Q&A: FireEye CEO And Worldwide Sales EVP Discuss Channel Transformation, Strong Q1 Performance And New Products

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Top FireEye Execs Sound Off

FireEye has been going through a channel transformation – looking to reverse its faltering approach to partners and drive more sales through the channel. In an interview with CRN before the company's first quarter earnings call, CEO Kevin Mandia and EVP of Worldwide Sales Bill Robbins said that push is starting to pay off, with partners starting to re-engage with the Milpitas, Calif.-based security vendor and a strong Q1 earnings report. The executives said that push would continue, with FireEye launching new partner-ready products and continuing to hold true to its new rules of engagement with the channel. That push comes as FireEye also looks to continue to innovate – rolling out a new Helix security platform, HX endpoint security – and push towards profitability. Take a look at what the executives had to say about the company's progress and what to expect in the months to come.

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What were some of the highlights from FireEye's first quarter?

Mandia (pictured): I look at it as a quarter where we did what we said we were going to do. It was kind of a bridging quarter as we strive for growth in the second half of this year. When I got the job about a year ago, I knew we had to create new technology and do so with a sense of urgency: we had to innovate, and we had to restructure our costs. I think we did a great job. When you look at Q1's performance, we did great on the bottom line, and then we did the innovations we needed to do to make sure we have second half growth this year, or at least I believe it postures us well for second half growth.

What jumped out at me most was we were operating at a loss of about $73 million a year ago. This year we brought that down by about $60 million to have a net loss of $13 million. That's good progress ... We have become an efficient company as we transform our products.

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What sort of progress has FireEye seen as it looks to change how it works with partners?

Robbins (pictured): We have to just go out and do what we say we are going to do: execute, repair some damage in some places, and rebuild and focus our effort on the channel. While I think it's an ongoing process, I'm really pleased with what we've done over the past five months. I do believe our results in Q1 are reflective of some of the progress and momentum that we're getting with the channel … [We] acknowledge the partnership and the increased effort that we're seeing from the channel, which is great to see some of that engagement, and maybe people have been willing to give us a chance to make things right and to rebuild … That's a start – it's not the finish line – but we did that over the last five months, and it showed dividends for us in Q1, and I'm pretty optimistic about the balance of the year.

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What evidence do you see that relationships with partners are improving? 

Robbins: A lot of the checks that we do internally, as well as some of the checks that I've seen externally from different market sources and from a number of the Wall Street analysts that cover us, have been at a minimum stabilized to most of them have been positive in terms of the feedback … I think the biggest thing quantitatively is that we saw a pretty meaningful increase in the amount of deal registered opportunities that showed up in our actual results … That's the empirical data. Deal registration is up, and not just deal registrations but also closures as a percentage of our quarterly results. As I look into our Q2 and second half pipeline, I see that part of our business growing as well. When I take all of the more qualitative niceties of channel checks and getting feedback and being on the road and talking to partners and visiting partners and trying to build the relationship side, fundamentally the metrics are also showing improvement, and that gives me a reason for optimism that we're on the right track.

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