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Top Gun 51 Profile: Privafy’s Pai Out to ‘Disrupt a Really Stagnant Market’

Top Gun 51 CP CF 2020 Main Colors

Newcomer Privafy wants to change how businesses approach cybersecurity. Founded in 2019, the company has developed a cloud-native platform that protects data in motion against a variety of threats: DoS/DDoS, viruses, ransomware and more. At the same time, the technology adheres to various regulatory requirements such as GDPR and HIPAA. Privafy’s products work across different domains, including cloud, applications, routers, internet of things devices and the network edge.

Guru Pai started Privafy last year. And when he did so, he made the indirect channel an integral part of the company’s sales structure. Pai has worked with partners for years at companies including Verizon, Sonus Networks and AT&T. As a result, he sees managed service providers, managed security service providers, system integrators, distributors and other channel players as vital to Privafy’s success.

“Since Day 1 of the company, I had the channel as an inherently key part of our strategy,” Pai tells Channel Partners.

Earlier this year, Channel Partners named Pai a Top Gun 51 award winner. Launched in 2018, the Top Gun 51 recognizes premier leaders in the indirect IT and telecom channel. Three criteria went into selecting this year’s group:

  • advocacy for the channel
  • commitment to partners’ business success
  • dedication to earning the channel’s trust

Pai stood out for his channel advocacy. In this Q&A, he talks with Channel Partners about his history with the channel, his intent for Privafy partners, the effects of COVID-19 on sales, operations and communication, diversity issues, and plans for partners going into 2021. This Q&A has been edited for clarity.

Channel Partners: How did you first become involved in the channel? Was it part of your overall career plan?

Guru Pai: I think it actually was more circumstantial. I started my career at Bell Labs in product design and architecture. Over many, many years of deregulation and the evolution of the wireless industry, the number of points of sale started increasingly rapidly. The implications of what we had to do on the build side for channel started to change, and enabling the channel started to change, economics started to change … The evolution of the channel has been synonymous with evolution of telecom and networking. What used to be boxes is more and more in software and services. … Channel isn’t just a sales or marketing skillset – it also becomes a critical part of product and services because it all has to work together.

CP: What three main channel goals have you accomplished during your Privafy tenure so far?

GP: The first one is awareness. [We’re] a new company with new technology, trying to disrupt the existing setup. We have to increase product awareness and market need. The second is to make sure that we’ve been very clear and articulate about the value to the channel of working with Privafy. This is both an economic question as well as an ease-of-doing-business question. And then the third thing is really on the product side – to make sure the technology itself works with the infrastructure that the channel has set up for itself. Most of the channel companies involved in distribution now also have made investments in their own go-to-market and operations infrastructure.

CP: What makes a channel program successful, and why?

GP: Win-win is an often-used, very rarely implemented term, but I think in this case there are actually three wins here: from the economic, strategic and supply perspectives, companies have to win. [Privafy is] economically straightforward. We want to make sure we give partners sufficient margins and profits so they’re enthusiastic. On the technology side, it has to be sticky and persistent, so that they don’t have to go out every day and keep selling to get revenue. You’re annuitizing what used to be a physical good. That becomes pretty significant and the channel, when partners win in that sense, their operating economics get materially better.

CP: One of the reasons you earned a Top Gun 51 award is due to the way you value the channel. Talk more about why that is and what motivates you to meet channel partners’ needs.

GP: One of the things we believed in on day zero … was that we wanted to disrupt a really stagnant market. Typically when you think about cybersecurity, it’s very tech-heavy. … And the challenge is that these people are not cheap and there’s not a lot of them. … Cybersecurity is such a big piece of the IT and networking investment that the channel needs to participate in that market. And today they struggle…

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