Bitdefender Global Channel Chief Joe Sykora Leaves Company

Sykora’s position as head of global sales and channels will be filled on an interim basis by Business Solutions Group President and General Manager Steve Kelley until Bitdefender names a permanent successor.


Channel superstar Joe Sykora resigned Friday from his post as Bitdefender’s global sales leader and channel chief to become chief operating officer for another cybersecurity vendor.

“I left [Bitdefender] since the new opportunity was too good to pass up,” Sykora told CRN via text message. “I left on great terms with Bitdefender and wish them the best of luck as they continue to invest and grow their global channel.”

Sykora told CRN he had long been interested in moving into a COO or chief revenue officer role, but knew such an opportunity wasn’t available at Bitdefender. Sykora spent the first 12 years of his career building and running companies and considers himself to be a “serial entrepreneur.” He told CRN he’s excited to get back to more of what he had been doing earlier in his professional life. Sykora said he isn’t yet ready to go public with the name of his new employer.

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

The Bucharest, Romania-based cybersecurity vendor said Sykora’s position as head of global sales and channels will be filled on an interim basis by Steve Kelley as Bitdefender identifies a permanent successor. Kelley joined Bitdefender in July as president and general manager of the company’s Business Solutions Group following stints as CEO of EdgeWave and chief revenue officer of GoSecure (which had bought EdgeWave).

“During Joe’s tenure at Bitdefender, he helped the company establish a world-class channel partner program that continues to grow and thrive as Bitdefender increases its worldwide footprint,” Kelley said in a statement. “Joe is a smart, charismatic leader with an infectious energy and his leadership and presence will be missed. Bitdefender thanks Joe for his contributions over the last two and half years and wishes him future success.”

Bitdefender hired Sykora in December 2017 as the first-ever vice president of worldwide channel development to ensure consistency around the structure, benefits and governance for the company‘s partner program. Sykora came from Fortinet, where he was responsible for the company’s inside sales teams, distribution teams, reseller engagements and enhanced technologies groups in the Americas.

In February 2019, Sykora was promoted to vice president of global sales and channels, meaning that he was now overseeing a worldwide operation with $100 million in revenue and 85 percent year-over-year sales growth, according to his LinkedIn page. In his new role, Sykora said he was managing more than 225 employees who were in turn supporting some 10,000 cloud and MSP partners, according to LinkedIn.

Sykora told CRN he’s most proud of establishing a world-class global channel program and making it easier for partners to do business with Bitdefender. The share of deals being driven by partners grew from less than 20 percent when Sykora started at Bitdefender to 60 percent today thanks to mobile deal registration, increased market development funds (MDF) and an enhanced channel coverage model.

Bitdefender under Sykora also implemented a more focused partner strategy that gave more attention and resources to partners that were investing heavily in Bitdefender rather than just attempting to sign up as many partners as possible. Modernizing Bitdefender’s channel program and aligning it to the company’s new technology allowed the company to attract a whole different type of partner, Sykora said.

Sykora brought over longtime Fortinet colleague Bill Bellano in mid-2019 to give the top solution providers in North America a more dedicated partner presence since Sykora had global responsibilities. Sykora tasked Bellano with launching a Partner Advisory Council and overseeing a new partner portal that was expected to drive more lead generation, deal registration, quoting and marketing automation.

Also in 2019, Sykora snagged Symantec’s Jason Eberhardt to drive Bitdefender’s cloud and MSP business by forming relationships with remote monitoring and management providers and distributors. More recently, Sykora has helped Bitdefender stand up its first-ever Security Operations Center to help protect MSPs and customers from the most pernicious threats while reducing their overhead.

“I just wish everybody the best of luck,” Sykora told CRN. “It’s going to be a great ride at Bitdefender for the partners that signed up.”

On the North American front, Kelley told CRN that Brian Vasiloff is now running all sales and channels in the region. Vasiloff joined Bitdefender in August as vice president of North America sales following nearly seven years as Sophos’ vice president of North American enterprise sales. Kelley praised Vasiloff’s vast sales experience and first-rate reputation at channel-first companies like Sophos and SonicWall.

Bellano remains at Bitdefender with all his same direct reports and will now be reporting into Vasiloff, according to Kelley. Bitdefender hired Bellano in June 2019 for the newly created North American channel chief role, CRN reported at the time, and Bellano’s purview expanded in January 2020 to include North American sales, according to his LinkedIn profile.