Todd McKinnon – Creating and Defining a New Market Category – [Founder’s Field Guide, EP.7]

My guest today is Todd McKinnon, co-founder and CEO of Okta, the leading provider of identity management for enterprises. Todd started Okta in 2009 after realizing that enterprises would need a robust solution for identity management in a world where everything was quickly moving to the cloud and today counts over 7,000 enterprises as customers. Our conversation focuses on how Todd decided to leave Salesforce to start Okta, the painful early years of growing the business, how companies can create and define a new market, the different roles he’s had to play as the company grew and went public, and the frameworks he’s put in place to continue to innovate and test new things as public business. I hope you enjoy our conversation.

This episode is brought to you by Microsoft for Startups. Microsoft for Startups is a global program dedicated to helping “enterprise-ready” B2B startups successfully scale their companies. If you’re a founder running a B2B company targeting the enterprise, you should definitely check them out.

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Show Notes

(2:19) – (First question) – Best slide in his presentation for starting Okta

(5:21) – The early days of Okta and what they were trying to do 

(8:36) – Challenge of building the company from an engineering perspective

(10:32) – First version of the Okta product

(11:03) – An overview on identify management 

(13:55) – The major innovation in the early days of the product

(16:11) – The early struggles of starting a company 

(18:49) – Becoming a default mode solution 

(20:39) – Most interesting ways the company has grown its services

(22:10) – Future of platform businesses 

(24:24) – Expanding into an infrastructure business

(25:59) – Important shifts that they are paying attention 

(28:21) – Future of our digital identity and Okta’s potential role

(32:20) – The chapters of Okta’s story so far 

(35:03) – Challenges they had to overcome in growing the company 

(37:31) – Recruiting the right talent and fostering it early on

(39:12) – Biggest mistakes he’s made with the business

(41:06) – Benefits of extreme focus vs having a broader view of the problems

(43:35) – Innovating within Okta

(46:02) – How software businesses define cost of revenue and cost of goods 

(48:23) – Lessons they’ve learned about selling the services of a small company into the largest company

(49:54) – Lessons from working with bad clients/customers

(51:06) – Their inside view into the future of business today

(51:10) – Jeff Lawson podcast Episode

(52:36) – Best way to maintain the growth of Okta over the long term

(53:30) – Lessons he would give to business students today 

(54:51) – Being scared as a founder

(55:27) – Kindest thing anyone has done for him

Learn More

For more episodes go to InvestorFieldGuide.com/podcast

Sign up for the book club and new email newsletter called “Inside the Episode” at InvestorFieldGuide.com/bookclub.

Follow Patrick on Twitter at @patrick_oshag