Bitdefender provides protection to 500 million users around the world.

Edward Gately, Senior News Editor

March 6, 2018

10 Min Read
Data Center hacker

Bitdefender‘s new global channel chief says he wants to make the cybersecurity company’s partner program even more successful and add more personnel to support partners.

Joe Sykora, formerly with Fortinet, recently was appointed vice president of worldwide channel development, responsible for relationships with the company’s more than 7,000 reseller partners globally.

Providing protection to 500 million users, Bitdefender recently was valued by Vitruvian Partners, an independent European private equity firm that acquired a stake in the company, at more than $600 million.


Bitdefender’s Joe Sykora

The Romania-based company’s enterprise solutions headquarters is in in Santa Clara, California, and as a result, more than 40 percent of sales are generated in the United States, which continues to be the company’s fastest growing region.

Bitdefender said Sykora’s appointment is part of its ongoing investment in increasing channel efforts and advancing its channel program. The company is transitioning from a regional to a global structure, allowing for standardization and consistency of structure, benefits and governance, while still allowing for customization to meet each region’s unique needs, it said.

In a Q&A with Channel Partners, Sykora talks about his plans for Bitdefender’s partner program and shares his insights on the breach-filled cybersecurity landscape.

Channel Partners:  What have you been doing since starting this new role?

Joe Sykora: Really getting out in the field and meeting our partners, both existing Bitdefender partners and also some of our potential partners that have expressed an interest. So I’ve been meeting with all of them and I’ve been spending time with our distributors, and that’s all on a global basis. So I have been on the road traveling every single week.

CP: What’s your take on Bitdefender’s current channel strategy? Do you have changes in mind?

JS: The Bitdefender program has always been strong. The program itself is a very partner-friendly, channel-friendly program, so I’m not looking to make any changes per se. Really the key item that I’m looking to put more resources in is ease of doing business. I always want to make sure that our partners are getting what they need and it’s easy for them to get those resources. So we’ll continue to add resources, both in head count — people to take care of our partners … along with increased MDF so we’re increasing that marketing strength. And then investing in those who invest in us. I think they should be rewarded financially, and also, if we can make them a better partner, that’s the main goal for us. Different regions obviously mean different things because I do cover the global channel and global distribution, so things are a little bit different in Europe and Asia, but it’s all the same — the program itself is a very solid program. I really like what was done with deal registration, (which) is a 20 percent additional margin for our partners no matter what level. So even a developing partner can get a really good competitive advantage if they bring us into a deal.

CP: How will your past experience working with the channel come into play in your new role?

JS: I’ve been on both sides of the channel. I actually started out on the partner side a little over 20 years ago, so I got to see firsthand channel-partner programs that were not only …

… award-winning, but good, solid partner programs. It’s where everyone is growing, everyone is making money and there [are] a lot of resources to make the partners happy. So from my past experience, I try to make things as simple as possible for our channel partners. The ease of doing business with us is one of the top things on my list because we want to be able to take care of partners and take care of partners quickly. In addition to that, we’ve made some significant investments on the marketing side. So as far as lead generation and leads for our partners, that’s also a top priority. And I’m happy to say that compared to other programs that I’ve run in the past, Bitdefender is better positioned than most with the amount of leads that we’re giving off to our channel partners. So that’s the gift that keeps on [giving].

As far as other changes, we’ll continue to add resources, both on the sales and engineering sides. So I will make a push to make sure all of our partners are certified and current, and really work with them hand in hand to make sure that they know the new technologies that we’re rolling out. We have some really exciting things that have come out over the last few months and I want to make sure that all of our partners are aware of those, and really that education around being able to implement that for their customers is important for me. So you’ll see a push toward additional training and updating of some of the training that we’re offering.

CP: What are some of the latest partner opportunities, things they maybe aren’t all aware of?

JS: The most exciting thing that we offer that’s a new opportunity for both us and our partners are data-center solutions. At Bitdefender, we do have a fantastic, very unique data-center opportunity that is hypervisor level, so it’s one of the most efficient and effective security (offerings) out there today. So I’m seeing partners being able to open doors with that because it’s something that’s very unique to Bitdefender, and then being able to position or pitch the rest of our endpoint protection or next-generation endpoint. Our competitive advantage for both end-users and partners is we can do all three: We can do data center, and we can do endpoint and next-generation endpoint with a single-pane-of-glass management system that all talk to one another so customers and partners don’t have to use different products that don’t integrate well. We have been ranked if not the most, one of the most effective in terms of security … so that’s important. So for our partners who aren’t leading with some of that, that’s the big opportunity for them.

CP: How has Bitdefender moved from a regional to a global structure, and how has that benefited partners?

JS: Bitdefender has gone through tremendous growth over the last few years and will continue. With that growth, obviously [we and] our partners are seeing more global deals, so deals that aren’t specific to a region. So as we grow as a company and look to expand globally – Bitdefender’s been a global company for all 17 years – [and we continue to get more into these global projects, you have to have some type of global structure, rules of engagement if you will, and it starts simply by making sure the channel program and discount structures, and deal registration [are] standard across the globe, and that’s step one which we’ve already taken. And the second, of course, is …

… making sure that we have that alignment across our partner ecosystem so if a partner in the United States has a project overseas, we can help facilitate some partnering of partners if you will, and really get some things accomplished. That’s the advantage of having a global distribution and global channel strategy — it makes those types of projects a lot more capable for us to fulfill.

CP: With threats and breaches at an all-time high, and increasing competition in the market, what does it take to stay competitive in cybersecurity?

JS: Security effectiveness is [how] you’re changing the game. Before, you had a lot of providers and manufacturers doing a really good job on the marketing side, creating awareness and creating a buzz, and people buying their products, but then when it came to actually stopping either the malware or a virus, or some type of security breach, it failed. So we’ve seen a shift in that where, when we’re talking to end users, they really want to have security first and the marketing fluff second. So with us, we do have over a half-billion endpoints that are phoning home to our threat research, and that’s something we’ve grown since the inception of the company. So having that amount of big data to see what’s going on globally – and it is dispersed globally pretty evenly – we’re able to see things that our competition isn’t. And that’s something you can’t buy; you can’t buy threat intelligence. It’s having that ability to look at all of that data and then make decisions, and we do have human beings and also we have machine learning … to help our customers stay protected. And that’s why several third parties have ranked us No. 1 as far as effectiveness. So that’s step one, and then the other is the integration, and having products and solutions that integrate both endpoint and mobile, and Internet of Things (IoT) and data center, which we do, and having that integration really takes away some of the complication because I think everyone in security knows that the more complex your security solution is, the more prone to infiltration. There [are] always mistakes that can be made. So offering our clients and end users that type of solution is key. That’s probably the biggest thing that I see for our partners.

CP: What are you hearing from partners? What are they telling you in terms of what they do and don’t like about working with Bitdefender?

JS: With any partner program, if you don’t have a two-way street for feedback, it’s going to be detrimental to that program. So getting honest and true feedback from partners is important. So that’s why I go to the events. That’s why we’re setting up a partner advisory council for that candid feedback. So far the feedback from both our distribution partners and our partners that are a reseller channel has been very positive. It’s been delightful to hear that the solutions are working as expected, if not better, and more importantly one of the checks I always like to make is …

… how are we doing with margins, are you making money, and we’re good there too. Most partners are ranking us in the top five, if not at the top for margin.

CP: What do you hope to have accomplished a year from now?

JS: My goal is to continue to bring the growth and success that we’ve … had over the last few years here at Bitdefender to all of our partners. The company is growing roughly at 100 percent year over year and my goal for our top partners is to surpass that. I want them to see double or triple growth for a year from now. I want to be able to celebrate their successes and really see how they’ve built businesses and open doors for them. That’s the main goal. As far as other things with the program, one of my goals is to continue to add additional head count to support the channel. We have a pretty decent size team here in the United States and we did add additional head count at our location in Fort Lauderdale … and we have our distribution partners adding head count as well. So really making sure that we’re there and responding quickly to any type of partner need or request. If I can do that over the next 12 months, I think that success is going to come with that.

CP: Any predictions concerning cybercrime and fighting cybercrime?

JS: Just from the personal side, because I’ve been in the security industry since 1998, I think we’re going to see continued malware threats. As we continue to add more IoT devices and more devices connected to the internet, that’s just a numbers game. I think we’re going to see continued larger-scale breaches. So it’s more important than ever to have these layers of security and effective security in place because it’s not going to stop. As we continue to connect more devices to the internet, we’re just increasing the landscape of bad things to happen. It’s going to get worse than get better.

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About the Author(s)

Edward Gately

Senior News Editor, Channel Futures

As news editor, Edward Gately covers cybersecurity, new channel programs and program changes, M&A and other IT channel trends. Prior to Informa, he spent 26 years as a newspaper journalist in Texas, Louisiana and Arizona.

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