Rising Stars 2020: The cybersecurity start-up

Doug Woodburn
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Rising Stars 2020: The cybersecurity start-up

This Q&A appears in CRN's 2020 Rising Stars report, which highlights some of the most dynamic, profitable and fastest-growing resellers, MSPs and consultancies featured in CRN's recently released VAR 350.

The full Rising Stars report can be viewed here (brief registration process required)

Founded: 2014

Key vendor: Check Point

VAR 350 ranking: 294

Revenue: £9.7m (+42%)

Net profit margin: 6.9%

Pentesec claims it broke the mould when it launched in 2014 with a "technically led" approach to the market. It is now a near £10m-revenue firm, as MD Ian Turnbull explains

Pentesec's launch in 2014 was predicated on frustrations you had with "fundamental flaws" you'd encountered within the security reseller channel. How does Pentesec do things differently?

Before Pentesec, our directors had decades of experience working at the forefront of the security industry as independent consultants and technical experts for major security organisations. We experienced a lack of consistency when it came to technical knowledge and capability. Many partners were behind the curve on how the landscape was evolving, and relationships seemed heavily focused on brokering business, and less concerned about maintaining technical expertise and meeting customer needs.

We set up Pentesec to deliver what we thought the channel lacked. A technically led, specialist consultancy that resells, and maintains a high standard of knowledge across all staff. We engage with vendors at a much deeper level, interacting behind the scenes with product architects and designers to actively drive changes that better meet our customer's needs.

What would you attribute your growth and profitability to?

We feel there is a genuine gap in the channel for a strategic and technically led sales process. In our experience, vendors are keen to work with capable partners. We listen to what the customer needs and propose a solution that focuses on delivering that well into the future.

Our growth has come from heavy investments in our managed service platform, our customer portal, emerging technologies and opening our own training centre. We've trailblazed a wide range of solutions, dispatching our consultants to learn and work on projects that make them outstanding experts in their field. They engage with vendors, proposing updates and giving feedback that shapes their work and affects what we sell moving forward. This all feeds in to the message that we deliver to our customers and the work we do, and it helps us to continue to break the mould of the traditional reseller.

What are your long-term ambitions for Pentesec?

We want to be considered a top security partner worldwide. To that end, we would like to see continued growth in the UK and are also seeing interest in other regions, which we are pursuing.

We've increased our service portfolio over the past 12 months and aim to become a top partner for more tier-one vendors.

Is there a new trend or requirement you have spotted that you are fulfilling, or a new approach to the market that you're taking that is novel or marks you out in some way?

We integrate ourselves with the vendors we work with, suggesting product changes and providing constant feedback to help them improve on things that our customers find difficult or frustrating. Acting as an extension of their team gives us an edge on looking ahead to the future. Knowing the people who build the products we work with improves the support and the advice we provide.

We've invested heavily in our training centre, which we offer to vendors, customers and other channel members alike, in an attempt to raise technical standards across the industry. Training is a great supplement to what we do, as our consultants are constantly learning new and interesting skills which they are then feeding back through our courses.

How will successful channel firms need to reshape their businesses in the 2020s?

Non-technical resellers will struggle to keep up with new technology and new vendors entering the market. It is hard to maintain focus within an environment that endures constant change.

There will be a lot of opportunities to reinvent across the next 10 years and there is always something new to keep on top of. Many customers expect deep expert advice from the suppliers and as a channel we need to keep each other ‘honest' by challenging thought processes and outdated approaches.

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