Former Citrix Exec Mark Templeton: Courage, Customers, Commitment … and Code

Mark Templeton returns to the channel to lead the charge toward app development and deployment.

Howard M. Cohen, Senior Resultant

December 10, 2018

8 Min Read


Howard M. Cohen

Mark Templeton believes that code is becoming our second language, especially for today’s entrepreneurs looking to build for tomorrow.

“Through code you can transform and reinvent what’s gone before and invent and imagine what’s to be,” says Templeton, who “retired” as CEO of Citrix in 2015, and who has come out of retirement to become CEO of application deployment specialist DigitalOcean.

Explaining why his belief in the importance of code drove him to his new company, Templeton explains, “There are tremendous tailwinds to supporting individuals in their entrepreneurial ambitions through code.”

Templeton speaks of serving “the citizen developer, coder, small teams with lots of entrepreneurship who are inventing, reinventing using code and digital tools.”

Are You Willing to Bet?

Templeton asks channel partners who are searching to find new direction, “Are you willing to bet?”


DigitalOcean’s Mark Templeton

“Just having an opinion without being willing to bet doesn’t get you there,” he notes. “It’s about having an actionable perspective about the future that you really believe in and are willing to bet on.”

Mark Templeton speaks from experience. When he became Citrix CEO in 1998 he had already served 7 years as its vice president of marketing and the company had just sold its core technology to Microsoft, who used it to create their Terminal Services platform. Just prior to ascending to CEO, Templeton found himself asking many partners, “What do you think Citrix should do next?”

Whether or not it came from the answers he gathered, Templeton spent the next 17 years answering that question, turning MetaFrame and its successors, including XenServer, into the platform of choice for those who wished to deliver applications to anywhere at any time across any network. He also stewarded such acquisitions as Sequoia, NetScaler, GoToMeeting, VMLogix and XenSource.

Templeton coined such industry-standard terms as “thin-client,” “client/server” and “application delivery.”

Biggest Digital Transformation: Solving Business Challenges

Templeton’s advice to today’s channel partners is that they focus on solving a problem, rather than understanding and servicing infrastructure. In a time when fewer and fewer customers are standing up their own servers and storage, preferring to obtain those services from the cloud, this is sound advice.

“It all starts with a customer,” explains Templeton. “Keep it simple. The way you are valuable is that you solve a problem. You can solve today’s problem, which is really good, but when thinking about where you’re going in terms of strategy, you’re going to have to solve tomorrow’s problem, too.”

Describing the desired sales motion, Templeton advises, “You want to be doing the things that allow you to lead customers.”

He talks about spending a lot of time with customers, asking them about the kinds of challenges they face as they see them today and going forward, noting that in tech it’s …

important to have personal experiences with the technologies so you don’t rely on blogs and someone else’s opinion.”

Some of the technologies Templeton sees tomorrow’s partners focusing on include blockchain, artificial intelligence and machine learning to reinvent how their customers approach and solve their problems. Ever the technologist, Templeton insists, “You must have a ‘hands-on’ opinion to offer. Only this gives you credibility.”

Take Risks

“All of the most amazing people I’ve met who are considered risk-takers don’t consider themselves to be risk-takers because they have such deep belief and understanding in what they’re doing,” explains Templeton.

“Be humble that at least half of what you do is based on luck,” he advises. “You create a high bar for how you go about things. From a leadership perspective you’re under such a microscope as a role model. When you lead an organization with that mindset, it ups everybody’s game because you’re setting a pace.”

His perspective on digital transformation is far more pragmatic than most. Templeton sees today’s Digital Revolution as a virtual analog to the Industrial Revolution. Similar to the way the cotton gin changed the way things were done by changing physical infrastructure, the world is now undergoing transformation in the information world through code. “There were things that made things incrementally better and then there were things invented that completely changed the way things got done. Much of the human element was removed as they also eliminated moving parts, which makes everything more efficient and more reliable. The same thing is going on today in the digital world, both incrementally and some revolutionary changes, too.”

The Role of Code and Developers

“I believe developers are the most pervasive form of today’s entrepreneurs and they are changing the world with software,” says Templeton. “I like to be part of things that have human impact and change the world for the better. Code is the foundation of software and software is the foundation of changing everything.”

He points out that you cannot get a design degree of any kind today without having to code and that code is becoming a second language of generations of people around the world.

Looking back at his own transformation from premier application-delivery company to leading a premier application development and deployment company, Templeton remembers that time 25 years ago when he first joined Citrix and partnering really meant selling products that a third party made. Innovative partners could deliver business value by creating context for those products and integrating them together.

But as distribution and sales volumes grew it wasn’t about the products, which were becoming more and more commoditized. What customers really valued was the intellectual aspect of putting things together. The IT channel became much more driven by services-oriented partnering on top of products, which led to where we are today.

“We’re now entering a stage,” suggests Templeton, “where there’s a bit of a throwback, where there are first-party cloud services that customers need to know how to onboard and adopt, [a situation] which requires a somewhat product-like resale of cloud-based products. Instead of up-front revenue it’s a subscription relationship with …

… recurring revenue.”

Templeton then emphasizes, “On top of that is a service opportunity to integrate these services.”

The Importance of Creating Your Own Resalable Intellectual Property

Next up are the opportunities the cloud is creating for partners to generate their own first-party products for customers they really understand. That product-development service produces resalable intellectual property, which is considered by many to be a critical element of future success in the channel.

Templeton sees two flavors of development solutions. The first are those solutions that specialize in certain types of vertical apps for companies who do not have their own development team. Partners will write these and turn them over to the customer. This also can create the opportunity to resell what they built.

The second is the partner who now sees the cloud as the first really viable opportunity to be the MSP who keep things simple for the SMB customer who simply wants to run their business but still get all the business value that’s available from digital apps. Some are also seeing opportunity to be a SaaS provider building SaaS-style apps in terms of architecture and business model.

“The common thread,” emphasizes Templeton, “is customer knowledge, relationship and engagement. You have to be flexible, have vision, be change-minded, but most of all listen to customers and have good relationships with them. That’s the way how you monetize that customer relationship has changed.”

Why DigitalOcean?

Those who know Mark Templeton knew he couldn’t stay retired for long. After 25 years championing application delivery, in a time when development of one’s own intellectual property has grown critical, it’s no wonder he chose to return to a company that helps developers deploy their applications.

“DigitalOcean is very focused on developers,” explains Templeton. “Many are learning code as part of being a marketer or designer. DigitalOceans offers services for developers as they build modern apps.”

“It starts with our focus on modern app development, business ignition versus the classic clouds that focused on digital transformation – lifting-and-shifting things that used to be in the data center and moving them to the cloud. We’re focused on new apps and modern app development.”

“There’s a big difference from app delivery to app development,” he points out. “Our being extremely partner-friendly is a big differentiator — the right relationship, margins, services, enablement for channels that have this intellectual property creation and monetization strategy for their biz. Our focus is to actually make infrastructure invisible. This makes partners more productive as they spend more time creating apps as opposed to configuring and managing infrastructure.”

Everyone is being pushed up-stack, according to Templeton.

“People who go to school to learn computer science think of themselves as developers, yet less than 40 percent end up with a computer science degree. Fifty percent are completely new to programming. Tons of people are taking the step toward learning code, mainly because they’re focusing more and more on digital revolution by focusing on developing their own IP.”

Distilling his advice to a simple statement, Mark Templeton suggests: “To the degree that you’re a channel partner and take a group of your people and come up with apps you can build and deliver to customers you know, that is just right in the flow of what’s going in the world. You have to bring courage, customers and commitment to learn the app-dev world.”

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About the Author(s)

Howard M.  Cohen

Senior Resultant

Senior Resultant Howard M. Cohen is a 30+ year executive veteran of the Information Technology industry, an authorized CompTIA instructor, and a regular contributor to IT industry publications. He serves on many vendor advisory panels including the Apple, Compaq, HP, IBM, and NEC Service Advisory Councils. He also serves on the Ingram Micro Service Network board and as a U.S. Board member of the International Association of Microsoft Channel Partners. He is a frequent speaker at IT industry events that include Microsoft’s WorldWide Partner Conference, Citrix Synergy/Summit, ConnectWise IT Nation, ChannelPro Forums, Cloud Partners Summit, MicroCorp One-On-One, and CompTIA ChannelCon. He refers to himself as a “Senior Resultant” because he has always understood that we are all measured only by our results.  Connect with Howard at [email protected] and review his portfolio at

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