Photo: Twitter/Todd McKinnon
Here’s one thing they never tell you in business school: No matter how successful and loved you are at your current company, if you leave for a startup, there will be friction.That was one of the hard lessons that Todd McKinnon learned when he left a sweet gig as senior vice president of engineering at Salesforce.com to found cloud security startup Okta.
He loved that job. And it loved him. He had been there since 2003 and grew his team grew from 15 people to over 250 engineers.
But by 2009, he had this nagging idea for his own company. What if companies could use the cloud to manage employee passwords and logins?
That’s what Okta does: manages user accounts and logins for Web applications.
“Salesforce was going very well for me, and the company was doing very well,” he remembers. But, “I couldn’t sit there and watch someone else build this new kind of cloud.”
He wasn’t really a startup kind of guy. Before Salesforce he had worked for years at PeopleSoft. But in 2009, he left his great job anyway.
Salesforce was not happy.
“The people from Salesforce did not invest in Okta,” he says. “There was a lot of tension around engineers who would come join me. Remember, I was running engineering there. When I left they were very concerned.”
McKinnon was worried, too.
“Why do startups get started by people out of school? Once you have hundreds of people working for you and you’re making a tons of money, it’s hard to give up. When you walk out on your own, it’s a shock. The company you used to be a part of is not going to support you.”
Flash forward about three years and Okta is doing fine supporting him, cofounder Frederic Kerrest (also from Salesforce), and about 75 other employees.
Here’s where things stand:
- Okta has over 100 paying enterprise customers (and 300,000 individual users) from the likes of Pandora, Pabst Brewing Company, TDW, LinkedIn, SuccessFactors, Taleo, Jive and Lithium.
- It taps into more than 1,500 apps from companies like Cisco, Google, Microsoft, Oracle, Taleo, Salesforce, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
- It securely processes more than five million logins a month.
And he was right about the competition too. Okta isn’t alone. It dukes it out with Symplified, Ping Identity, and others.
Okta has raised $27 million from Andreessen Horowitz, Floodgate, Greylock Partners, Khosla Ventures and a bunch of angels.