Consumer-focused anti-virus vendor BitDefender has set itself the goal of recruiting 400 UK resellers this year as it attempts to re-invent itself as a B2B specialist.
The Bucharest-based firm last year centralised more functions to Romania, hired chief operating officer Charles Arizmendi from Microsoft, and restructured management across the globe including in the UK.
The changes were all designed to pave the way for an SMB assault, and this month the vendor completed the groundwork by unveiling a new SMB product and its first global partner programme.
Currently, consumer generates 60 per cent of BitDefender's billings, with OEM and SMB contributing 20 per cent each. It wants SMB to be 40 per cent of the total by next year and 70 per cent within five years in an acknowledgement that growth in the consumer market it cut its teeth on is slowing. It is also planning an IPO within two or three years.
About seven UK staff left BitDefender as part of the restructuring process, but local headcount has since risen back up to 11 under new northern Europe managing director Peter Barlow.
Global communications director, Vitor Souza, explained: "Charles wasn't happy with the performance and these people didn't really agree with the changes so he decided to reorganise the team here."
Ex AVG and Sophos man Barlow (pictured) said BitDefender would look to build an extensive two-tier channel containing at least 500 active UK resellers by the end of this year.
The vendor recently parted ways with sole UK distributor C-MI Labs because "the partnership was not taking us to where we wanted to go", according to Barlow.
CMI serviced about 100 VARs. However, two new distributors should be on board within weeks, with the first due to be announced just as CRN went to press. "[The first distributor] has a team of 50 inside sales people and we will work closely with them to do call-out days," said Barlow.
"We need that coverage to be able to break into the SMB market seriously. We also have contract negotiations that are ongoing for larger direct deals, which will help with brand awareness."
Adam Trussler, sales director at CMI, said the distributor parted with BitDefender on good terms. "The way their margins worked didn't suit us but we wish them all the best," he said.
Launched earlier this month, BitDefender's Business Solutions v3.5 is designed for companies with between 25 and 1,000 heads and boasts new network audit and systems management capabilities.
Andrew Maguire, global director of Business Security marketing, said v3.5 was "remarkably different" from BitDefender's previous SMB offerings, which he conceded lacked teeth. "When we first released the SMB product in 2006, it was built in an engineering cocoon and we ended up eating a lot of crow.
"But we have taken a good look at our target audience, SMBs, and have built a product to meet their needs and not one that engineering thinks meets their needs."
Maguire added that BitDefender would pick its battles carefully. "We do not want to go toe to toe in deals with Symantec and McAfee, who can scale to 275,000 nodes. But the SMB guys are an afterthought and do not want to invest in Symantec or McAfee as there is so much functionality they will never use. We now have a lean, mean solution tailored to their requirements," he said.
BitDefender's new four-tier Partner Advantage Network introduces rebates and sales development funds. Top-tier Premier partners can earn up to nine per cent rebate on top of the discounts that they enjoyed under the previous programme.
BitDefender is aiming to be a top-five SMB player globally within two years, with the US, UK and Germany its three priority countries.
Souza concluded: "We were always a consumer company. But there are 11 players in this market and the way in which we are differentiating ourselves from this pack is by moving into SMB with dedicated resource.
"In terms of the restructuring, the firing and hiring, the new product and the new partner programme, we had to implement them all to become fully dedicated to SMB," he added.
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