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SaaS Alerts’ Jim Lippie: MSPs Have ‘Been Waiting for Something Like This’

From his plans for the company to MSP security fatigue, the newly minted CEO talks strategy and insights.

Kelly Teal

February 9, 2021

8 Min Read
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Jim Lippie is no stranger to channel partners — managed service providers, in particular. His presence among MSPs (and as an MSP himself) spans almost two decades, with names including Thrive Networks, IndependenceIT, Clarity Channel Advisors and Kaseya.

Last month, startup SaaS Alerts announced it had hired Lippie as its CEO. SaaS Alerts developed a unified platform that lets MSPs monitor for security threats in a SaaS environment — not just customers’, but also their own. That means spotting – and fixing – breaches within Microsoft Office, Salesforce, Dropbox, G Suite and other apps.

For Lippie, this ability to go beyond devices and users, and into the apps themselves, is a breakthrough. It represents the biggest puzzle piece that has been missing in the fight against hacks and data theft.

“It’s really amazing how many MSPs and other software ecosystem partners are telling us that we’re absolutely headed on the right track, that this is a problem they’ve seen it for a while, and they can’t believe no one’s done it so far,” he says.

What’s further caught Lippie off guard is the response from other vendors.

“I came in thinking that our only go-to-market was MSPs,” he says. “Now, we’re completely channel and we’re not changing. But what has surprised us is the number of other software companies that have approached us and said, ‘We think what you’re doing is a complement to what we’re doing. How would you feel about embedding your software into our platform?’”

SaaS Alerts intends to do just that — and MSPs need not fear.

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SaaS Alerts’ Jim Lippie

“This doesn’t impact the channel,” Lippie says. “It just allows our MSP community to buy SaaS Alerts from more places.”

Channel Futures sat down with Lippie to learn more about his plans for SaaS Alerts and issues he wants to help partners address. This Q&A is edited for clarity.

Channel Futures: What is your five-year plan for SaaS Alerts?

Jim Lippie: We haven’t gone out five years — we’ve gone out three because things change so fast. Our goal is to create the most MSP-friendly software company in the ecosystem. And by doing that we feel great things will happen for us.

CF: What do you mean by MSP-friendly?

JL: It means we do month-long trials. Try it out, put customers on it, as many customers as you want, and capture revenue from the free month. It’s free internal use. One of the founding principles of SaaS Alerts is MSPs/MSSPs need to protect own house first if they’re going to protect their customers. As long as on you’re on a minimum monthly plan … you can use SaaS Alerts. Also, we do monthly agreements, not 36-month terms just because you saw a demo. We want to prove every single day our value to our MSP community.

Another example is we are MSP-only. When someone comes to our website and wants to sign up with us … you have to prove that you’re an MSP. … [If not,] we refer them out to one of our existing partners.

These are all principles that we hold dear, and we think collectively if by doing that and more, by acting in the best interest of the MSP community, that we will hopefully become thought of as the most friendly MSP software company.

CF: What are your more immediate plans for SaaS Alerts overall as you take the helm? Any changes readers should know?

JL: I’m not looking to change anything outside of …

… the fact that we’re going to pursue strategic partnerships from a distribution standpoint. Antivirus providers and SaaS management are two examples, so people can buy in as many places as possible.

And then also we’re going to keep enhancing the product as much as we possibly can. So among the things readers can look forward to is a new reporting engine that I think will end up blowing people away. MSPs should be doing quarterly business reviews, and it’s always a challenge to come up with really good data to present to their customers on how they’re delivering value to them. This report will really help them in those conversations.

We’re also adding Zoom as an application, most likely by mid-April. It seems like everyone under the sun is using Zoom these days, so that will be beneficial.

Then in mid-summer, we’re going to develop an application wizard. Right now you get all your core business and collaboration SaaS apps – Office 365, Google Workspaces, Salesforce, Dropbox, etc. – as a core package at 50 cents per user, per month. By midsummer, the wizard will let the MSP bring on any third-party business SaaS app they want, like Bamboo for HR. You can go through the app wizard and add it.

CF: Your plans for the SaaS Alerts channel — any changes there?

JL: We’re very anxious to see people face to face and have those conversations. We’re hoping for the second half of the year. We’ll be at the first events we’ll be allowed to be at in person. … We want to solve this really important problem [of protecting SaaS applications]. We’re really focused on that and we want to learn at the same time. We don’t have all the answers, and we love talking to our partners and leveraging them for advice. We understand, as a former MSP myself, the challenges they face every single day.

CF: You and I spoke separately earlier about security issues and the channel. You said you’re afraid partners think they’re doing everything they can to protect customers, and that you fear they’ll become less vigilant. What does SaaS Alerts plan to do with you at the helm to try to fix this problem?

JL: It’s almost security fatigue in the market. Everyone is being told how important security is. And there are a ton of products … that cover different components, and it’s up to the MSP or the MSSP to essentially bring all of this together, to understand where the gaps are and then to deploy on behalf of the customer. Then, there’s knowing that someone can never be fully protected at all times. If you are guaranteeing that no one will be breached, then you really don’t know what you’re talking about. So our job, and the MSP’s job, is to do everything we can to mitigate the exposure. I do think MSPs overall have been barraged with all these tools and there’s fatigue. … We’re really specific. We tell them exactly what we do.

… We are monitoring user behavior and then alerting the MSP when there are issues. And, remember, all of these different applications have different logged events with different terminology. We have the same exact grammar; we’ve normalized activity coming out of these apps and put into one grammar set … that way the MSP knows exactly what it is. You don’t need a data analyst to be able to decipher what the log files say and what should be done.

CF: How do you frame the SaaS protection conversation with MSPs? What do they need to know that they generally do not?

JL: You’ve got a massive industry in …

… SaaS apps with all these small business users. And all they want to do is do their jobs. MSPs need to understand how they can protect those users and mitigate the exposure. The usage of these applications is not going away. Every MSP out there would tell you the biggest security hole in any organization is the end user. So why aren’t we doing more to protect the end user around the apps we know they’re using the most? Those are the SaaS-based apps. The vast majority of security dollars is focused on devices and networks. With COVID-19, we now know that people are using more and more SaaS apps on personal devices and from unsecured networks. When we frame the problem like that … the MSPs totally get it. They’ve been waiting for something like this.

If you have an end user logging in from Boston and Chicago, that’s not right. I, the MSP, can contact you, the end user, and say, ‘We’ve got a login issue. Where are you right now?’ … Now you the end user and your company know the MSP has eyes on you. In a world where it’s sometimes really difficult for the MSP to articulate the value they provide every single day, this is a clear way to do it.

CF: What industry trends do you see coming at MSPs that they need to be aware of?

JL: I really think this is the biggest trend, monitoring SaaS apps usage. More activity is leaving the networks and individual devices and moving toward usage of applications. … So if we’re not following the user, then we’re missing a lot.

CF: Other thoughts about your new role and/or channel partners?

JL: I’m just really excited — excited about being able to bring this solution to the MSP community, helping them solve what I think is a really big problem and helping them drive more value to customers and increasing their recurring revenue. I call it a win-win-win scenario. The end customer wins because they’re better protected. The MSP now can demonstrate new and clear value. And the MSP also wins because they’re able to drive additional revenue from protecting apps they didn’t have the tools to protect before.

Read more about:

MSPs

About the Author(s)

Kelly Teal

Contributing Editor, Channel Futures

Kelly Teal has more than 20 years’ experience as a journalist, editor and analyst, with longtime expertise in the indirect channel. She worked on the Channel Partners magazine staff for 11 years. Kelly now is principal of Kreativ Energy LLC.

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