Kaseya’s Fred Voccola: Unorthodox, Unabashed and UnstoppableKaseya’s Fred Voccola: Unorthodox, Unabashed and Unstoppable
Influencer of the Year Voccola is patently entrepreneurial with a leadership style all his own.
March 10, 2023
The best way to describe Fred Voccola, CEO of Kaseya, is colorful, unorthodox, an open book and, as a resident of Miami, someone who is comfortable weathering storms of all types. When his name comes up as a channel leader and influencer, those in tech immediately think of Voccola’s role in pulling off the unthinkable — a $6.2 billion buyout of Datto. It’s a deal that will go down in history as one of the most impactful for the MSP community. “There just hasn’t been anything like that before,” said a former Kaseya executive.
The deal brought into Kaseya’s fold Datto’s loyal partner network of nearly 20,000 organizations whose leaders believed the company represented more than just backup and recovery software. They saw a true community where they could connect, grow their businesses and serve customers. It had a cult-like following symbolized by its stock symbol aptly named MSP.
During our interview, Voccola, who was running late because his building had lost power, said Datto had just finished the best quarter in its history thanks to its integration into Kaseya, which serves as multiplatform provider of IT management and security software for MSPs who primarily sell to small and medium-sized businesses. In the MSP world, there are no more important companies than Kaseya, with some 4,500 employees worldwide, and ConnectWise. Both are kings of providing software and tools to run an MSP business. Partners are fiercely loyal to one platform or the other because it is their lifeline.
But before we get into the challenges Voccola has faced, the positive outlook he has for the MSP channel and the influence he wields, let’s take a quick look at how he got here.
The Kid from New Jersey
Voccola describes himself as a kid from New Jersey who either grew up with a chip on his shoulder or was just out to prove those who underestimated him were wrong. Maybe there’s a bit of both in his chemistry. Before Voccola landed at Kaseya he was a business builder and seller. By all accounts he was also really good at it and established credibility among the investors, buyers and sellers of tech businesses. Kaseya has been built through numerous acquisitions to date — some large like Datto, some small like IT Glue.
He served as president of Yodle’s Brand Networks division, providing digital and market automation solutions to small and medium businesses. The company was sold to Web.com in 2016. Prior to that, Voccola was president of Nolio Inc., a DevOps SaaS company. He drove 100% year-over-year growth and successfully sold the business to CA Technologies. Many may remember that computing stalwart that grew via acquisition. He was also a co-founder of Trust Technology Corp., where he drove significant growth over a three-year span prior to the company’s sale to FGI Global. Earlier in his career, he co-founded Identify Software, substantially growing the business during his five-year tenure, then selling it to BMC Software.
Not Your Typical Corporate Executive
You get the picture by now. Case closed. Voccola knows his way around the building, buying and selling of businesses the way few in the industry do. The proof was pulling together a “who’s who” from the world of venture capital and private equity to lock down Datto and bring it into the Kaseya fold.
With that in mind, you have to wonder what the future holds for Kaseya, which is generating $1 billion in annual recurring revenue, given Voccola’s love for M&A. He is tight-lipped about that but promises …
… some very big announcements are coming in the near future.
When you interview Voccola, you immediately know he is not your typical buttoned-down corporate executive who has memorized a few bullet points from the corporate PowerPoint slide deck. And while we’re on the subject of executive style… Voccola made headlines earlier this year when, during an initial town hall with incoming Datto employees, he was quoted as saying, “I am not being a d…k.” That’s just Fred being himself. It’s a pretty common phrase when a few guys are hanging at the local sports bar, but a comment like that in a business setting tells you Voccola is a different type of leader. He’s a take-me-for-what-I-am type of manager which leads us to wonder where his comfort level is these days.
Enterprise Manager or Entrepreneur?
Is he more suited as an enterprise manager or entrepreneur? He threads that needle by saying his sweet spot is being the entrepreneurial leader in a large organization. That’s pretty good thinking on his feet
“The day I stop being entrepreneurial running a big company, I will suck,” Voccola said. “Being an entrepreneur means you start and run a small business. Being entrepreneurial means we are always disrupting, changing, looking for pivots, looking for ways to make our customers’ lives better. We claw and fight for the extra 1%. I love doing disruptive things.”
One of the industry’s largest MSP leaders describes Voccola this way. “He is very polished and a great communicator. He makes a big company feel small but at the same time he come across a bit opinionated. He is really able to accomplish his objective over, through and around people.”
Leadership and Grit
In a recent blog Voccola posted on leadership and what he describes as grit, he revealed this about himself: “People are driven by necessity — when I was younger, I know I was. In college, it was my dream to work on Wall Street. But that didn’t work out for me. I didn’t interview well and didn’t fit the stereotype of a ‘privileged’ Wall Street kid. That created necessity, so I started my first company in college and later sold it.”
When asked about that posting, Voccola, who studied finance and graduated from Boston College’s Carroll School of Management, said, “I guess, I wasn’t a privileged, pretty boy to get a job at one of those places. And I’m really glad I wasn’t, because I don’t think I would have done very well there. I think they probably would have fired me after three weeks.
“I guess I wasn’t smart enough to go work there. Who knows? But I think being as genuine or authentic is important in this day and age of this PC [politically correct] stuff. I think people are so sick and tired of that bullshit. It’s not real. If you strive to be liked by everyone, then you’re not being authentic, you’re being fake. If I’m doing something stupid, I want someone to be like, ‘Fred, you’re an idiot.’ I like people to be direct, show me the respect to be authentic to me. I couldn’t imagine finishing my career and looking back at it, and being like, oh, my God, I was a fake person for 30, 40 or 50 years. Yeah, that would suck.”
The Art of Listening
So, the real Fred Voccola just stood up.
And his legs must be pretty strong because he survived a potentially crippling ransomware attack in mid-2021 that put at risk thousands of MSP customers. Several months later he was publicly blasted by …
… Austin McChord, a Datto founder and one of America’s wealthiest individuals, who was lamenting the sale of Datto to Kaseya. “There is a concern that the current trajectory from Datto’s new owners will snuff the flame that makes Datto a place to come ‘do your life’s work,’” McChord wrote. It was the kind of dust-up headline writers dream about, but you have to wonder if McChord, a well-known techy, may have picked a fight with the wrong guy. Voccola clearly possesses both business and street smarts. Either way, the matter dissipated in a few weeks.
Whether it was born out of some of the challenges of integrating Datto or was just Kaseya growing up, Voccola wants the organization to be a great listener. That’s why he requires 20 members of his leadership team to conduct six pulse checks (as he calls them) each month with MSPs to discuss how the company is doing, what it could be doing better and to identify trends. “We talk to customers all day long, so that’s about 1,000 a year. I personally talked to 500 MSPs and I get to hear what’s not working, what people think the market is going to do, what it’s not going to do. Then we aggregate this data.”
Perhaps that’s the engine of Voccola’s influence: to aggregate what the company is hearing and take that data to bring better visibility to every MSP who works with Kaseya.
The Best Thing in MSP Land by Far
There’s no doubt that the owners and leaders of managed services organizations gravitate toward individuals who are plain-spoken, in the trenches and maybe a little rough around the edges. They have always viewed such people as trustworthy, willing to give them straight answers and not sugarcoat market realities. That’s what makes Voccola so appealing to MSPs. He also possesses a genuine fondness for the channel and is quick to point out that a large number of Kaseya employees have spent the bulk of their careers working in the channel or for Kaseya.
He is an influencer who is not without flaws, but he makes no apologies. “There is another decade of huge spending. Small and midsize companies are in the middle of digitally transforming. The applications that transformed Caterpillar, Coca-Cola and Citibank, in the ‘90s, and 2000s are now becoming available for small businesses and midsize businesses to implement, which they’re doing. Now those applications are mission-critical for the local restaurant.”
“So as the economy slows down and gets worse, the need to digitally transform accelerates even further, which means that MSPs are going to get a disproportionately higher percentage of the GDP than they would otherwise,” Voccola said.
No matter what lies ahead, Voccola is making the MSP market much more interesting these days.
“People are cooking up popcorn and watching Fred. It is the best thing in MSP land by far,” said an MSP 501 CEO. With Kaseya’s profits and revenue growing at greater than 30%, what better show could there be to watch in 2023?
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