**Editor’s Note: This is part of a series spotlighting our Channel Partners/Channel Futures Channel Influencers of the Year, selected by our editorial team for innovation in the “new channel.” (Read our profiles of Comcast Business’ Craig Schlagbaum, Forrester’s Jay McBain,TPx’s Hilary Gadda, 8×8’s John DeLozier, Office Depot’s Janet Schijns and BitTitan’s Geeman Yip, as well as our Influencer of the Year, Microsoft’s Gavriella Schuster.**
When you meet Rob Rae, vice president of business development at backup and disaster recovery provider Datto, and a Channel Partners/Channel Futures Influencer of the Year, you’d never guess he spent the first 12 years of his career at a bank. Ironically, the charismatic channel leader realized he’d never find the kind of monetary success he was aiming for in finance, where he spent his days plugging away at other people’s investment portfolios and loan structures, so he cast his eyes toward sales. A former coworker hooked him up with a sales-management job at Compaq, and despite not knowing anything about IT, Rae found he had a knack for slinging hardware.
It was the turn of the century, and the IT world was changing fast. HP acquired Compaq, managed services were on the rise and recurring revenue was on everyone’s minds. Rae was doing well at the tech giant, but it was slow going moving up the ladder of such a big corporation where coloring outside the lines wasn’t exactly encouraged. He wanted to help define the next curve of IT, not sell the same hardware for the same commissions to the same traditional channel. The industry was moving fast toward software, and Rae wanted in on the managed-services action.
In 2004, Rae moved to Level Platforms, a Canadian provider of remote monitoring and management (RMM) software. The new gig checked off many of his boxes. He was at a small software provider for a booming field, and he had a lot of freedom and flexibility that had been lacking at HP Compaq. It was a good time to get into the space. It was young, chaotic and full of opportunity, and Rae rode the managed-services wave at Level Platforms for the better part of a decade, helping to shape it into a company that reflected what would become the modern channel.
Rae was making the conference and trade-show circuit, and other vendors in the space, even those that dealt in non-competing technologies, looked on in frustration and envy as Level Platforms won award after award. One of those players was the young founder and CEO of a small backup and disaster recovery provider called Datto, Austin McCord.
In 2013, AVG joined the legion of larger companies snapping up small software manufacturers and bought out Level Platforms, presenting a prime opportunity for Rae to take a look at his career and see if there were any moves to be made. Long about that time, McCord called with an offer Rae couldn’t refuse: Come build communities at Datto. Five years later, Datto is owned by a private equity company, McCord runs one of the most dynamic and fast-growing players in the channel and Rae’s built a robust, energetic worldwide partner community, one conversation at a time.
Now Is the Time
If you’re trying to find Rae at any industry conference, especially one sponsored by Datto, just look and listen. He’ll either be in the center of the biggest crowd generating the most belly laughs or …