Cloud Computing

OneLogin CEO Eyes Rival Okta in Cloud Single Sign-On

Having recently met Okta CEO Todd McKinnon, it’s hard not to mention the company when I spoke by phone recently with Thomas Pedersen, CEO of another single sign-on (SSO) and identity management company (IDM) that’s coming of age in the cloud, OneLogin.

Like Okta, OneLogin provides secure access to a huge range of applications so the right people can get to the right services without fuss or compromise, thanks to catalogued pre-integration. The firms are even city neighbours, sharing the powder-blue skies of San Francisco. (“If you want to create a hit movie would you do it in Dakota or Hollywood?” Pedersen asks, rhetorically.)

He had the idea for OneLogin in 2009 (the year Okta launched) and founded the company in 2010. Today, the companies are the Tweedledum and Tweedledee of modern SSO/IDM.

Differences? They’ve got a few.

McKinnon is a southern Californian raised in the Bay Area but Pedersen is a Dane who set up OneLogin after having worked with Zendesk, another hot company founded by Danes but headquartered in San Francisco.

OneLogin recently opened datacentres in London and Amsterdam that it believes will give it competitive differentiation over Okta, the company it acknowledges as its main competition. Data residency has been a hot topic in Europe for some time and the leasing of the facilities gives enterprises the ability to keep their information processes compliant with local laws.

“More and more customers are asking about it and, given the option, more companies will choose to host locally,” Pedersen believes.

Another point of differentiation is commercial models. OneLogin uses a freemium approach (converting users over time to fee-paid services) to drive growth whereas Okta relies more on field sales.

Pedersen says he is relaxed about the Okta comparisons and the road ahead, despite the presence of plenty of names new and old in the SSO/IDM space from Centrify and Ping Identity to SailPoint. Nominal rivals have old architectures while others are more focused on their customers’ customers or on-premise solutions, he suggests. And at least it’s not as bad as another software market where the likes of Dropbox, Box, Accellion, Hightail, Egnyte, Workshare, Citrix ShareFile and dozens of others congregate…

“People always tell me this is a crowded space and I say ‘compared to what’? File sharing?”

Like McKinnon, Pedersen sees the uber-trend towards the cloud as grist to the mill of his company.

“Netflix went from Oracle Financials to Workday… we’re going to see more companies do that,” he says. “A lot of customers today have 30 to 40 cloud apps and sometimes more. You might have 5 to 10 cloud tools just to do marketing.”

That makes it critical for OneLogin to integrate with apps and directories and to support strong authentication. Standards and frameworks are helping with the SAML data exchange format now supported by about 330 apps and efforts like SPML and SCIM helping to automate and accelerate integration.

Already cashflow positive and having grown by a factor of four in the last year, OneLogin has raised a fraction of the funds of Okta ($19m versus $80m approximately) and has about 70 staff compared to Okta’s 120, but Pedersen has Okta in his sights.

“We can beat them with a different model but they don’t have to fail for us to be very successful. We didn’t raise $19m to be number two. We have a model that can scale faster, it’s a more cost efficient model. It’s down to execution, who’s going to win.”


Read Martin's interview with Okta CEO Todd McKinnon here.


Martin Veitch is Editorial Director at IDG Connect


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Martin Veitch

Martin Veitch is Contributing Editor for IDG Connect

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