Egnyte EMEA chief Ian McEwan: On customer demand, channel strategy and challenges

Picture credit: Egnyte

Feature Enterprise file sharing provider Egnyte has hired Ian McEwan to head up its nascent EMEA operation – and after a “hectic” first five weeks, the former Gigamon sales VP and founder member of the Cloud Industry Forum is rolling up his sleeves and getting on with the challenge.

Egnyte’s proposition is straightforward. The company tailors itself as being ‘built from the cloud down’. In other words, you need a hybrid mix of cloud and on-premise for enterprise to store and share files securely. Chief exec and co-founder Vineet Jain is such a firm believer in this his Twitter handle is @CloudNotEnough.

McEwan certainly fits the bill in terms of buying into the company ethos. In a previous role at FrontRange Solutions, competing against the likes of ServiceNow and BMC in service management, the European strategy revolved around a hybrid approach. “We made some very big inroads to some customers,” he notes.

Not needing to learn the ropes this time around, the strategy for Egnyte is to continue where FrontRange left off.

“From my perspective, the marketplace and the number of vendors in that space will start to consolidate, and it’ll be interesting to see what the customer is driving from their demands,” McEwan tells CloudTech. “You look at some of the vendors, they’ve got very large market penetration, but a lot of that is on a zero cost to the consumer, which is very hard to sustain when you have to keep continually investing in R&D.”

As McEwan notes, it’s a pretty crowded marketplace. With 19 vendors on the latest Gartner enterprise file synchronisation and share (EFSS) Magic Quadrant, it represents an industry sector with many fingers in many pies. You’ve got your cloud storage players in Box and Dropbox, your hyper vendors in Google, Microsoft and IBM, and enterprise mobility companies in AirWatch.

A lot of companies forgot about the most important words in front of reseller - the value add

Egynte is positioned at the very high end of the niche players category at bottom left. At the time Gartner noted Egynte’s strengths in being 100% enterprise-focused and openness to partnership, but cited two key weaknesses; unproven on-premises model and – you guessed it – a lack of investment in Europe.

McEwan explains that the whole of EMEA is fair game, although the most interest for Egnyte’s solutions for now is in the Middle East, Nordics and Benelux. In other words, Egnyte “probably” won’t be following the standard roadmap of American software companies wanting to get a foothold across the Atlantic, targeting the UK, then Germany, France, Italy, Spain, and so on.

“In a way I’m saying we’re going to go after the market from an EMEA perspective, but if I drill down on that a little bit, I’m probably going to focus on some of our key verticals, where we’re finding our hybrid approach resonates very well with the business and IT,” McEwan says.

“That’s construction, retail, manufacturing, and to be honest it’s anywhere people are sending large amounts of data, and they want to do it in a controlled environment.

“We’re not going to be bound by country, but we’re going to focus on what we do well and execute against that,” he adds.

McEwan is under no illusions of the board’s expectations; “certainly high double digit...if not three digit” year on year growth, he says. There’s plenty of slack from the board, but not too much; he adds that he’s in regular contact with the board and CEO Jain, but has autonomy to “put his footprint and signature to the growth of the company.”

For now, the company appears in no big hurry to do anything as drastic as going public. When Jain spoke to CloudTech back in April to announce European expansion, he described a “little slow and deliberate” style of leadership, in stark contrast to some of Egnyte’s competitors.

Nowhere was this more exemplified than when Jain refused the board’s request to open up a European branch last year. “You need to strengthen into a specific territory before you go and fight another war,” he said.

For McEwan, who went through an IPO with Gigamon, it’s a similar route.

“I would rather focus on where we’re going to really grow and develop, and put the investment there, and go to the board with investment requests based on business models, rather than getting bodies and heads into an organisation and then finding we don’t have a strategy to support that,” he explains.

“You just have to look at some of the S-1 filings that are out there, or companies about to go IPO. It’s got to be a balanced scorecard, it’s got to show the growth, it’s got to show international growth, but it’s also got to balance up the cost versus the revenues – and there are some companies out there burning multi-million dollar payments that came in from the VCs on a monthly basis.”

One of the keys McEwan frequently pointed out is to beef up both the direct sales strategy and indirect sales through the channel. As he puts it, it’s about getting the balance right.

“Ultimately it’s going to be a customer’s decision in which way he wants to go, and nine times out of 10 it’s not just a commercial decision”, says McEwan. “It’s not a sales guy from the vendor saying ‘come with us directly and we’ll give you an extra 10% off.’

McEwan is under no illusions of the board’s expectations; “certainly high double digit, if not three digit” year on year growth

“I think for a long period of time a lot of companies forgot about the most important words in front of reseller...the value add,” he adds. “From a European perspective we know what our target markets are going to be, and we know that complementing some current technology vendors will help us grow, and will help their partner community to stave off some competitive threats from other vendors.”

This includes storage partners and cloud-based security partners, McEwan confirmed. It all goes back to Gartner’s strengths for Egnyte in EFSS: “open to partnering where it does not have to skills in-house.” It’s certainly something some vendors could learn from.

The immediate future for Egnyte in Europe involves several key hires, building up the new European headquarters in Stockley Park, in Heathrow, and then planning for next year.

As the oft-repeated, rarely-learned story of oligarch sports teams goes, a glut of great players at gratuitous expense in one go rarely gels. It’s very similar in business. To that end, McEwan will be overseeing an onboarding process, getting two key US employees across the pond to oversee things for up to two years.

“It’s going to be a controlled and steady growth, but I’m also very conscious that this window is getting smaller and smaller from an opportunity perspective,” he adds. “Every day that’s gone by that we haven’t been able to promote our position is an opportunity that’s gone by the wayside for at least the limited term of the contract with the competitors.

“But we are finding we’re having lots of conversations with customers who would have traditionally or initially gone with one of the other vendors, but started to realise some of the business or technology limitations. We’re finding a bit of interest coming from what I would call second generation clients, who have already put the foot into a file sync and share company.

“I think it’s going to be a steady growth, but steady growth is something that can be measured in doing a couple of things right, and that’s focusing on the customer, getting the right channel strategy, and fulfilling those requirements.”

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20 Feb 2015, 5:37 a.m.

There are many on-premise and public cloud alternatives to Egnyte. Here is a great head to head comparison of all popular file sharing solutions for enterprises.