How the Enterprise Got Sexy: Reflecting on #TCDisrupt

You’ve probably heard by now, but enterprise is the hot thing in the Valley right now. (For the record, I’ve always thought what we are doing is cool.) Still, the widespread interest was only re-affirmed yesterday during the “How Enterprise Got Sexy” panel at TechCrunch Disrupt.

The panel gave me the chance to discuss mobile disruption, the Innovator’s Dilemma and company impact – and how we think about those topics at Okta – with my peers from Box, Cloudera and Asana.

We started out talking about why four enterprise guys were even on the Disrupt stage or, in other words, why enterprise is now in the spotlight. I think it comes down to the simple fact that working in the enterprise space gives you the chance to change how millions – if not billions – of people get work done each day. And as we’ve seen recently, investors, employees and customers want products and services with impact. People get involved in enterprise because they think, “Oh, I can impact this company and this company can impact the world.” Even the most popular consumer services struggle to impact audiences on this same scale.

While impact may be one big reason massive interest in enterprise is sparking, let’s just say it’s nowhere near the only reason. Before Disrupt, we were mulling over the fundamental changes taking place in our working and personal lives and how they affect how we interact with customers and partners, our colleagues, the applications we rely on, and the devices we use to get work done. The mobile revolution is one such change that came up during our panel – and one we expect to be a profound driver of innovation.

As Box’s Aaron Levie pointed out onstage (and I discussed with Business Insider a couple months back), mobile enables a whole new class of worker that didn’t previously have access to (or the knowledge to use) sophisticated technology. Mobile only expands (by an order of magnitude) what we’re doing across the enterprise and puts ‘computers’ in the back pockets of experts on oil rigs miles out at sea, field service professionals or assembly line workers.

And with that new reach and opportunity comes a big number of vendors, developers and brands across apps, platforms and devices looking to stake out their claim. (For the first time in 25 years, there’s no monopoly on the client of the network!) As I said on stage, competition only leads to more innovation and that’s good news for everyone involved. The more, the merrier.

The Innovator’s Dilemma was another heated topic of debate. Both Aaron and Cloudera’s Kirk Dunn addressed these rules during our panel and TechCrunch picked up on it, specifically around old versus new technologies and sales-focused versus product-focused companies – and recent enterprise outcomes. In regards to the first, Aaron highlighted how start-ups are well positioned to use the new infrastructure solutions like Okta and Box – as he called it, an ‘unfair advantage.’ And as I shared onstage, my former company renders the second dilemma largely irrelevant. The success of shows that you can have a great product company and a great sales and marketing company; they aren't mutually exclusive. I think we all agree that the so-called dilemmas surrounding investing in enterprises and growing a successful company are just that – ‘so-called.’

The takeaway of the day was that enterprise is now, more than ever, the space to watch. Google Ventures’ Kevin Rose just before our panel said he sees enterprise software as a trendy hot spot for venture capital and startups in 2012. We don’t see that changing anytime soon.