Secure Browser Startup Island Hires Industry Vet As First Channel Chief
Island has brought aboard Keith Weatherford, formerly a top channel executive at cybersecurity vendors including Forescout and Symantec, as the startup looks to do more with partners and develop a formal channel program.
Island, a fast-growing startup that offers a security-focused web browser for businesses, is making a major bid to expand its work with partners with the hire of a well-known industry veteran as its first channel chief.
The Dallas-based company said Wednesday that it has named Keith Weatherford, who most recently had been the global channel chief at cybersecurity firm Forescout, as its vice president of worldwide channel sales.
Weatherford, whose background also includes top channel roles at Symantec and McAfee, told CRN that he sees a massive opportunity to help Island connect with the channel around bringing its secure browser to a wider number of businesses. Founded in mid-2020, Island only exited stealth a year ago and has already done a number of customer deals through channel partners.
With Weatherford now heading its channel efforts, Island is expecting to accelerate that work while also developing its first partner program, which should launch prior to 2024.
“[Island] definitely had channel impact in year one, but we see an opportunity to ramp that up significantly,” Weatherford said in an interview.
Island’s Chromium-based browser aims to provide businesses with a much greater level of visibility and control over the use of data inside SaaS applications.
At one of Island’s early partners, Trace3, initial use cases have included allowing businesses to provide secure application access to their contractors, as well as enabling secure usage of BYOD (bring your own device) as well.
Trace3 is “super excited about where Island is going,” said Katherine Walther, vice president of innovation at Irvine, Calif.-based Trace3, No. 36 on CRN’s 2022 Solution Provider 500. And given the huge and growing reliance on SaaS among many businesses—and the widespread usage of BYOD and contractors around the industry—“we think Island is an emerging technology that’s designed for every company, which is kind of unique these days,” she said.
Other uses for Island that could be significant include using the browser as an alternative to zero trust network access (ZTNA) and data loss prevention (DLP) solutions, according to Walther.
Deployment of ZTNA—which is itself a more secure alternative to VPNs for remote access—can be highly challenging, she said. Meanwhile, businesses are also moving away from installing agents on endpoints, which makes traditional DLP less of an option.
“They’re getting away from this type of fine-grained control on the endpoint,” Walther said. “And this is where I think that Island can be a very unique way to solve that problem because of the fine-grained controls that you get.”
‘Dedication To Channel’
When it comes to Island’s ambition to do more in the channel, Walther said that it’s a very encouraging sign—especially given that the company has only been in the market for a year.
“I think this move, this early on, indicates that Island is very serious about solving complex challenges up-market. I think that that’s a difficult market to tackle, and their dedication to channel shows that they’re ready to talk to tackle it,” she said.
And in terms of Weatherford specifically, Walther said he is a great hire for the company.
At various points in the past, “we’ve seen incredible technology fall under less-than-incredible leadership when it comes to the channel,” Walther told CRN. “Channel is tricky. It’s tricky to scale out and harness the power of the channel, and that means you need to bring somebody in who’s capable of doing that. I think it speaks volumes for Island to bring in someone who has Keith’s level of experience.”
Weatherford, who departed Forescout to take the role at Island, had been with Forescout since October 2020, ultimately as its vice president of worldwide channel sales.
Prior to Forescout, Weatherford was the vice president of Americas channels at Symantec, where he worked from 2016 to 2020. He joined Symantec through the company’s acquisition of Blue Coat Systems, where he’d held the same title.
Before Blue Coat and Symantec, Weatherford spent more than 14 years at McAfee, ending up as director of commercial and public sector channels for the cybersecurity vendor (which at the time was known as Intel Security).
Island, which was founded by two ex-Symantec executives, has raised more than $250 million in funding and has been valued at $1.3 billion by its investors.
Weatherford said one area of focus will be building out the channel team at Island. The startup currently has one channel account manager, based on the West Coast, and expects to close out 2023 with channel account managers in the two other U.S. market regions.
Island will also be looking for a Canada channel account manager based in Toronto and is working on a distribution agreement with Carahsoft for federal customers, Weatherford said.
Building A Program From Scratch
In terms of his own partner-facing efforts, a top focus will be on “bringing some framework to our go-to-market and bringing some formal go-to-market messaging programs to the partner ecosystem,” he said.
It’s an exciting opportunity, Weatherford said, in part because he’s going to be able to put together a new partner program essentially from scratch. Prior companies where he headed channel efforts “had very established programs—and you had to stay within those guidelines pretty tightly because there were well-known programs,” he said. With Island’s forthcoming partner program, “we have an opportunity to do some really creative things here.”
Ultimately with the program, “I want to take some time to build something that isn’t necessarily [the same as] what I’ve worked within previously,” Weatherford said. “I want to take an opportunity to listen to partners [and find out] what they want to see from the program. And that way we can build ahead of the puck, as opposed to chasing the puck.”