Okta appoints former Charles Schwab exec to board of directors

Okta, the Nasdaq-listed cloud identity management company, has recruited former Charles Schwab chief marketing officer Becky Saeger to its board of directors. The latest appointment comes one month after the company named Shellye Archambeau, former chief executive officer of MetricStream, to its board.

Saeger becomes Okta’s third female board member. Michelle Wilson, a former senior vice president and general counsel at Amazon, joined the company’s board in 2015. According to data collected by Women on Boards, women hold just over 17 percent of corporate board seats, up from 16.0 percent in 2017.

“A board is there for a few reasons,” Okta co-founder and CEO Todd McKinnon told TechCrunch. “One is to oversee a company’s management and strategy. A company like Okta is in a fast-growing industry and there is too much of a tendency for groupthink. You need someone around you to question the basis of what you’re thinking about.”

McKinnon has spoken openly about his commitment to diversity. In a letter to employees in early 2017, for example, he denounced President Donald Trump’s temporary ban on refugee admissions to the U.S. “Diversity of thought and experience are fundamental values at Okta, that includes religious beliefs, gender diversity, sexual orientation and political views,” he wrote. “No matter who you voted for, our opposition to this policy is not just about our business — it is also about our belief in the American freedoms and protections that have made our country so innovative and accepting of those most in need.”

Okta’s C-suite, though majority male, includes chief customer officer Krista Anderson-Copperman, executive vice president and chief of staff Angela Grady, and chief people officer Kristina Johnson.

Saeger, who McKinnon chose for her marketing and financial services acumen, also sits on the board of E*TRADE, an online broker.

“I am excited about the notion that as this company grows and evolves, the brand can become more visible and more meaningful,” Saeger told TechCrunch.

Headquartered in San Francisco, Okta debuted on the stock exchange in April 2017, closing up 38 percent on its first day of trading.


By Kate Clark

Okta nabs ScaleFT to build out ‘Zero Trust’ security framework

Okta, the cloud identity management company, announced today it has purchased a startup called ScaleFT to bring the Zero Trust concept to the Okta platform. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

While Zero Trust isn’t exactly new to a cloud identity management company like Okta, acquiring ScaleFT gives them a solid cloud-based Zero Trust foundation on which to continue to develop the concept internally.

“To help our customers increase security while also meeting the demands of the modern workforce, we’re acquiring ScaleFT to further our contextual access management vision — and ensure the right people get access to the right resources for the shortest amount of time,” Okta co-founder and COO Frederic Kerrest said in a statement.

Zero Trust is a security framework that acknowledges work no longer happens behind the friendly confines of a firewall. In the old days before mobile and cloud, you could be pretty certain that anyone on your corporate network had the authority to be there, but as we have moved into a mobile world, it’s no longer a simple matter to defend a perimeter when there is effectively no such thing. Zero Trust means what it says: you can’t trust anyone on your systems and have to provide an appropriate security posture.

The idea was pioneered by Google’s “BeyondCorp” principals and the founders of ScaleFT are adherents to this idea. According to Okta, “ScaleFT developed a cloud-native Zero Trust access management solution that makes it easier to secure access to company resources without the need for a traditional VPN.”

Okta wants to incorporate the ScaleFT team and, well, scale their solution for large enterprise customers interested in developing this concept, according to a company blog post by Kerrest.

“Together, we’ll work to bring Zero Trust to the enterprise by providing organizations with a framework to protect sensitive data, without compromising on experience. Okta and ScaleFT will deliver next-generation continuous authentication capabilities to secure server access — from cloud to ground,” Kerrest wrote in the blog post.

ScaleFT CEO and co-founder Jason Luce will manage the transition between the two companies, while CTO and co-founder Paul Querna will lead strategy and execution of Okta’s Zero Trust architecture. CSO Marc Rogers will take on the role of Okta’s Executive Director, Cybersecurity Strategy.

The acquisition allows the Okta to move beyond purely managing identity into broader cyber security, at least conceptually. Certainly Roger’s new role suggests the company could have other ideas to expand further into general cyber security beyond Zero Trust.

ScaleFT was founded in 2015 and has raised $2.8 million over two seed rounds, according to Crunchbase data.


By Ron Miller

Okta introduces ‘Sign in with Okta’ service

Consider that there are millions of Okta users out there using the service to sign into their company applications with a single set of credentials. Yet getting customers to work together using Okta authentication was an enormous task for developers. Okta wanted to simplify it, so they created a service they are calling it ‘Sign in with Okta.’

The new API allows developers to add a few lines code and give Okta customers the ability to sign into one another’s websites in a similar way that OAuth allows you to use your Google or Facebook credentials to sign onto consumer sites.

Frederic Kerrest, COO and co-founder at Okta, says the ‘Sign in with Okta’ uses an extension of OAuth called OpenID Connect, which his company has been supporting since 2016. He says the new service gives customers the ability to expand the use of their Okta credentials beyond their own set of internal applications to sign into customer and partner sites. This extends the Okta functionality and brand and helps to make it a kind of standard way of logging in (or that’s the hope).

When developers add this functionality, the user sees a “Sign in with Okta” button on the website or service they are accessing. They can then use their Okta login to get into these sites under whatever rules the site owner has defined.

Site with ‘Sign in with Okta’ button. Photo: Okta

While Okta has provided APIs for developers prior to today, they didn’t provide a package like this that simplifies the process. This forced developers to use the SAML standard to make it work. While there’s nothing wrong with this approach, it can be time-consuming and put a lot of burden on developers to write software and connectors, while updating and maintaining them, Kerrest explained. This removes all of that complexity from the process.

This means that when two businesses are on Okta, they can trust one another because they do business together, and instead of setting up the SAML connection, a process that could take days, they can do it an hour with the Okta API tool, according to Kerrest.

“[Sign in with Okta] is a much easier way for customers or partners to seamlessly integrate into our environment. They could do it before, but we are ‘widgetizing’ it now,” he said.


By Ron Miller