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Proofpoint Snags Bitdefender Vet Joe Sykora To Lead Channels

Longtime Bitdefender and Fortinet partner leader Joe Sykora started in December as global channel chief at fast-growing email security vendor Proofpoint.

Proofpoint has brought on longtime Bitdefender and Fortinet partner leader Joe Sykora to serve as the fast-growing email security vendor’s first-ever global channel chief.

Sykora started in December as Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Proofpoint’s senior vice president of worldwide channels and partner sales, he announced on LinkedIn late Thursday. The move comes three months after Sykora resigned his post as Bucharest, Romania-based Bitdefender’s global sales leader and channel chief, and will make Sykora the highest-ranking channel executive at Proofpoint.

[Related: Bitdefender Global Channel Chief Joe Sykora Leaves Company]

Proofpoint declined to make Sykora available for an interview, citing the quiet period prior to the company’s Feb. 4 earnings announcement.

Up until Sykora’s hire, Proofpoint’s top channel executive had been Keith Joseph, who has served as the company’s vice president of Americas channel sales since March 2018. Joseph had reported directly into Blake Sallé, who is now the company’s chief revenue officer, according to Joseph’s 2020 CRN Channel Chiefs profile. Proofpoint didn’t respond to questions about what Sykora’s hire means for Joseph.

Sykora joined Bitdefender in December 2017 as the company’s first global channel chief to ensure consistency around the structure, benefits and governance for Bitdefender’s partner program. Prior to that, Sykora spent seven and a half years at 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, Bitdefender promoted Sykora to vice president of global sales and channels, meaning that he was leading a worldwide group 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.

At the time he left Bitdefender, 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 the company. The share of deals being driven by partners grew from less than 20 percent when Sykora started at Bitdefender to 60 percent by the time he left thanks to mobile deal registration, increased market development funds and a better channel coverage model.

Proofpoint said its channel partners include security-centric resellers such as CDW and Optiv, AT&T, as well as distributors such as Ingram Micro and Exclusive Networks, according to a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Proofpoint’s largest two partners—which the company didn’t name—accounted for 12 percent and 11 percent of the company’s 2019 revenue, according to the SEC filing.

Proofpoint saw a significant increase in its partner-oriented business in 2019 due to enhanced training, engagement from channel account managers, and lead-generating customer events, according to Joseph’s Channel Chiefs profile. The company was looking to increase the percentage of Proofpoint’s revenue coming through the channel in 2020, as well as partner technical and sales skills, Joseph said.

The company has optimized its go-to-market strategy by focusing on several strategic, security-minded partners, according to Joseph. Joseph joined Proofpoint in March 2018 following 15 months as senior vice president and general manager of commercial sales at El Segundo, Calif.-based PCM, which is now part of Insight.

Meanwhile, Sykora’s appointment to a global leadership role comes after Proofpoint’s revenue from customers outside the U.S. grew 32 percent in 2019, outpacing the company’s overall 2019 sales growth of nearly 24 percent. In 2020, Proofpoint expects to grow total revenue by approximately 18 percent to $1.04 billion, the company said in October.

The company has broadened its platform in recent years through acquisitions, buying insider threat management platform provider ObserveIT for $225 million in November 2019 to better protect data across email, cloud and the endpoint. Six months earlier, the company bought Meta Networks for $120 million to better protect people, applications and data as they move beyond the traditional perimeter.

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