSPs. If it's not, we shouldn't do it.”

Economic Outlook

Bennett believes the BDR industry should hold its own amid any general market slowdown.

“Even if the whole thing slows down, this kind of industry is not going to slow down, because people have got to do something,” he said. “You then look across everything else, and where do you spend the time and money? Well, you have to spend it in technology, because security is getting harder, recovery is getting harder, backup is getting harder. It's going to be interesting.”

But just growing is not enough to satisfy Axcient’s private-equity investors, according to Bennett.

"In this day and age, it's all around customer experience, customer engagement, the whole end-to end thing,” he said. “There's a reason why people go out and pay $1,500 for a new cell phone. Its usability. Channel-centric companies don't take that view. If you're a tech in an MSP, you want something that’s easy to use, it's nice looking, doesn't require me to be a rocket scientist to work out...and makes my life easy.”

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