Kate Heslop speaks to Phil Turner, European general manager of security management firm Okta, about his new role, security solutions Okta offers and its plans for the future.
What’s your industry background?
I specialised in bringing bay area start ups to Europe and getting them going. I have a background in both security and data management. Data management is similar to security in that it’s the most conservative kind of area of IT and the most paranoid, because you’re either dealing with security or peoples’ data. My background previous to this: I set up a company called Nimble Storage, I’ve also worked in a security company called IronPort Systems that was sold to Cisco and became Cisco’s spam filtering technology. Previous to that I was one of the first employees in Europe at NetApp.
Can you give me a bit of background about Okta?
If you look back at the security problems that IT organisations within enterprises faced, they were really set about having you, a user, that’s sat within the network that came into the office and used your corporate PC that was in front of you. Most of the applications that sat on there were owned by the company. Now it’s a completely different world, in terms of applications. There are now multiple applications that sit in the cloud.
There are multiple devices. We all have smartphones that we use to access emails, we all have tablets and laptops. Not only that, it’s not just a case of the employees sitting within the firewall, they now sit outside the firewall and have access from many different sources and networks. Many of the types of businesses that they have, its not only the employees that require access. For example, if you work for a publishing group, there’s a load of freelance that probably require access to your network. Okta is a security solution, which is born within the cloud. We are absolutely a SaaS provider. We provide access for who needs it across multiple users and devices, wherever they may be, and secures that access to applications.
The other issue that we have, is if you look at trying to do something like this with an on-premise solution; you’re going to buy the software, then look at all your multiple applications, so a very large enterprise may have a hundred different apps, some of them internal, some of them external, and all their employees need access to different applications. If you look at an on-premise solution, you buy the software, then you’re going to need to integrate all those applications, and then should one of those applications change, or you want to add another application, there’s more constant integration work that needs to be done.
With SaaS solutions, all that’s done before, we’ve already integrated in excess of 2,500 applications. If companies haven’t gone down that route with an on-premise sign-on solution, then you’re in a position where, if you’re an employee and you have 20 apps that you need access to, and we have security policies, and we cycle the passwords once every quarter for example, how do you remember 20 passwords that are cycled every three months? It’s ultimately incredibly insecure. We also have multifactor authentication, where you have a single password and a single log-in to access all your applications. One password to remember and it’s far more secure than trying to manage multiple passwords. It also means that your user experience is greatly enhanced.
We go way beyond the industry standards for cloud security, so SOC 2, GEN 2, audited across all five principles, zero downtime architecture set up using Amazon’s web service on multiple locations, and in terms of complexity, compared to doing something on-premise, there really is no complexity here. Okta can be set up in a number of hours, there’s no integration that needs to be done with the apps, they already sit there within the cloud.
How long have you been in your new role and what are your plans for the first few months?
I’ve been in the role for three weeks. It’s all about growth, so we’ve already hired sales, technical and product marketing, business development, we’ve got an internal sales guy starting soon. It’s just about growing the team now. We’re very aggressive in terms of our plans to grow the team this financial year, our financial year ends in January. As you can expect, more sales, more sales engineers and also customer success. So it’s all about growth and then obviously we want some more customers. We already have a number of UK customers but by the nature of the cloud, the cloud is global, so we have a number of UK users based from business that we’ve done in the US that have employees around Europe, not just the UK. It’s now about linking up with the business partners that we work with over here and getting it off the ground.
As you already have some European customers, was the move to the UK the next natural step?
Absolutely. We just had a D-round of funding, so we raised another $27 million. So that $27 million is earmarked for expanding Okta internationally. For the next few months it’s just about getting the UK off the ground, but very rapidly we’re looking at expanding into the other major European markets, so the Nordic countries, Germany and France will be followed very closely.
I think the adoption of cloud in Europe is slightly behind the curve compared to the US, but there’s still a very rapid cloud adoption. So the greater the adoption, the more demand there is for Okta.
Does Okta only cater for large organisations or SMEs as well?
We cater for SMEs as well. Every company has issues around this, we deal with very small companies to the very large. From small boutique organisations up to Gatwick airport as a customer.
We also partner with other cloud providers such as Box and Jive, and LinkedIn is one of our customers. In the UK, the best known and the most paranoid is Gatwick Airport, as it’s very security conscious.
Have you received any feedback from your European customers?
If you Google Okta and Gatwick, you’ll see we’ve had some fantastic feedback from our customers. It’s not only the feedback that we get from IT services or administrators, but the feedback that we get from the end users; they have immediate access to their applications, so it’s like a consumer experience.
I strongly believe that everything is going to move to the cloud; on-premise deployments are becoming a thing of the past now.
So what’s next for Okta?
We will establish a really good base in the UK, then we’ll probably move into Nordic. After that, Germany, France, northern Europe, then we’ll start looking at southern Europe as we grow. Worldwide, we’ll continue to acquire customers at the rate that we’re doing. It’s certainly showing no signs of slowing down, it shows signs of accelerating, in both revenue and number of customers. We’re the fastest growing company in this sector.