Q&A: Acronis CEO Serguei Beloussov

Serguei Beloussov is one of the founders and currently the CEO of backup and disaster recovery software vendor, Acronis. He maintains 21-year track record in building, growing and leading high-performing, multi-national tech companies in North America, Europe and Asia. He is also a senior partner at Runa Capital venture fund, executive chairman of Parallels, co-founder of venture fund, Qwave Capital which supports advanced quantum technologies. He is also a founder, main investor and chairman of cloud ERP vendor, Acumatica.

Beloussov left Acronis after a few years, but has stepped back at the helm in the past 18 months. He spoke to ARN's Julia Talevski about his comeback to the business, the changes that have been made and their first partner summit held in Singapore.

What were your reasons for leaving and coming back to Acronis

I was the company founder and majority shareholder, but I was not really involved in day to day operations. I was focused on running another company called Parallels and then I started a venture fund. I only came back to Acronis about a year ago and from that point onwards we had a lot of changes.

I have a very simple formula for running the company. We want to do some useful and good things that are valuable to our customers. We want to make money, grow and we want to be number one. These are the three things I want to do, and I believe I can grow the company 10 fold in a relatively short time from a multi-hundred million dollar business to a multi-hundred billion dollar business, in terms of revenue. Acronis has revenues of more than $US150 million.

Our strategy is highly partner focused and everything we do is through partners. We don't do any direct business, so if we can make money, that means our partners can make money and be the leaders in their field.

When you first founded the business, did you ever think it would get to the point where it is today

I started a slightly different business back then and I split Acronis off that business in 2004 formally. Acronis was a very simple company at the time, it was just focused on backup. Today it's focused on backup, disaster recovery, secure access and storage. It was about making money by doing useful products. We never thought it would grow that big, but if you choose the right market segment and focus on the right strategy, then you'll grow as big as the market segment allows.

We have offices in 18 countries and we moved our headquarters from Boston in US, to Singapore. We co-ordinate a lot of our sales and marketing activities from Singapore now.

What are some of the significant changes you have made to the business

We've changed our product strategy, product names and pricing. We also changed our partner strategy and geographical focus.

It's about three things - business processes; product development and back office strategies and processes. In almost every area, we've made changes. We have a new back office team and systems, new geographical focus and operations, and lots of new products and go-to-market strategies.

The brand is probably the only thing that hasn't changed and we're still solving the same problems for customers, which is protecting their data.

What's your vision for the company in the next few months

The focus for the company will be to build a cloud solutions business that will enable our partners to become cloud service providers. Also, helping our partners make huge profits from offering data protection services to their customers.

One thing I'll be doing is visiting Australia and maybe New Zealand to talk to partners - distributors, system integrators and service providers. Our new product roadmap is very busy and we'll be adding new functionality to our products, particularly in the cloud application space.

Read more:Acronis makes aggressive ANZ channel play

Acronis recently held its partner summit in Singapore, what were some the key messages that you have for your partners

One of the main messages for partners was that we believe many of them will benefit from learning how to do distribute cloud services and how to become cloud service providers. How they should also service their customers rather than just selling a product like they did in the past.

The partner summit that we had in November was the first one we've had in Asia Pacific. This region is now our main focus. It's about 25 - 30 per cent of our business today, but it's a high growth region. In September, we moved our headquarters to Singapore and we intend that half of our revenue will be coming out of this region in the next five years.

At the summit we wanted to meet our partners and talk to them about the changes in our product strategy, focus on the cloud and new products like - Acronis Access. There's also some new products coming out around data protection and storage. Most importantly, it was the first time we brought about 200 partners into one place and told them about our focus on the region and making it successful.

What was the feedback from partners

It was positive feedback. It's a rapidly growing market in data management services and software. We believe the global market in 2016 will be worth around $30 billion with an average growth of 30 per cent. There's a lot of segments in the market and we don't address all of them, but there are some major growth opportunities there, which presents a way for our partners to make money.

What are some the top technology trends that will dominate the market in the next year

The big trends in the next year are cloud, BYOD, mobility and data.

One of the things that we can afford to focus on is data management. In that field there are a number of trends and challenges that are brought on when employees bring their own devices into the office.

Across these devices employees synchronise and share data, which aren't on the corporate network.

The other trends are virtualisation and cloud. In the past, data was kept on premise and in control of the business, all of a sudden now, data is everywhere. Virtualised data is very fluid and it can be in different locations and different applications can use different data sources.

There's also a big trend in the amount of data and the importance of it. With Big Data, companies are also learning how they can extract money from data and make profit by managing data and not just make the business more productive.

What are some of your biggest achievements in your career so far

I hope that will still happen in my career. Acronis and Parallels are reasonable companies, both are profitable and growing. They are probably some of the largest companies to come out of this region, but they're still a work in progress.

What is your secret to building a company from the ground up

There are three simple things that are important, in addition to good luck. Besides that, there's hard work, a good team and tenacity, never stop in front of obstacles. You also need to have a desire to move forward from your business mistakes.

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Julia Talevski

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