Some things remain in the organization: the ability to be surprised by becoming the fifth Argentine unicorn after having gone after a dream, and secondly, according to Eugenio Pace, CEO, and Co-founder of Auth0, the need to identify legitimate users. In this interview, we talk about the new scenario after being recently acquired by the American giant Okta, the relevance of diversity, and the importance of having a global mindset.
How was Auth0 born? What’s the meaning of your name?
In 2013, after leaving my position as Program Manager at Microsoft, where I worked for more than 13 years, I decided to pursue my dreams of entrepreneurship. Conditioned by previous experiences in which I wanted to be an entrepreneur, and it did not turn out the way I wanted, a year before, I decided to join an “Entrepreneurship School” in Seattle to be able to learn about all aspects of creating a company, beyond technology: finance, staff, legal, marketing, etc.
In January 2013, we created Auth0 with Matías Woloski with an initial investment of US$50,000 and 7,000 miles apart: me from Washington and Matías from Buenos Aires. At first, this decision was accompanied by a swing of feelings from the fear of failure to the euphoria to get our first clients.
EY awarded the Entrepreneur Award Of the Year Argentina 2021 to Eugenio Pace (CEO) and Matías Woloski (CTO) from Auth0.
With less than 12 months in the market, we got our first contract with Grupo Sancor Seguros. From there, we raised the possibility of seeking capital to accelerate the company’s growth instead of depending entirely on new strokes of luck or organic growth, which, although valid, is generally a slow process.
Along these lines, in 2014, we decided to start an external financing process (the seed round) of approximately US$2M that allowed us to accelerate the growth of our team to consequently develop and market our product more quickly.
In the following years, we completed other investment rounds to continue with our growth rate, raising a total of US $300M.
It was the investment round E, in 2019, that marked a milestone in the history of Auth0. The investment of US$113 million meant our ticket to be able to enter the select club of Argentine unicorns, together with Mercado Libre, Globant, OLX, and Despegar, when the valuation of Auth0 crossed US$1,000M.
As for the name, it comes from a wordplay. “Auth” comes from authentication, and the “0” (zero) is given by the concept of ‘zero friction’: the idea of simplicity with which we develop our product. Originally, we had chosen the name “Auth10” because “authentication” has ten letters after “auth”; in 2013, there was a beta version of the system that we published on auth10.com, but after three months, we decided to rewrite it completely and changed the domain by removing the “1”.
- Fifth Argentine unicorn born in 2013.
- Global leader in Identity-as-a-Service ( IDaaS )
- Founders: Eugenio Pace and Matías Woloski .
– Helps individual and enterprise developers manage authentication and authorization.
- Auth0 has clients in more than 70 countries and offices in Buenos Aires, Seattle, London, Tokyo, and Sydney.
We know that Okta recently acquired Auth0. What does this represent for you both personally, professionally, and in terms of innovation?
The partnership with Okta is a very exciting chapter for us, as it marked another milestone in Auth0’s history. This union results in a solid team led by two powerful companies and platforms that operate autonomously, but both are driven by the same values, commitment, passion, and mission.
This acquisition signifies an acceleration in innovation and an enhancement in our ability to deliver the products and services our customers have relied on over the years, as well as strengthen both companies at a faster rate. Together, we will be able to combine our incredible talent and resources worldwide to accelerate our shared vision of continuing to drive that innovation and ensure secure access for all users.
What excites me most about the acquisition by Okta, is that both companies have a single purpose. In both Okta and Auth0, the identity problem is not something secondary or a part of another group or a means to another end. Identity is everything we do. Together, we have a unique opportunity to change the way millions of people worldwide authenticate and enable them to do so more securely.
Protection of information assets through the treatment of threats that put at risk the information that is processed, stored, and transported by the interconnected information systems.
(ISACA Information Systems Audit and Control Association)
- Publicly traded identity and access management company.
– Based in San Francisco, United States.
- Founded in January 2009 by Todd McKinnon.
- It has more than 7,000 predefined integrations for applications and infrastructure providers.
What can we expect from Auth0 in this new stage?
In this new scenario, Auth0 will continue to develop the best authentication platform for developers, and we will continue to operate independently within Okta, under my leadership, reporting directly to Todd McKinnon, CEO, and Co-founder of Okta. We will also look for opportunities to improve each other by integrating our knowledge, services, and clients. In addition, each platform will be supported and invested in, resulting in both organizations having a broader range of identity solutions to meet their unique needs.
Both Okta and Auth0 platforms will be compatible, reversed, and integrated over time, accelerating innovation and making Okta Identity Cloud even more attractive to the full spectrum of customers and users.
Okta and Auth0’s comprehensive and complementary identity platforms are robust enough to serve the world’s largest organizations and flexible enough to address every identity use case, regardless of audience or user.
A few years ago, in a prominent Argentine media, you said, “the unicorn thing I think is secondary. The satisfaction lies in being able to build a company like the one we are building, which solves a real problem with an impact on end-users.” Did you ever think that what started as a venture with your partner was going to end up impacting thousands of people around the world? What is the challenge that taught you the most throughout this time?
I would not have imagined getting to where we are today, even in my wildest dreams. With Matías, my partner in this adventure, we began to work on various projects until, in 2008, we decided to write a book to capture the best practices for authentication and authorization in applications. The book was published under the Microsoft imprint Press. Sometime later, we wrote a second edition of the same book, which resulted in double the content! We concluded that we could keep writing about it, hope that the developers of the world would read the content, learn from it, incorporate the code documented in the book into their own solutions, or… we could just solve the problem! We realized that it could be interesting to develop it as a business in itself.
So we bet on building a venture based on studying, effort, and a multimillion-dollar idea giving life to a company that is based on a not-so-glamorous service when it comes to selling it but highly required by companies in the digital era. Such is the case that our product ended up becoming the differential and the tip of the iceberg to later invest in after-sales, innovation, and marketing.
At first, we saw the possibility of Auth0 becoming a unicorn very difficult, but over time, the idea of listing on the Wall Street Stock Exchange was not so far-fetched. And that is how, in May 2019, we completed the fifth round of investment, raising US$103 million led by the Sapphire Ventures fund, catapulting us as the fifth Argentine unicorn, far exceeding our expectations.
From the creation of Auth0, the first steps were crucial for getting to where we are today. Although both Matías and I had extensive experience in technology and innovation, neither of us had experience leading a project from scratch. In this sense, both Matías and I share the importance of having a team. And how critical it is to surround ourselves with people with the talent, interest, and passion for what a company with our growth requires. One of my biggest tasks is the continuous construction of that team over the years and its adaptation to the company’s changing needs.
You have offices in different countries, and 60% of employees work remotely since they’ve joined. What is the biggest challenge you encounter when leading people with different cultures in virtuality?
Although our origins are Argentine (both Matías and I grew up and trained professionally in Argentina), we always consider the company with a global reach mainly because our clients are not concentrated in any specific geographical area or even in any specific industry.
That’s how we solved a universal problem. We also realized that talent is universal and does not recognize borders either and that we could build a company regardless of the physical location of its members.
Today we have 9 offices in the world, including Buenos Aires. And more than half of the 900 employees work remotely.
From the beginning of Auth0, our goal has been to create a safe workplace and culture where each person can be authentic. A culture of transparency, continuous learning, and growth on a global scale.
Aligned with these objectives, we decided to inaugurate the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) area within the company, led by Natalie Hausia-Haugen, a little less than a month ago. The role is to accelerate Auth0’s DEI vision, policies, and processes and further develop the company’s culture of inclusion and belonging.
Our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion initiatives are shaped by the belief that there is immense value in hiring and building teams of people of diverse backgrounds, beliefs, and human experiences. In fact, we were recognized by Forbes as one of America’s Best Emerging Companies in the 2021 List (ranked 11th out of 500); also, by Fortune magazine as one of the 30 Best Small and Medium Workplaces in Technology (ranked 7 out of 30); and by the Best rankings Companies and Great Place to Work for our business culture, leadership and commitment to our people.
People’s lives increasingly pass through the digital world. How vulnerable is all that information online?
Several years ago, the digital world became increasingly important in our lives. The pandemic accelerated digitization even more. The use of platforms and applications in our daily lives is becoming more prevalent, whether to pay bills, check our bank accounts, make an online purchase, study and learn, or for entertainment.
Today, there are more than 2,000 million users and passwords that any hacker can obtain with a bit of knowledge. Hackers try to get the accounts that users have in various applications and sell them for lower prices. Hacking is a business in itself with millions of dollars at stake. Moreover, it is a business of scale: if 10,000 vulnerable accounts are found among the 2,000 million (0.0005%), a lot of money can be made by marketing them or exploiting illicit access to the information.
Even in 2021, although it is hard to believe, the most used passwords on the planet by users are the words “password”; “12345” and “qwerty”; which are extremely easy to hack. Furthermore, it is very common for users to use the same password for all their applications, making them very vulnerable.
This is where Auth0 comes into the picture to prevent this from happening. Using our technology, companies can secure their applications, making them much more robust against attacks protecting their customers’ information integrity. Passwords are an outdated solution; For this reason, at Auth0, we offer programmers a platform that can read more variables such as the fingerprint or the face, which implies greater security, better preservation of confidential data, and privacy. Our ultimate goal is to provide a platform to make it easier for developers, more secure for users, and very difficult for hackers.
According to an Interpol report during the COVID-19 pandemic, cyberattacks shifted from targeting individuals to essential health administrations and infrastructures.
”Cybercriminals are creating new attacks and intensifying their execution at an alarming rate, taking advantage of the fear and uncertainty caused by the unstable socio-economic situation generated by COVID-19″ Jürgen Stock, INTERPOL Secretary-General.
You belong to the technology industry, you are the fifth Argentine unicorn, and you merged with an American giant like Okta from Silicon Valley. Taking into account this journey, the experience, and your day-to-day work, do you dare to make a prediction about the future of work or jobs of the future?
From Auth0, we always try to imagine what can happen a year from now, moving forward in small steps, firm but consistent. With innovation as part of our DNA, we believe that the business will go hand in hand with the advancement of time and context, adapting to new demands and needs; improving our products and services to stay ahead or how we can optimize our solutions to continue solving the real problems that impact end-users.
Identity-as-a-Service Industry is a business that will continue to expand and grow. Due to its nature, we could project that by 2025 it could move more than US$22,000 million on a global scale with growing demand, particularly in the Asian market, resulting in an attractive horizon to continue deploying our business there.
We are 100% sure about certain things; First, the basic need to identify legitimate application users will always exist. How can it change? Before we used passwords, today we use our faces or our fingerprints, but at the end of the day, the question “is this person who they say they are?” remains permanent. Second, we have to think globally because technology has shortened physical distances. And thinking globally impacts the team (where we hire) and our clients (whom we serve).
● An example to follow: Microsoft’s ability to reinvent itself
● A dream: a world without passwords
● One motivation: the power of technology to transform and unleash our potential
● Advice you were given and would give: the team you build largely defines your success
● A tip that you were given and you would not give: the most important thing is the product
Eugenio Pace | CEO and Co-founder of Auth0