Axcient, which develops a cloud-based storage and data protection platform, announced a number of business milestones today involving growth, reseller engagements and executive staffing. But the bigger story ultimately involves CEO Justin Moore's focus on disruptive, platform-oriented cloud solutions. Here's why.
Moore's perspectives -- and an Axcient momentum statement, delivered today -- arrive at an intriguing time. Within the managed services market, quite a few MSPs have jumped on the BDR (backup and disaster recovery) bandwagon. Companies like Zenith Infotech defined the market several years ago. More recently, upstarts like Datto have been growing exponentially -- without any outside funding. Cloud backup and recovery providers like Intronis have pure MSP business models that appeal to the channel. And software companies like Asigra and StorageCraft have caught on with MSPs.
Growing But CrowdedNo matter how you define it, the storage and BDR markets -- both on-premises and cloud-centric -- are extremely crowded. Axcient wants to stand out from the crowd by promoting a multi-tenant, home-grown, cloud-centric storage platform that extends globally.
For most of its history, Axcient has focused on MSP partnerships. But gradually this year the company has expanded its focus to the VAR channel.
The results are impressive. In a momentum statement released today, Axcient noted that the company in 2012 has:
- Added more than 200 new features and functions, including a next-gen platform for instant cloud recovery of business data, applications and systems;
- More than doubled the number of Axcient installations across the company’s network of VAR and MSP partners;
- Grown to protect nearly 3 billion files and applications in the cloud;
- Tripled its distribution network, adding more than 27,000 new resellers through relationships with Ingram Micro and Synnex alone;
- Grown its employee base by more than 50%; and
- Established a significant presence in 10 vertical industries including financial, legal, healthcare, retail, manufacturing, state and local government, high-tech, non-profits, education, and hospitality.
Funding, Talent and Technology PlatformsTake a closer look and Axcient's strategy is easily summarized: The company has raised more than $30 million in venture capital. The goal: Hire great talent, build a global cloud platform rather than a point product, and disrupt massive storage markets like the Symantec Backup Exec and CA Technologies ARCserve installed bases.
If that strategy works out, the Axcient management team will ride recurring SaaS revenues to a potential IPO, while continuing to work closely with MSPs and VARs.
No doubt, Axcient has a deep management team. The latest recruits:
- Former PayPal top engineer Asim Razzaq has joined Axcient as VP of engineering; and
- GreenRoad marketing executive Eric Weiss has joined as VP of marketing.
Evolving ChannelFor most of 2010 and 2011, Axcient focused mainly on the MSP market. But more recently the company has been recruiting larger VARs into its partner ranks. While the MSP partners tend to cater to smaller customers, the VAR space has been taking Axcient's solutions up-market.
Some of Axcient's latest VAR-led wins are 10 times larger than earlier MSP-led engagements, plus one mid-market partner recently won a 32-location deal, noted Moore. Even so, the MSP market continues to treat Axcient extremely well because partners understand recurring revenue models extremely well, he noted.
"There's no question our goal is to dominate the MSP space," said Moore. "But we recognize the potential revenue opportunities with the VAR market as well, which is likely 10 times the size of the MSP market."
Cloud PlatformsWhen describing the opportunity ahead, Moore shifts the discussion from MSP BDR products to disruptive cloud platforms. He notes the successful ServiceNow IPO, and the wild enthusiasm for cloud-based marketing platforms like HubSpot. "Those are not enterprise hardware and software companies. They are platform companies. They are multi-tenant and agile. They rapidly deliver customer benefits. That describes our focus as well."
But in Axcient's case, the platform focuses on mitigating data loss, while minimizing or completely eliminating customer downtime.
To date, Axcient has focused mainly on North America. But an international push will surface in 2013. Moore says the company has a large cash reserve for the International push, and if Axcient ever needed or wanted to raise more money there's "a lot of inbound interest; we've got extremely supportive investors."
And therein resides another difference between Axcient and many of its rivals -- which are self-funded. The self-funded route can be extremely successful and can generate monthly cash and profits. But the venture capital route allows you to build a business in three to five years that otherwise would have taken you 20 years, notes Moore. "Venture capital is basically a booster shot; it allows you to compress 10 years into three and 20 years into five. Plus, you're able to attract top talent."
Here Comes the Shake OutSo far, that strategy is working for Axcient. But I do believe a BDR market shakeout is coming. In my mind there are too many BDR companies chasing too few MSPs. Hence, Axcient's decision to expand its focus to VARs while also thinking beyond MSP BDR systems -- to zero in on installed bases like Symantec Backup Exec and CA Technologies ARCserve.
We'll continue to track how Axcient and its rivals navigate the competition.