Kaspersky aims for No. 3 position

I know how the headline sounds. It tells me that Kaspersky Lab, based in Moscow, isn’t interested in winning. Since the Green Bay Packers are in this weekend’s NFL Super Bowl I have to bring up their great coach Vince Lombardi’s message: “Winning isn't everything, but it's the only thing. In our business, there is no second place. Either you're first or you're last.”

I remember interviewing Paul Curlander, CEO of Lexmark a few years ago, who told me that being No. 2 to HP is great for the company. That comment never really sat well with me and if you look at Lexmark struggles today with not just HP, but also Ricoh, Brother and others distancing themselves from the Lexington, Kentucky-based printer manufacturer (in Canada)  it sends the wrong message to your channel partners.

I didn’t get the same feeling about Kaspersky’s goal to become the No. 3 player. Eugene Buyakin, the COO of the Internet security developer said that to describe the company’s past growth. He said that in 2008 Kaspersky was 4 per cent of the market. In 2009 they got 5.8 per cent of the market. Buyakin estimates that in 2010 Kaspersky will be 7.5 per cent of the market and he is confident that the company can reach No. 3 status and that’s the goal.

Now I believe vendors owe it to the channel to always reach for the brass ring. I think solution providers who are interested in partnering with you want to know the company is interested in winning.

But Buyakin’s statement to me seams reasonable. If he said the goal was to displace Symantec and take over the No. 1 position in 2011 he would be ridiculed. The Kaspersky partner conference in Mexico is not like every other partner conference I usually attend. Most of the partner conferences are exercises in cheerleading and making bold announcements or super hyping products, executives or the company.

Kaspersky, not being a North American company, takes a different approach. This is why Buyakin’s goals didn’t surprise me. It really isn’t about being No. 3 or as he quipped to get the bronze medal but to grow and be consistent. He talked about regional expansion, new sales tools for the channel and investing in product development as part of the growth plan.

If you look at his latest move, the partnership with global investment firm General Atlantic the path is about growth. Buyakin said that the General Atlantic announcement is about taking the company to another level. General Atlantic will help Kaspersky with acquisitions for example. You have to understand that Kaspersky has grown organically and the company’s main source of revenue comes from retail. He has realized that partnerships such as General Atlantic will enable the security vendor to reach No. 3 and who knows what they can achieve in the future. General Atlantic can also help Kaspersky with an IPO. Sure the company can do that on its own, but how legitimate would that look to serious investors? Growing organically is great, but it will not sustain the business long term and Buyakin understands this, in my opinion.

Buyakin told the crowd of partners, about 15 from Canada, that in 2011 the goal is to reach $750 million. That’s not a sexy number. It’s not in the billions which would get a lot of people’s attention, but it’s also realistic and consistent with its growth strategy.

And, there is nothing wrong with that.

One quick hit before I go. A source with knowledge of the situation told me that Synnex Canada plans a soft-lay off of workers who deal with American-based solution providers in Canada.

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