This week Adam is joined by Eugenio Pace, co-founder and CEO of Auth0. Auth0 is a for developers, by developers identity, access, security, and authentication platform built for the cloud that secures billions of logins every year. Mid 2020 they raised $120 million at a $1.92 billion valuation after being told no several times. Then, earlier this year in March they announced they were being acquired by Okta for $6.5 billion, in a bold and future-thinking all stock deal. This episode is full of wisdom, inspiration, and tactical advice that Eugenio has used to build Auth0.
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Eugenio, great to have you here on Founders Talk. I’m a big fan of Auth0, I’ve been paying attention to your space for quite a while, and I’m so excited to have you on the show, because you have such an interesting story. It kind of begins with not really failure, but somewhat failure, because this isn’t your first company… So for those catching up, recently Auth0 was acquired by Okta for billions of dollars; not millions, but billions, which is always a great thing… 6.5 billion dollars. Second business, you’re an entrepreneur, you’ve been down many roads, learned lots of lessons… What’s the best place to begin to share the journey of yourself and for Auth0?
Thank you, Adam, for having me. It’s really great to be here, and I’m really happy to be able to tell my story. Hopefully, my story is useful for others. So yeah, technically, Auth0 is my second company. My first company - we started it just after college. Now, granted, this was like decades ago. I was born in Argentina. Argentina is a very different place today from what it was decades ago… But it was still not precisely the most fertile ground for starting a company.
No capital, no investors… Hey, there was no internet back then. There were barely phones at that time… So knowledge didn’t spread in the same way that it spreads today. The world was farther away for me. So that’s the excuse that I use, or a few of the excuses that I use to justify why it didn’t work out.
I also own the fact that it didn’t work because I had a very limited view of what building a great business was… And I also was arrogant, and I thought as an engineer that product would trump everything, so a “Build it and they will come” kind of mentality. And I built a great product; it was a product that was modern, and interesting, and solved real problems, and whatnot… But I didn’t take into account everything else that is required to build a great company. That’s the reason it didn’t work out.
So in the end, product does not trump everything. It takes more than just simply great engineering, great product… At what point did you begin learning those lessons? You wouldn’t really call your first business a failure necessarily, because I think that anything that we do, and do trying well, I think is a success… Because you can always take away learnings. You can always take away some experience from that into the next thing. There’s always sort of this positive to any sort of negative… Would you agree with that?
I wholeheartedly agree with that. I think we use success and failure, we use KPIs that are very rudimentary. I don’t think there’s any – there’s no failure, ever. There’s always a learning. True failure, from my perspective, is when you do something and it doesn’t work, and then you go and you do the same thing, without any learnings from that experience.
Making a mistake twice, with disregard of what happened before - that’s actually true failure, from my perspective. Other than that, there’s always a learning, and what we so-call failure is really feedback from the environment that something didn’t work out, and that you have to try something new, or you have to fix an approach, or whatever.
I like that. So you’re saying that failure is feedback, essentially. It’s just feedback to us trying things in our life, and it’s a feedback process that sort of informs our next steps.
Exactly. So my biggest lesson, if any, was that having a learning mindset - I think it’s kind of essential for entrepreneurship… Because you have to be open to making mistakes all the time.
Yeah. So I opened up saying you’re – I threw the cat out there, basically… 6.5 billion dollar acquisition with Okta, another major player in the identity and authorization and security space… It’s such a big deal, and what I think might be happening is people may be coming to this podcast in particular knowing the story after, potentially, after the acquisition. They may have known Auth0, knew they were in the space, but didn’t really have the understanding of what you represent, and Matthias, your partner who helped build this company with you, and many others involved.
I wanna sort of like 1) congratulations for that massive acquisition; we could talk about the Auth0 stock deal and why that makes sense, but the point I’m trying to get to is that I don’t want people to come to this podcast and your story with just simply knowing only that. I want them to know the behind the scenes. What got you to that point? Sure, this may be the next mountain top or the next big milestone that may be the next starting point for you, which I’ve heard you say… But take us back. Take us back to the beginning, basically. Why was it important to start this company and how did you get to the point to actually start this company?
Yeah, that’s great. And yes, overnight success takes a long time.
That’s right. Precisely.
[00:08:08.08] I would say that I always wanted to build. I’m a builder. At heart, I’m a builder; I’m a creator of stuff. I’m a problem-solver. That’s really my true DNA. That’s why I chose engineering, because engineering is all about solving problems and making things easier for people or for the world we’re in. So I always liked that, and that was my first attempt; it didn’t work out. Fine. I joined companies, I worked for a bank, and then eventually, in 2000, I was part of the y2k thing that some people might remember, some people were not even born, that are listening to this podcast… But anyway, y2k happened, the world continued to exist, and I joined Microsoft. And that was one of the best things that happened to me.
I joined Microsoft in Argentina (Microsoft Argentina) as a consultant, as I was helping customers adopt technology from Microsoft to solve their problems. So I worked with developers. Microsoft was trying to become an enterprise vendor, in essence. At the time we were competing with Oracle and Java and Sun Microsystems, and my job was to convince customers that Microsoft had equally good technology to build mission-critical apps. That was my thing.
Long story short, I joined in 2000 and I spent 13 years of my life in Microsoft, as a consultant first, but then in the prod, so building products for developers. So Visual Studio, the .NET framework, all that stuff. Of course, I was a small cog in a big, big machine, but I would dare say that Auth0 would not have been possible without my tour of duty in Microsoft. Because in Microsoft I learned to build technology at scale, to build a global company. I realized that software and technology were the product, were critical components of a successful business, but equally important is a field, a good sales team, marketing, support, finance… All the other organs of a company that all work together for delivering value to the market.
It’s a symphony, right? Wouldn’t you say it’s a symphony? If you’re at a symphony and you hear one instrument, that’s not a symphony. It’s a solo.
It is. I’m from Argentina, so I like football analogies…
Okay. Give me one.
Soccer analogies. For our American friends. When we ask “How do you win at soccer?”, the typical answer is “You win by scoring goals.” And that’s not how you win, actually. You win by scoring more than the other team. And to score more, you need to have great defense and a great goalkeeper, and you also need a great midfielder and forwards.
You cannot win with only one component. You need the entire team. Soccer, which is a good metaphor for many things - I think it applies to business the same way. So you need a symphony, like you said.
[00:11:57.01] It takes a while to learn that lesson. You mentioned this tour of duty - and I like the term “tour of duty” - at Microsoft for 13 years. You mentioned VS Code, the .NET framework… Behind the scenes I’ve also seen your involvement in what is now called Azure, so cloud computing essentially… You’d mentioned before your previous business how you said you were arrogant and you thought product was the only thing that really mattered… And you learned about the company aspect of it. Why do you think – I guess this was the 2000’s, so this would go to 2013 roughly, based upon the timeline of starting Auth0…
Microsoft was a very different company maybe… I think Microsoft even had different versions of themselves over the years - over the decades even - because they’re such a long-standing company… But why do you think it took you to be there to learn those things, like that kind of organization, to learn that kind of aspect of building the right kind of team, to respect all aspects of the symphony?
Well, you know, failing at my first attempt, and other things that happened in my life in between. I skipped a few things in between my first venture and Microsoft. So in that gap I also spent one year in the army; I was drafted in the army. Not something that I designed in my life. And that was a very humbling experience as well. I learned that events happen in your life that you don’t fully control… But you can always control how you react to those events, and what you do, what you make of those events. So the humbling experience and the learning mindset - I brought it into Microsoft and I used that to absorb as much as I could from the system.
Microsoft has – two big things from it. One, it’s a company that is amazing at reinventing itself, given how big it is. If you look at all the major crises in our industry, and they were able to reinvent themselves in dramatic ways.
Now, the other thing that was interesting and I take away from Microsoft is the amazing people that work there. They were really talented individuals. There were days that I would pinch myself to say “Somebody will figure it out that I’m not this great, surrounded by all these amazing individuals.” So I took the opportunity to learn from all of them. But look, there’s also luck.
I think one of the biggest components in what we call luck is timing. The time when we do things. In 2010, 2011, a couple years before starting Auth0, there was this thing that was becoming a thing, which is cloud computing. And my job, my boss at that time said “Eugenio, you have to go and find out anything that will stand in the way of developers building applications in the cloud, or moving applications to the cloud”, which is something that is gonna happen. And it wasn’t very obvious at that time, but I started researching that… And my first – what I’ve found as a big obstacle in that journey was identity and access management. That’s how I encountered authentication and authorization as a problem. It wasn’t a problem before cloud computing. Or it was a problem, but not sufficiently painful for people to pay attention to it in a way that made sense.
So I was lucky that I was tasked with that project. I ended up working with Matthias as a subject matter expert, so I got to know him… We ended up publishing two books on the problem. It was like “Hey, you’re a developer. Here’s what you need to know on all things authentication and authorization if you’re a developer building in the cloud computing world.” And that was actually the genesis of Auth0.
[00:16:25.18] Yeah, I’ve heard it say that luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity, which is kind of like timing, right? You’ve prepared to some degree, you’ve been in your place at Microsoft, you’ve been learning the ranks, you’ve been understanding the value of teamwork, the components necessary to build a scalable, dynamic, capable team… And then you’re tasked with this idea, like “Okay, figure out the roadblocks, the challenges”, and identity and security being one of the things that you really keyed on. How did you transition from that insight, that timing, that preparation, to catapult that into “Okay, I’m gonna resign, move along…”? Even in that process, did you burn any bridges? Probably not… But help me understand how you rationalize leaving this company that you’re pinching yourself being at, to take that risk and step away and do your own thing? How did you do that?
Well, there’s a couple data points there. One is at that time there were a couple companies that proved to me and to us that a business could be built around this notion of empowering developers to build better, faster, in our case more secure software, even with arguably boring things. So there’s nothing really very sexy about authentication. Identity geeks and engineers - some of them might be super-passionate about that specific problem, but it’s not something that everybody/the entire world wakes up every morning and says “Oh yeah, let’s learn how cryptography works, and digital signatures work.” We have other problems to solve.
But at that time, there were companies like Twilio and Stripe and SendGrid and Heroku, just to name four that were role models for me, that were taking arguably boring infrastructure requirements and making them easy to use and accessible for any developer in the world.
SendGrid solved the problem of sending emails. A pretty mundane thing; a pretty important thing, but not like an earth-shattering problem. Twilio was solving the problem of sending SMS messages, and doing that in a way that any developer on the planet could SMS-enable their applications. And they were very successful. So we kind of said “We are going to be the Twilio of authentication. We’re gonna be the Heroku of authentication, or the SendGrid of authentication.”
And that was one thing. But your question is “How do you leave the comfort of a company where you get paid every month?” In my case, I had that really nice job; Microsoft was super-generous, they took care of me, I lived a good life, paid my mortgage, provided for my family… So when I told my wife, “Hey, I really wanna do this” - you know, it’s a risk, and I felt guilty. I have this question, “Am I being selfish in just trying to have this desire to build something from scratch and put all of that at risk? …my family, my kids etc. Am I being selfish about it?”
[00:20:16.28] So my wife, in her infinite wisdom, did two things for me. The first one is she said “Well, you don’t know anything about building companies, so maybe you should go and learn how to build a company. You’re a great engineer maybe, but you don’t know anything about businesses.” So that’s one thing she did.
The other thing she did - she said something that really stuck with me, and it was a good proof of our true, deep partnership in life… Because she said “You only regret the things that you never do.” It’s the things that you look back in your life and you say “I should have done that. I should have done/tried this thing.” You don’t typically regret the things that you do and then don’t work out, because you learn from them. So at least you tried.
The “learn how to be an entrepreneur” - I joined an incubator program here in Seattle, and I spent a little bit of time there, and it was great… It was a little bit like those reality shows where you pitch an idea, you get feedback, and then you get graded, and eventually you have to leave the island… That kind of thing. I never quit, but I was kicked out of the program. Eventually, they said “Look, your idea will not work. This is not gonna happen. Sorry. Either you change your idea or you have to leave.” So I left, because that’s the only idea I had.
[laughs] That’s insane. Okay… So somebody said no to an early version of what has become Auth0, in an incubator state.
They actually said “I have good news and bad words for you…” Because the words are burnt in my brain. They said “I have good news and bad news for you. The good news is that this is a problem. It is a problem, and it’s probably a problem that there’s a market, there’s millions of dollars out there in the world potentially trying to find a solution for the problem. The bad news is that you will not do it. There’s no opportunity for you.”
I felt angry and I felt really – it wasn’t pleasant… But I took a step back from that first reaction, and I tried to understand why. First of all, I took the first one, to say like “There’s a problem.” Great. That’s validation. And second, the “You’re not gonna do it” - why am I not the person to do it? And there was a lot of truth in what I heard from them. Because you know, it’s not pleasant, but it was true. I wasn’t maybe ready, the pitch was not great, the way I presented the product was not very compelling… The way I originally wanted to sell it was not probably the best way of selling it. So they were right. But I chose to stick to it. I left that program, and then I took my wife’s advice of trying.
[00:23:50.20] So maybe the lesson there is you can spend all the time in theory, and with feedback. People will tell you their opinions to you. “Oh, do this. Do that. You should do this, you shouldn’t do that.” But there’s nothing like doing. The truth is in doing. And you cannot learn in your brain only, like in imagination. And also, the fears are oftentimes only in imagination.
So I resigned from Microsoft, I feared I will not be able to provide for my family. I feared I would not be able to pay the mortgage. I feared that everything is gonna be terrible. In reality, that’s all in our minds. Truthfully, the fact is it has not happened. So I resigned, and I remember my wife and I signed a contract - not a real contract, but it was a piece of paper that had statements of progress. Things like “You have to ship a version of this thing, you have to find a paying customer”, and she insisted on the paying part. “You have to find a paying customer in the next three months. And this thing will last one year. This trial, this experiment will last one year. If in one year these things are not met, then you just go and you can say “I tried”, and you go back and find a job someplace. Microsoft, or some other place.” And that was it. That’s how it all started. I resigned in December of 2012, and I started the company with Matthias in January 2013.
Wow. That’s really interesting. I like the contract notion of it, because that puts down on paper – you know, sometimes we will have dreams, we’ll have… Goals and dreams I think are two conflated things sometimes, because goals aren’t dreams, and dreams aren’t goals, and there’s a difference there. Something changes when you put it down on paper, especially when you unite with someone else like your wife… You know, your partner and the viability of your life, the whole reason why you probably get up in the morning is probably not because necessarily of Auth0 - that’s one part of it, sure, but first it’s your wife and the rest of your family, of course. At least that’s what I would assume based upon what I’ve learned about you so far.
There’s something that happens when you put things like that down on paper.
Something you said though with the person that said no - they didn’t say no to Auth0, they said no to you… And sometimes when we hear no, sometimes it’s “Not right now.” Instead of no, it’s just “Not you right now.” Maybe you’ve gotta learn some things. And that’s good that you took it that way.
You said that there was some upset part of you about that too, but it’s good that you reflected… And I think sometimes - the lesson I hear at least in what you shared there was this aspect of taking the feedback that we’ve talked about before, this fear, this feedback of life that happens with us, and reflecting on it. What does it really mean?
Is it reflecting on the current me, or is it reflecting on the true me? Is this really true? Is it just my imagination? How can I evolve?
We like to think of ourselves as being rational beings… And we are. We are equipped with the ability to reason and to look at facts, and use facts to draw conclusions. But we are also – we have emotions, and we have part of our own selves that react to events in ways that are not necessarily productive.
[00:27:56.26] When somebody tells you “Oh, you’re not gonna do it”, we interpret that immediately as “You are incompetent. You are incapable. You don’t know anything.” So the first feeling is a feeling of our own identity being under attack. And you know, that’s survival; you fight back and you say “How come? How come you say that I’m incompetent.” And the underlying anger is “How dare you say that I’m incompetent? Look at what I did – haven’t you seen all the good stuff that I’ve done in my life? Look, I’m a principal program manager at Microsoft. Very successful. How you dare say I’m incompetent?” That’s the first reaction.
We don’t get angry at the fact, at the event, we always get angry at our own judgment of that event. So I realized and I learned over time that it’s okay to have the reaction, and it’s okay to feel the anger of somebody telling us that we are incompetent… But that’s not what they’re saying.
What they were saying is the product proposition was not compelling. The pricing model was not – you know, nobody’s going to be attracted to that. The way you’re explaining the problem is not compelling enough. So when you take the time to drill down into the facts - not the reactions, the facts of “This person said this.” That’s all that happened, really… Then we can make progress. [unintelligible 00:30:03.01] Why do we assign so much value or so much weight to somebody’s opinion? Because at the end of the day, it was somebody’s opinion at that time. We assigned value because this was done in front of a lot of people. So I also will confess that I was embarrassed. I was in front of 50 other entrepreneur wannabes, and I felt ashamed in front of all of them. So that’s what was preventing me from teasing out the – which I did, afterwards… Teasing out the actual facts, and solve them, and create a better version of my pitch, and a better version of my product proposition… Which eventually was successful. Clearly, it was successful.
But it took that changing my mindset a little bit, which - for that I’m so grateful… Because once Auth0 started, guess what? We had hundreds of rejections. Hundreds of people telling us no. Whether they were customers, or investors… The rejection, or the opinions, and this teasing out opinions from facts, and using them to improve - it’s a muscle that we had to develop throughout the life of Auth0. And it still happens today.
[00:31:44.24] So it proved to be invaluable for us to continue to grow and to continue to evolve our company over time. Our last fundraise before this merger, this transaction with Okta was last year, in 2020, and it was led by Salesforce. But it was not the only investor that we talked to. And even then, when we were arguably a successful company, with proven scale, and sales, and everything else, I still have investors say no. Rejection happens all the time, and that’s, as I said, a good lesson.
The thing I heard there is that being able to leverage the inevitable rejection that you’re gonna have as an entrepreneur, as a maker, as a creator, as somebody with ideas that people just can’t see. I would wager that the person who gave you the rejection and embarrassed you and gave you this necessary fuel - maybe they didn’t even have the full story either of what was capable. They didn’t have your background with Visual Studio Code, and .NET, and the 13 years you’d put at Microsoft, and the lessons learned - they didn’t have that, what you knew. So you could [unintelligible 00:33:04.01] but the point is that you were able to use these inevitable rejections, these inevitable no’s as fuel. And I think that’s a super-power for an entrepreneur…
Because what often happens as an entrepreneur… As an entrepreneur you see the goal, you see the possibility, and people who don’t have the mindset of an entrepreneur - and I think it’s even debatable whether you’re born an entrepreneur or you can grow the skill of being an entrepreneur… But the point is that people who have an entrepreneurial mindset see goals and possibility and future and vision, and those who don’t, simply see roadblocks. They simply see what’s not possible. They see the things that are just holding them back, or holding the thing back… Rather than – like, if I have an idea that I feel so confident about like you have, I can’t see… I might be able to see the things that block me, but I see the thing that I wanna see so clearly it doesn’t matter; those things don’t matter.
Absolutely. A couple things there that I think are worth maybe digging deeper, from what you said. One is this person did not shame me. I felt ashamed. But what you said is absolutely true - he didn’t know everything, he didn’t have all the context. I was not able to explain the full context to him, for him to give me a better, maybe more informed opinion. It’s not his fault. Now, our first reaction is typically “How dare you?! You ashamed me.” That’s not what was happening. So I think that’s a superpower.
The other thing which I think it’s kind of like a prerequisite for entrepreneurship or for successful entrepreneurs is that obstacles and challenges - you can become victim of that, and say “Oh, look what happened to me! They told me no to this fundraise, or to this round. Or a customer tells me no. See? The world is against me, and I’m the victim of what’s happening around me.” I think a more positive approach, and a more effective approach actually, is to see all obstacles as opportunities. They’re there not to prevent you from moving forward, they are tests to check how much you want what’s behind them.
It’s the same way you go to the gym and you put more plates on your barbell. Well, the goal is not to hurt your muscles, it’s to make them stronger. And to make them stronger, you’re required to put a bigger obstacle, not a smaller obstacle. So that’s how I see obstacles.
[00:36:11.27] Obstacles are not there to just make your life miserable. You can choose to make your life miserable with obstacles, but you can choose also to analyze them and wrap them and help you make them better. So if a customer complains to you and says “Oh, your product is awful.” You can choose to say “Oh, they know nothing. They don’t understand. They are complete idiots. How come?!” Or you can say “Really? Tell me more. What’s missing? What were you expecting? What were you doing?”
In our journey we had so many customers telling us that it probably didn’t work for them, or we had an outage and the system was down, and they call me angry and upset, and say “You were down for five minutes. That’s terrible! I lost a lot of money, I lost credibility with my own customers.” And I apologized and I said “Tell me more about the patterns of how you use our system. Maybe we can use all of those to make our system better, and to make it stronger, and to deliver features that are more in tune with what the customer wants.”
So complaints and rejections from customers are kind of gifts that are wrapped in a nasty envelope. And once you get over the nastiness of the envelope, you can go into the gift that you can use in your favor.
I know we’re camping out tremendously in this lesson, which really is just the beginning of this mountain that you’ve climbed and the value that you’ve brought to market. Laser-focused on software developers, enabling software developers to be able to do things that they weren’t able to do before because of the cloud, because of the need to take applications of the cloud; how can you do that with identity, with security, with all those things in mind.
You’d mentioned the most recent funding round, which you said you got a lot of no’s to, or at least a few, led by Salesforce Ventures…
120 million dollars in funding last July. Eight years in business before you were acquired by Okta for 6.5 billion dollars… So I’d say that you’ve climbed the mountain, you’ve created the value, and all the details in there are building a great company. How do you build that great company? We only have a few minutes left, so I know that we’ve got limited time; this is a short run for this show… We might have to have you back on when you have more time, to kind of go deeper… But what can we cover around those eight years, creating that value? So you go from this rejection, this no, you learn how to unpack this nasty gift, and learn from it. How do you then create the company that’s capable of creating that kind of value?
Yeah, there’s quite a bit there. I will mention a few things that I think are important. One of them is being very clear about who you are in terms of your – what we call culture of the company. But culture is this term that we use maybe loosely, and then it’s difficult to maybe grasp in practice… You say “Well, what’s culture?” and I hear sometimes people say “Well, it’s this fluffy thing…” Actually, culture is not fluffy at all. It’s really, from my view, a set of four questions. That’s what makes your culture, what we call culture. It’s the answer for four questions.
The first question is “Why are you here? What’s the purpose of your company?” The second is “What is it that you do? What do you provide?” And “mission”, as a word, is oftentimes associated with this first question, which is “Why are we here?” But I like the question, because then you can frame the answer in plain English. I don’t like mission statements that are like old, pompous, complicated English words that nobody uses in their daily lives.
I like plain English explanations, and so I say “Why are you here?” “We are here to secure world’s identities, so the innovators of the world can innovate.” That’s why we’re here.
“What do you do?” “We provide an authentication and authorization service for developers.” That’s what we do.
And then the third question is “How do you behave? What are the behaviors that are non-negotiable in your company?” And we tend to associate those with our values, with the core values of the company. But I don’t like values… Companies frequently use core values as feel-good things. They say “We are honest, and we have high integrity.” And I ask “Who would declare not to be honest, or not to have high integrity?” It’s almost like a table stakes thing in business.
[00:44:03.06] So that’s not your core value… That’s – obviously, every company on the planet should be honest, and have high integrity. So it’s not differentiating enough. I think companies need to do the work of finding their own behaviors that are non-negotiable in anything they do, and they have to use those to make decisions early on. So in our case, we have three values. The first one is called “We give a shit”, which is a really a behavior of caring about everything we do, caring about ourselves, customers, team, product, pride in craftsmanship, that kind of thing.
The second one is called “n+1>n” and it’s this behavior of permanent improvement. Perfection is unattainable, but striving for perfection is. And you can always +1, you can always add to what you have. Even if it’s a small piece, it then makes you a little bit better. Permanent improvement, permanent learning, permanent bettering of yourself, the product, everything.
And the last one is called “One team, one score.” And I always use this soccer analogy that I mentioned before - we win as a team…
It’s a symphony, it’s not a solo. Those are three things that are non-negotiable in Auth0, and we use it all the time. And we call them in those terms because we want them to be memorable. We want people to remember them in every aspect of their activities and their jobs.
The last question is “How do you win in business? How are you different from other offerings and other options for solving the same problem?”
I think companies that have those four questions clear and they provide answers and they reinforce those four answers all the time, and every new member, every new colleague that we have in a company learns from those four, and essentially embeds those four questions in everything they do, then they are in a good place, better chances of success.
I love those four questions, and I love the core values you have too, because I’m telling you, and I’m not even kidding with you when I say this - they’re the same as ours. You say them a little differently, but they mean the same. They’re not one for one the same, but they mean the same. So our intent is the same.
The first one for us is care. We have to care. We have to show up and care every single day. And we have another principle which is Kaizen. It’s Japanese for continuous improvement. Essentially, n+1>n. Very similar. We can always improve, we’re committed to continuously improving. There’s always more that we can do. And I agree, perfection is unattainable, but striving for it is certainly capable by anybody in the team. And then we say “One team, one dream”, basically. One team, one score; one team, one dream. Pretty much the same. So hopefully, because I mirror your values, maybe our small indie media business will one day be worth as much. I don’t think so, but at least the value we bring, even if it’s not dollars value the same as yours, we can bring the same desire and care for developers, and desire and care for the community, and desire and care for the people that work with us in this business… Because we love showing up, and I think stories like yours are super-awesome. And I’m so thankful. I wish we had more time. Hopefully, you can come back and share more time with me and tell me more of this story…
Please, yeah. By all means, yeah.
I think there’s another component for success… Recently, not too long ago I read a book, it’s called The Infinite Game, and it’s from Simon Sinek. This one in particular struck a cord with me, because in essence what he’s saying is that there’s two types of games - there’s finite games, and there’s infinite games. In finite games, the rules are fixed, the players are fixed, there’s a beginning and an end, and there’s winners and there’s losers.
Soccer - to bring it back - is a finite game. It lasts 90 minutes, it’s 22 players, and the rules are very simple, you score more than the other. That’s it. That’s a finite game.
We believe that businesses, and we operate businesses sometimes as finite games too, which is a mistake, because businesses are not finite games. The best businesses are not those that think and operate as finite games, even though we sometimes use the jargon of finite games. We say “We win a deal. We made this quarter, we beat the goal of the quarter. We sold more etc.” We do that for planning purposes and for execution purposes, but if you think as a company as an infinite game, that you’re never done, and winning is actually staying in the game as long as possible, and there’s no end to it, there’s no “We are done.”
So I hate – when people congratulate me and they say “Congratulations on your exit…”
There’s no exit for me… I don’t see this as an exit or as an end. This is just a game that continues, and we will continue to deliver, answer the four questions in a different setting… But this doesn’t end. This continues. So I would encourage people/entrepreneurs to think long-term if we wanna win in the short-term, and think of building businesses almost as the goal of being healthy. The fact that you are eating properly and taking care of yourself and you’re healthy is not a win. That’s great, but staying healthy - it’s a constant effort. Building a great company is a never-ending effort.
I’m glad you said that, because that’s actually one point I wanted to make with this conversation with you… Because I’ve read in your interview with GeekWire back during the acquisition - just after, I believe, when you had that interview with them… And one thing I hear you saying and I wanna make sure that the audience hears this is that - I’m gonna paraphrase what you said, so help me clarify this, but… You basically said that “I see this not as an exit, but it’s a big milestone, for sure. It’s amazing for the company, this acquisition, this unification between Okta and Auth0”, but you saw it as a new beginning, a new start essentially. Not from zero, but a new start, because you now have brand new dreams, and expanded dreams and possibilities, and a partner in crime, so to speak, in Okta, in Todd McKinnon and the leadership there to do the goals you continue to do.
The acquisition was not a takeover, the brand continues… Some other details - it’s an all-stock deal, by design to some degree from your part. If it was a cash-out, then that would have been a different story. You bought into the future of Okta, which means you hold Okta stock, which means you bet on the long-term of the partnership between you and them.
I’m putting a lot of words out that I know you said, so feel free to add some more there, but…
[00:52:14.07] I think Todd McKinnon as a founder and as a CEO, as a builder - we share so many of the same traits and interests. I feel very, very close to the same relationship that I had with Matthias when we started the company. So with him, [unintelligible 00:52:39.19] for the entire company not too long ago… I said, in a different world, in a different time, if I had been born in San Francisco or in the U.S, or if Todd had been born in Argentina maybe, I totally see the opportunity of us creating a company from scratch, as a true co-founder and partner… Because we share a lot of the same convictions and philosophy of building companies. And he said “We started a new company in March. So you can see this transaction as being like we’re taking two things that were successful on their own, and now we’re starting a new thing that takes the best of these two and creates a new one that is gonna be even better, more impactful, and will bring more value to the market.”
So in a way, we are like co-founders of a new thing that started in March. And yes, being an all-stock deal, it’s a little bit of a representation of that, because I’m not leaving, and I want the upside of what we’re gonna be building in the future. And I want that upside for me personally, but I also want the upside for the investors, and for my colleagues in the company, and also our owners of [unintelligible 00:54:29.10]
Yeah. Well, let me say congratulations… Not on the exit, but on the new beginning. Because I think that’s awesome. I think it’s a great way to frame it. Thank you so much for taking the time to share this story with me and with the listeners of Founders Talk. I’m rooting for you as well, from the sidelines, of course; I’m not in the game with you, but whenever you have wins, just imagine me there going “Go, Eugenio! Go, Eugenio!” Alright?
[laughs] Thank you, Adam.
Thank you for your time, it’s been awesome.
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