Okta, a San Francisco-based enterprise online identity-management firm, has opened its first dedicated office in the Seattle region — leasing space for as many as 60 employees in a downtown Bellevue, Wash., office tower to better cooperate with partner Amazon Web Services and frenemy Microsoft.
“Bellevue is very strategic for us, because it’s close to Microsoft, and we have more and more engineers who come from the Office 365 group and other groups who’ve joined us, because they see the power of the future of the identity cloud and what we can build,” said Frederic Kerrest, Okta’s co-founder and COO, in an interview last week.
As to Amazon, since its founding in 2009, the company has run all of its infrastructure on Amazon Web Services, and “we’d like to have key team members closer to them,” Kerrest explained.
Okta competes with Microsoft, distinguishing its products from the Redmond giant’s cloud-based security efforts with “a laser focus on customer success, a catalog of 5,000 pre-built application connectors our customers can choose from, and having 800 people very tightly focused on identity, not on whether we’ll still make phones,” Kerrest said.
Yet it also cooperates with Microsoft. It’s a gold-level partner, used frequently to provide Office 365 security including single sign-on and user-rights provisioning. “We work very closely with Microsoft on Office 365, and I want our people to physically go over and make sure we understand their roadmap, to have very, very good engineering and product-level relationships with those people,” Kerrest said.
When asked whether Okta hopes to poach talent from Microsoft, Kerrest laughed and replied, “We would like to provide an appealing alternative solution of employment to people in the greater Seattle area.”
The 800-person company until mid-July had 25 developers scattered throughout the Eastside, some working from home. In late July it completed its remodeling of the Bellevue space, taking pains to re-create the feeling of the San Francisco offices.
“We want people to feel comfortable and familiar if they go back and forth between our locations,” said Allen Clark, Okta’s VP of partnerships, during a tour of the space. Now the 25 developers are all in the same place, and there’s room for 35 more staffers, with options to take space elsewhere in the building in case of further expansion, Clark said. The company is aiming to hire 10 people over the next six months for the new office.
The new space is “a natural progression, working across all the segments of our business: sales, engineering, partnership and product development,” Kerrest said. “We have many key customers here we want to stay close to, and some other prospective customers, such as Nordstrom and Boeing, that we’d like to know better.”
Among Okta’s Seattle-area customers are Chef, Concur, Juno Therapeutics, Seattle Children’s Hospital, Skytap, Tommy Bahama, Whitepages.com, Zillow and Zulily, Okta has raised about $230 million to date, from investors including Andreeson Horowitz, Greylock Partners, Khosla Ventures and Sequoia Capital.
Seattle excels as a place to find engineering talent, Kerrest said.
“There’s plenty of opportunity here in Silicon Valley, but not all the great people who want to be working on core identity infrastructure and enterprise software live here,” he said. “There’s a lot of great people up there.”