In a game-changing move yesterday for the SMB channel, AVG announced that it acquired the business of LPI Level Platforms, which includes the company’s NOC, RMM and Managed Workplace platform. Obviously, the news might have come as a surprise to some in the industry, and also many are probably wondering how AVG and LPI became “hooked up” in the first place.
If I were an LPI partner, my first question would be: “How will this acquisition change my business?” For me, as an editor, I of course wanted to know even more, such as: “Was LPI talking to any other companies?” “Why did LPI decide on AVG, and not another anti-virus company?” Since my curiosity almost always gets the best of me, I did some digging around and made a few calls…here is what I have so far in terms of the responses to my questions. If I find out more, I will be sure to let you all know.
1.) Why AVG? Many are probably wondering why LPI decided to cut a deal with AVG, over other competing anti-virus companies such as Symantec and McAfee. Many might also be wondering that the deal is a “knee-jerk” reaction to SolarWinds acquiring N-able last month.
I spoke with an unnamed source who told me that an acquisition of LPI by Symantec had actually been a topic of conversation at LPI in recent months. The source added that the acquisition was one that was a long time coming, and definitely not in response to the SolarWinds/N-able deal. “They (LPI) had been flogging the company for quite some time,” the source shared. “I also suspect it has to do with Peter (Sandiford) wanting to retire at some point. (Note: Sandiford is not retiring; he is remaining with the company as VP of business development). There were also rumors that they were talking to other companies for years, and one that was rumored to be involved was Symantec….it was known as the ‘worst-kept secret’ within LPI.”
While the source didn’t divulge why (or why not) the Symantec deal did not go through, they did offer that the talks with Symantec went on “for quite some time,” and ended with Symantec ultimately not being interested. The source added that they heard in recent weeks that AVG was readying to acquire LPI, and that a deal would be announced shortly.
2.) How will the Acquisition Change LPI’s MSPs Business Models?: Of course, whenever there is change, everyone will do one of two things: freak out, or just roll with it. Obviously, with any acquisition, the main question on an MSP’s mind is: “How will this affect my business, and how I service my customers.” Many also are probably wondering if they will now be obligated to sell AVG to their customers, if they weren’t already an AVG partner. To get additional insight on this, I spoke with a few longtime Level Platforms partners who shared their thoughts on the acquisition. While all had different views, the one common theme was their reaction to the deal, one that was of both “shock and surprise.”
“My first thought was: ‘Why?’ I couldn’t figure out what to make of it,” said LPI partner Charles Love, who is Director of Service and Cloud Operations at Tampa, Fla.-based Big Sur Technologies. “But we live in a world where printer companies are now snapping up MSPs left and right…printer companies have been in the MSP game forever, so it only makes sense that an anti-virus company would have an interest in LPI.”
Love added that it will be interesting to see what transpires in the next few weeks, especially since LPI is holding its partner conference in Las Vegas next week. His main query was: “Will LPI going to operate as its own business unit, or will it be dissolved into the anti-virus company. He admitted his hope is for the former, that LPI remain as a separate business unit, mainly because of the unique culture and the strength of the product that he has been providing his customers for six-plus years. “The reason I stay with LPI is because of the culture there and their products,” Love told me. “If something is going down, I can make a call, and I get help right away. My hopes are that they don’t change too much…granted they will have additional cash flow as a result of the acquisition, but hopefully that will be used toward development.”
Another concern Love had was that he hopes LPI remains vendor-agnostic and channel-friendly. “LPI has always been good about not pushing specific vendors or agendas,” he said. “They let the partners use the tool the way that they want. “I am a huge user of the NOC and help desk with LPI, and in fact 35 percent of my customers rely on this, so I hope nothing will change in these areas.”
Other LPI partners, such as Ed Mana, Ower and Technologist of Technology on Demand, based in Yorktown Heights, NY, were in agreement with Love regarding the surprise surrounding the acquisition. Mana says he is not worried at all regarding the company’s culture and the product, as long as things continue to remain on the same path. "The acquisition of LPI by AVG came as a total shock to me. Who owns the company is not as important to me as the product and the people who I work with on a regular basis,” he said. “As long as AVG keeps the LPI team in place and continues on the path that LPI has been going, then I am not worried at all.”
Mana concurred with Love regarding his hopes for a vendor-neutral culture going forward. “I also feel it is important for LPI to keep the vendor-agnostic approach to their product. While it may be a bit harder now, since there are other products in the AVG stable such as their endpoint and BDR solutions, as long as they keep this approach, in my opinion, will help maintain the loyalty of the existing LPI partner-base,” he said. “Lastly, with significant capital and resources behind them, LPI can now do more than it ever thought possible."
Sean Furman, an LPI partner, who is President of New Jersey-based STF Consulting, said that he doesn’t really have an opinion about the acquisition, and feels that people should just: “Keep calm, and carry on.” “Since the announcement was made yesterday, I have heard so many different reactions,” Furman said. “People are acting as though everything is going to change in a matter of days. I’m indifferent about the acquisition. Basically, as long as LPI keeps doing what they are doing, then that’s good by me.”
Similar to both Love and Mana, Furman also expressed his concern regarding LPI remaining vendor-agnostic. But, he added that he does have faith in LPI as a company in that they will do right by the partners. “People can make their own assumptions about this acquisition,” he said. “But the employees (at LPI) are just as much as concerned as we are as partners regarding the future.”
Furman added that he spoke to Urvish Badiani yesterday, who is LPI’s Partner Development Manager. He said Badiani reassured him of the statement above, in that the partners will come first, as they always have with LPI. “If the acquisition will allow us to have additional resources, and as long as we can conduct business as usual, then there is really no reason to get worked up about it,” Furman added.
In fact, to put it bluntly, Furman feels that entirely too much time is being spent on speculations, assumptions and just rumors and gossip related to this acquisition. “IT people love drama,” he surmised. “I mean, we deal with servers all day, so when something like this happens, it gives everyone something to talk about. As an MSP, you should be focusing on how to get more recurring revenue, selling agreements and using your RMM to its fullest potential. To put it bluntly, I am not interested in drama and gossip. What I am interested in, however, is providing my clients with the best services money can buy, which I have done so for the last 7 years with LPI; so why would I not want to see anything other than the best moving forward…I am not going to freak out and switch my services just because of an acquisition.”