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New Unitrends CEO Kevin Weiss: Our mantra is 'everything cloud'

New Unitrends CEO Kevin Weiss says he needs to build the company's brand awareness and wants to grow through acquisition and organically.

Coming off a busy 2014, backup vendor Unitrends began 2015 with a CEO change. Mike Coney is out, and Kevin Weiss has taken charge of the integrated appliance and cloud backup company. Weiss is a former CEO of SkyMall, president of McAfee and executive at IBM and BMC Software.

We spoke with Weiss about his to-do list at Unitrends, which includes making the company better known, embedding cloud capabilities throughout its products, completing more acquisitions, and perhaps pursuing an initial public offering (IPO).

Why did you go to Unitrends?

Weiss: The first reason is the data protection market is continuing to expand. It's probably north of $5 billion and still growing in high single digits or low double digits. It's not going to slow down. So there's a big opportunity there. Second, Unitrends has done a bang-up job in building well-constructed products. They have worked work hard at making doing business with Unitrends simple. And they've really worked hard at trying to make it simple to use the products. Simplicity is an incredibly hard thing to accomplish.

The other thing that attracted me to Unitrends was it is a fairly unknown company in the market. In first quarter, we'll probably pass $100 million in billings on an annual basis, and that's a substantial milestone for a tech company. Most companies don't get anywhere close to that. Generally, when you see a $100 million company, they've done a good job of letting people know they're there and people know about them, even if they don't use them. That's not the case with Unitrends, and for me that represents a huge opportunity for the company to focus on marketing and brand awareness.

Why isn't Unitrends better known?

Weiss: I don't think the company spent all that much money to do what I call "Big C" marketing, which is corporate marketing. It's almost a badge of accomplishment in some places where you don't spend much money on corporate marketing and you still grow your business. But if you start to spend a few dollars on brand awareness, you can pick up the growth rates pretty dramatically.

We will spend money on brand awareness and marketing. We're not going to buy Super Bowl ads -- I'm still waiting for one time in my career when I can do that -- but we will do it thoughtfully.

The second thing we will do to improve brand awareness is invest heavily in the channel.

There are a lot of backup vendors out there. Who do you see as your main competitors?

Weiss: It is a crowded market, isn't it? There are some really big players that have been around for a while, and there are a lot of people in this space that you might call ankle-biters. But the fact they're in this space means they're doing something that customers find as value.

The first competitor is us. We've been our own worst enemy even though we've been growing nicely. We haven't put ourselves out there and let people know who we are and what we do. We have 13,000 customers who have bought [products] from us.

I can't really point to one outside villain that we rally around to take down. Clearly Symantec is going through a rough spot, but they will eventually get their sea legs under them after they do the split. Veeam Software has done a terrific job at creating strong channel relationships and going after the smaller end of the market. Barracuda was a big competitor of ours when I was at McAfee. Now they're a formidable competitor in the backup space.

You just mentioned competitors at the high and low ends of the market. Where do you see Unitrends mainly competing?

Weiss: At the high end, we will get pulled into larger corporations, but those will be opportunistic for us. We will focus our attention on continuing to expand the mid-market segment and fill out the low end of our product offerings.

We've grown our business in the small segment, but there's a big opportunity down there for us to embed cloud in everything we do and come up with premium solutions for smaller companies who are looking for robust solutions that are simple to use.

Where do you see the cloud playing in backup? Will it be used mainly by smaller companies, or will we see large companies using cloud for their backups?

Weiss: Certain applications will find their way into public clouds, but I think large companies will mostly use private clouds. With midmarket and small companies, the mantra for us has to be "everything cloud." We talk about how [we can] ensure that every solution we sell is cloud-enabled. We've done a good job creating cloud-based offerings in our product line, and this is the year we have to accelerate the growth rate for our installed customers and new customers we bring onboard.

Over the last 13 months, Unitrends acquired PHD Virtual and cloud backup startup Yuruware? How is the integration going with those acquisitions?

Weiss: We're not completely finished with the integration of those acquisitions. I'm focused now on ensuring that distribution strategy is solid so our products can find way to new customers. Once we have that distribution strategy clearly defined, I'm ready to go out and do more acquisitions.

But we're not going to grow solely through acquisitions. We will continue to rely on our engineering team.

Unitrends is owned by Insight Venture Partners. Are there plans to take the company public?

Weiss: There should be no confusion on anybody's part. We're owned by a private equity firm and their intention is not to own us for life. In the near future, we will begin to think about what we want to be. A public offering clearly is an opportunity for this company, particularly if we do things we're capable of doing. But you should always prepare to run your company as a standalone entity and grow like crazy, and those things tend to take care of themselves.

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