Will Datto's energetic startup culture disappear as it enters a new stage of maturity?

Kris Blackmon, Head of Channel Communities

January 8, 2019

6 Min Read

It’s official. After serving as Datto’s interim CEO since Austin McChord stepped down last October, the backup and disaster-recovery provider said Tuesday that Tim Weller will take the role on a permanent basis starting immediately.


Datto’s Tim Weller

Weller had a front row seat to the evolution of the channel behemoth after Vista Equity Partners acquired it in 2017 and was instrumental in Datto’s merger with PSA provider Autotask, which was part of the $1.5 billion deal. His extensive experience growing technology companies also no doubt played a part in the board’s decision and has gone a long way toward reassuring a partner community somewhat wary of what the changes will bring.

Jeremy Reynoldson, president of Bralin Technology Solutions, a Canadian MSP and No. 400 on the 2018 MSP 501 rankings, told Channel Futures upon McChord’s resignation that his departure was a bit worrisome because McChord had been the main driver of the unique culture that made Datto such an attractive partner. But Weller’s past successes and performance so far have given him much more confidence.

“That is an impressive resume and list of experience,” says Reynoldson. “I can only agree with Austin’s comment, ‘Datto is in good hands …’”

Kevin Damghani, chief partner experience engineer at IT Partners, a Michigan-based MSP and No. 186 on the 2018 MSP 501, is also “very encouraged” by Weller’s “proven track record of doing amazing things for companies,” particularly his involvement in the massively successful IPO of cloud service provider Akamai in 1999. But Damghani points out that Weller also has a reputation among Datto partners as being hands-on in the technical aspects of Datto, too.

“In terms of Austin vs. Tim, they are just so opposite,” said Damghani. “I mean, both of them are engineering nerds, but Tim definitely has more of that business head. It’ll change. It’ll look different. It’ll be a little more business and a little less startup.”

Damghani went on to add, “Tim is committed to the MSP channel and has grand visions for its growth and long-term health. We look forward to him taking on this role.”

Indeed, Weller tells us that Datto’s go-forward strategy these days places heavy emphasis on scaling to meet market needs, and that means thinking about industries that make sense to integrate into its core offerings. The provider is “growing up,” so to speak. But comparisons of Weller and McChord, while inevitable, make the new CEO uneasy.

“Scale does bring certain challenges. I hope that partners see [any changes] whether they’re positive or negative as more a result of that scale, not Tim vs. Austin,” he told Channel Futures. “I bring a slightly larger-company background … Austin, obviously, was all in on Datto since started he it. I’m trying to help us anticipate the growth from here and make sure it still feels one-to-one for our partners.”

While adding PSA capabilities with the Autotask merger was a big step in Datto’s evolution as a channel powerhouse, Weller is adamant that the company is laser-focused on ensuring its partners experience the same personal and energetic feel that helped create its big channel presence. It’s never really business as usual after a big change in strategy such as the one that accompanied the blockbuster deal, but Weller tells us that he hopes the conversations with partners …

… feel the same. If not, he wants them to speak up.

“If we feel like a bigger company in terms of slower response time or not listening to partners, then we’re getting it wrong, and please be more vocal. We don’t think that just being larger has to make us lose that Datto feel,” he says.

McChord’s passion for the company he built from its genesis in his parents’ basement to one of the largest players in the channel was apparent in all that he did, Weller continued, saying that the board placed heavy importance on hiring someone who would continue that same culture of authenticity when deciding who got the top spot.

The company is no longer a startup, but Weller tells us that will lead to more changes internally than it will within its channel program. The goal is to keep investing in employees in order to keep that culture of personal service with partners strong. He plans to invest at least $5 million in an ERP system in 2019, and his team is looking at a wide variety of capabilities on Datto’s mobile and web portal platforms.

“It makes our team more efficient,” he explains. “[These] are things that may affect employees initially at this scale, but again it’s with an idea towards partners being able to feel like we have more of that one-on-one service.”

So what’s in Datto’s near future? Rob Rae, channel luminary and Datto’s vice president of business development, is looking forward to a big EMEA push, such as the one he led in APAC last year. Datto already has a large presence in the U.K., and it managed to draw more than 450 European partners to its inaugural DattoCon EMEA last year in Barcelona. It’s heading to Paris in October, with Datto roadshows scheduled throughout the year to generate conversations with EMEA partners and learn how the channel culture across the pond differs from the U.S., as well as how to best equip partners to sell to the European SMB.

With all of the M&A activity we saw in 2018 and that will no doubt continue in the new year, it’s a good bet that the “scale through acquisition” strategy Weller laid out in relation to Autotask will only grow in the near future. After all, competitors like Kaseya are snapping up technology providers left and right in order to expand their service offerings, move into other markets and verticals, and grow their partner base. It’s also widely speculated that Vista is laying the groundwork for a Datto IPO in the next few years, and Weller’s experience in that area would prove incredibly valuable.

The next few years will bring a race to see which channel players can bring the most – and most relevant – providers into the fold as channel consolidation speeds up. With its monster channel presence and intense popularity among partners, it’s probable that Datto is joining the fray and positioning itself to go public. If so, Datto’s board is banking on Weller being a good guy to have at the helm.

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About the Author(s)

Kris Blackmon

Head of Channel Communities, Zift Solutions

Kris Blackmon is head of channel communities at Zift Solutions. She previously worked as chief channel officer at JS Group, and as senior content director at Informa Tech and project director of the MSP 501er Community. Blackmon is chair of CompTIA's Channel Development Advisory Council and operates KB Consulting. You may follow her on LinkedIn and @zift on X.

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