“This is my slide to prove we’re growing fast.”
That’s how I kicked off my keynote at DEMO Traction last week – and for good reason. I’d argue there's no better way to capture the attention of a conference obsessively focused on growth than to share that Okta has achieved more than 100% year-over-year revenue growth.
What lessons did I share with the hundreds of entrepreneurs in attendance? Here’s a short rundown:
1. Choose your core wisely.
The core of any successful enterprise company has two very important qualities. The first is that the product solves a clear problem and delivers customer value quickly. It can't take five years to get a customer live and loving your service. The second, once a company has wedged itself into the market, is that its core must be something that can become big and important. The core can't be seen as as a utility or niche product.
That’s exactly what we did with SSO. We quickly solved the widespread problem of “too many passwords” – but have also built a comprehensive identity and mobility solution to connect people to their applications from any device, anywhere, at anytime and accelerate secure adoption of cloud and mobile everywhere. That’s not only a big opportunity for IT, but it also gives our company a lot of room to grow and to continue to create new kinds of value for customers.
2. Support off-label usage.
Our team found very early on that our service was useful beyond the employee experience. External constituents from around the organization – partners, customers, contractors, etc. also need access to applications, marketplaces or portals in order to share information and work smartly. While external identity management wasn’t on our initial roadmap, we listened to our customers and have invested heavily in this space. It’s been a very good thing, both for our customers like Adobe Systems, Advent Software, Informatica and Rotary International, and our business. These customers are still only 7% of our overall base currently, but they also make up 41% of the identities we manage. We see both of those numbers continuing to grow significantly over time, in large part to the thorough feedback we receive from customers.
3. Embrace your frenemies.
The cloud ecosystem is very muddy and it can be very difficult to distinguish partners vs. competitors. As we’ve gained traction with customers, we’ve also attracted the attention of bigger organizations, like Microsoft. While we often now go head-to-head with them in the identity market, it’s hardly all bad. We also partner with Microsoft in a significant way on their Office 365 efforts. The company’s move to the cloud is pushing that service to enterprises far and wide (it’s now the #1 application within our OAN). The more applications in the cloud, the more value our customers see from our service – and the bigger the market opportunity for Okta.
4. Even crowded, commoditized markets can be ripe for disruption.
It might be appealing to pick a market with no competition, but a market with no competition isn’t a market. (That’s an important lesson for any entrepreneur.) So how do you win in an already established category? Create an outstanding product. (Facebook and Google are easy examples of this. Remember the days that MySpace and Internet Explorer reigned supreme?)
We’re big believers that even in crowded or commoditized markets, a superior product usually wins and that it can also be an amazing thing for customers. We launched Okta Mobility Management in November with this philosophy in mind. The enterprise mobility management space has a plethora of existing vendors, but we saw an opportunity to bring a user-centric approach to this established $4 billion market – one with our identity service at the core. This investment is already paying off, with customers like Del Monte Foods, Twilio, Acadia Pharmaceuticals and Rovi Corporation signed up and live on our new service.