1695 – Identity Management In Action with Strata Identity’s Eric Olden

In this episode of the Thoughtful Entrepreneur, your host Josh Elledge speaks to the Co-Founder & CEO of Strata Identity, Eric Olden.

Eric broke down the concept of identity orchestration. He explained that it falls within a new software category designed to enable organizations to maintain identity management across multiple cloud platforms consistently and automatically.

This software ensures secure access to websites, applications, and data, effectively eliminating the need for manual and repetitive processes.

From a user's perspective, identity orchestration often operates seamlessly in the background. For instance, when someone logs into a website using their Google ID, it exemplifies identity management.

While this process may appear straightforward for individual users, complexity arises when managing identities for numerous users or a substantial workforce numbering in the thousands. This is precisely where identity orchestration steps in, simplifying the entire process and promoting interoperability.

Strata Identity primarily collaborates with large enterprises like Kroger, 3M, and the State of Minnesota, managing identity for their customers, employees, and partners. Eric's experience running Oracle's security and identity division gave him insights into big enterprises' challenges in managing identity across multiple clouds. This led him to establish Strata Identity and develop software to address this issue.

Strata Identity's pricing model is unique. Instead of charging based on the number of users, they focus on securing applications and the number of identity providers used. This allows organizations to pay for their needs, making the service more accessible and cost-effective.

Key Points from the Episode:

  • Introduction of Eric Olden, co-founder and CEO of Strata Identity
  • Explanation of identity orchestration as a new category of software
  • Importance of identity orchestration in managing identity across multiple cloud platforms
  • Strata Identity's focus on large enterprises and their experience in managing identity for customers, employees, and partners
  • Unique pricing model based on securing applications and number of identity providers used
  • Benefits of deploying Strata Identity's software, including cost savings and system upgrades without changing applications
  • Specialization in solving complex use cases, such as mergers and acquisitions
  • Importance of using standards like SAML or OpenID Connect

About Eric Olden:

Eric Olden is a visionary technical leader known for his profound contributions to internet security and identity management. With a career spanning innovation in web security and cloud technology, he co-founded and served as CEO of Symplified, a pioneer in cloud identity and access management.

At Symplified, Eric played a pivotal role in developing one of the earliest cloud identity management solutions and forged integrations with major cloud platforms like AWS, establishing a global cloud service for Identity and Access Management (IAM).

His journey in identity management began as the CTO and co-founder of Securant/ClearTrust, where he co-authored AuthXML and contributed to its incorporation into the SAML standard, a cornerstone in modern identity management. RSA acquired Securant, cementing Eric's legacy in the field. He's founded three software companies, generating over $235 million in equity value and holds multiple patents.

Eric is known for his hands-on approach to product strategy and team building, emphasizing customer development and fostering a strong team culture, significantly impacting the tech startup ecosystem. His passion lies in solving overlooked problems and creating pioneering markets in web SSO, Identity Federation, and Cloud SSO.

About Strata Identity:

Strata Identity is a pioneering company dedicated to providing secure identity solutions for all applications across various cloud platforms and identity providers, all while avoiding vendor lock-ins, complex modernization projects, and application abandonment.

Founded by Eric Olden, Eric Leach, and Topher Marie, Strata Identity strongly emphasizes culture and core values, including openness, honesty, integrity, transparency, accountability, and empowerment.

The company's mission revolves around breaking the shackles of identity and access management challenges by aligning its values with its actions.

Strata Identity's distributed team of Maverics spans North America, with the founders exemplifying the company's culture by starting the venture while on a surfing trip despite living in different parts of the United States.

This commitment to culture and shared values drives the team to believe in what they are building, akin to catching the perfect wave – a moment of pure magic. Strata Identity's team plays a central role in its ambitious endeavors.

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Links Mentioned in this Episode:

Want to learn more? Check out Strata Identity website at

Check out Strata Identity podcast at

Check out Strata Identity on LinkedIn at

Check out Strata Identity on Twitter at

Check out Eric Olden on LinkedIn at

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Josh (00:00:05) - Hey there, thoughtful listener. Would you like consistent and predictable sales activity with no spam and no ads? I'll teach you step by step how to do this, particularly if you're an agency owner, consultant, coach or B2B service provider. What I teach has worked for me for more than 15 years and has helped me create more than $10 million in revenue. Just head to up my influence and watch my free class on how to create endless high ticket sales appointments. You can even chat with me live and I'll see and reply to your messages. Also, don't forget the thoughtful entrepreneur is always looking for guests. Go to up my influence com and click on podcast. We'd love to have you. With us right now. Eric. Eric, you are the co-founder and CEO of Strata Identity. You're found on the web at Strata IO. Eric, thank you so much for joining us.

Eric (00:01:10) - Thanks for having me today, Josh.

Josh (00:01:12) - Yeah. So listen, I'll be very frank. I had to ask you what we were talking about because I was on your website and I'm like, I don't know that I really understand what identity orchestration is.

Josh (00:01:22) - And now that you've explained to me, I know exactly what it is, but I think it might be a new term that many may be unfamiliar with Is can you give us a quick 101 on what identity orchestration is? And then obviously, we're going to talk about how Strata empowers this.

Eric (00:01:37) - Yeah, absolutely. So identity orchestration is a new category of software. And if you think about identity management as a way to manage the users who access your website, your applications and your data, identity management is the control system that allows you to say these people can access this, but not that. And for orchestration what the kind of current challenge is that organizations use more than one cloud. So they'll have stuff on Amazon, some stuff on Azure and maybe some stuff on a private data center. And so what identity orchestration does is allows the security to be consistent across those 2 or 3 different clouds that companies use. So think about it as a way to manage identity without having to do it in a manual, repetitive way.

Josh (00:02:34) - Yeah. So, you know, from a user standpoint, you know, I got to tell you that, you know, it's it can become so seamless now because so when we talk about identity and it could be maybe we're talking about or from a user standpoint how might what might be some other ways that we see this in action. But again, it's all kind of seamlessly happening in the background.

Eric (00:03:00) - Yeah. Well, if you've ever logged into a website using your Gmail, your Google ID, that's identity management and action and a particular kind called federated identity. And what is going on is behind the scenes is a secure, cryptographically reliable way to make sure that if I logged in to Google at first and then I want to have that session work at my bank, then the Saml or OpenID Connect protocols are used to make sure that that single sign on is really me and not someone else acting like me. So it's something that if you've ever logged in to a website or your applications, that's identity management.

Eric (00:03:48) - So I think that most of the time it's in the background and people don't give much thought to it. But when you try and do this for millions of users or thousands of employees, it gets complicated really quick. And so orchestration was a way to make it all easy and interoperable.

Josh (00:04:07) - Yeah. All right. And so Strata maybe could share just a bit about who you've worked with historically and and what that ends up looking like and particularly, you know, solving problems that might be a little challenging for them to solve themselves.

Eric (00:04:22) - Yeah, well, we work with mostly large enterprises and the Krogers of the world, the three M's of the world, Dallas County, State of Minnesota. So a lot of different use cases that people need to manage identity, whether it's for a company and its customers or its employees or its partners, or if you're a state or local government and you need to manage citizens access to the DMV, for instance. So a lot of different ways in which people use identity. And our focus is on the large enterprise because that's really where my DNA comes from.

Eric (00:05:03) - And before starting this company strata, I have been running Oracle's security and identity division and was responsible for all the software that Oracle sold for security and identity, as well as the security of the Oracle Cloud and the software as a service application. So I had a lot of experience with Big Enterprise and saw that the problem was how do we make it work on all the clouds, not just on Oracle. And so myself and so my other co-founders, we left and created Strata, and so we brought a team together and started this company. This is my third venture backed startup and identity. And the first two were acquired and, you know, that was a lot of fun. So here are times you go on even bigger and faster.

Josh (00:05:54) - Well, congratulations on that. So, yeah, so again, looks like just over four years now and the pricing I think seems a little unique. I would have thought that this would be very much kind of a consumption based pricing when we think about what needs to get done.

Josh (00:06:16) - But would could you talk maybe about your model and how you work with your clients?

Eric (00:06:22) - Yeah. One of the things that we saw was an opportunity to innovate on the pricing, as you suggest, and most identity management software is sold by the number of users that you have. And the problem there is it's very hard to predict how many users are actually going to be logging in. And what if you have users that log in only once a year and instead of having to pay for users that don't actually use the system, we thought, well, what about all of users being free, whether you've got 100 or 100 million and instead simply charge for the applications that you're securing? And so that's our model, is to focus on how many applications are you trying to secure in, how many identity providers do you use? So if you have 2 or 3 clouds, you'd have 2 or 3 identity providers, and usually our customers have dozens to thousands of applications.

Josh (00:07:22) - Um, and so thinking about how strand strata kind of got things kicked off.

Josh (00:07:29) - How did you go to market? What were those what was that first, maybe six months or 12 months like?

Eric (00:07:36) - Yeah, well, the first step in starting a company, from my standpoint, what I've seen worked and what we did here at Strata was to actually start without doing any software. And instead we went and we talked to, at this point, over 150 organizations. And we just asked them, what's your biggest problem? What are you struggling with? And when you hear a pattern over and again that, hey, identity in multi-cloud is a real huge pain for us and nobody's thinking about it, That then became the opportunity for us to build software and solve that problem. And we did that for about nine months, almost a year, and then we started to build our software. And within the first year we had the first version of our software called Mavericks, and we shipped that in December of 2019. So almost four years ago. And it's been really interesting to see going from no customers to dozens of customers.

Eric (00:08:42) - And in the very, very early days when we were just 6 or 7 people, all the founders were doing all the selling and talking to customers and saying, Hey, if we could solve this problem, would you buy it? Would you pay for it? And negotiating and all the kind of fine tuning stuff that you need to do in sales. We didn't have any dedicated salespeople for almost two, two and a half years.

Josh (00:09:07) - Wow.

Eric (00:09:09) - Makes it busy.

Josh (00:09:10) - That's amazing. Yeah.

Eric (00:09:12) - And then eventually we raised a series, A financing, and then more recently this year announced our series B financing. So as you get more capital, you can build a larger team and become more specialized. So today we've got a dedicated sales and marketing teams, and I still do a lot of as much of my time that I can with customers. That's where I like to spend my time in and but I don't have to do all of the selling today because I focus now on building the right product.

Josh (00:09:45) - Is just a kind of an enterprise only solution.

Josh (00:09:48) - Or are there opportunities for Mid and SMBs?

Eric (00:09:53) - Yeah, we're mostly focused on the enterprise now. We do have some mid-market growth companies that we work with that are, you know, below $100 million. But so and because those companies have the problem as well, and especially ones that are using cloud based applications, they need a way to bring everything together and maybe use something like an Okta or a Microsoft Azure Active Directory and make those identity providers secure all sorts of different applications. And so what Strata does is we bridge the gap between what the big identity providers do and the applications themselves. So that last mile is a really complicated problem to solve. And so we've cracked the code on that and that's really where we focus. So whether you're a fortune, I think our biggest customer is a Fortune 15 company and the the smallest is probably a 200 person. Quasi startup, late, later stage startup. So everything in between?

Josh (00:10:58) - Yeah. Do you is this for many companies, is this something that they might be using a very inferior way of this, or are they using a competitor that maybe the models not as attractive as what you can offer? Where do you see the where's the market right now for this?

Eric (00:11:17) - Yeah, our competition is manual labor rewriting your applications and we offer a faster, easier way to do it.

Eric (00:11:27) - You don't need to hire people. You can just turn software on and we can do in about 10 to 15 minutes what typically takes six months and $150,000 of consulting, kind of a developer coming in And, you know, a way to think about it, Josh, is imagine if you ran a hotel and you've got hundreds of rooms in this hotel and each of the doors you want to upgrade the lock. And there's one way to do it is to go, you know, you have the old fashioned metal key. And now we want to let people who have a smartphone use that to unlock the door so it's more convenient, more secure. Well, if you have 500 rooms in your hotel, you've got to go change the lock on 500 of these doors. And that's going to take you a lot of time, cost you a lot of money. And the way to think about strata software is that we're this almost like a magical layer that you can use without changing the lock and put this adapter on it and then allow people to use their cell phone instead of the physical key and do all of that without making any changes to the door itself.

Eric (00:12:38) - So that's the kind of scale that we're saving customers tens of millions of dollars because they have to upgrade their systems in order for those applications to work in the cloud and to be compliant and to manage the security vulnerability. So all of those are the reasons why people deploy this software. And we make it happen really quickly without any manual work.

Josh (00:13:01) - You know, if we think about identity orchestration as a whole and say you were to just share one simple message to all enterprise companies out there, anything you know, maybe from a hey, listen, I got to tell you, this is what we obsess on and this is what we do and live and breathe every day of our life. If there's nothing else you remember about identity orchestration, remember this Like anything kind of come to mind that you would hope the or wish the world would would consider on this.

Eric (00:13:33) - Yeah, that's a great question, Josh, because most of the time when people hear what we do, they think it's impossible and they think, well, if that was possible, wouldn't surely one of these big companies would have figured that out years ago? Well, the message is it is possible to do these kind of things where you can upgrade your security and your identity without changing your application and use more than one identity partner like an Okta and a Microsoft together.

Eric (00:14:02) - Normally those are two very oil and water kind of competitive solutions. We make them work together in harmony because our customers are typically trying to make more complicated use cases, work mergers and acquisitions. And so if you find yourself in a situation where you have more than one identity system that you need to work with or you're running on more than one cloud identity orchestration can solve a whole host of challenges.

Josh (00:14:29) - Yeah, for a general consumer brand, like, say, like a Kroger, and they allow you to kind of create and manage identity and you're logging in by, you know, Facebook, Apple, Google or one of those, right? Is there is there one like, is there a any general numbers on which of those? That they choose, I guess the consumer chooses. Are there one that are just wildly more popular than the others?

Eric (00:14:55) - I think the way to to think about that is mostly to use standards, right? Where you can have a standard like Saml or OpenID Connect. So Saml is security assertion, markup language, a lot of letters involved in that.

Eric (00:15:11) - But the bottom line is it works with other websites that support Saml or OpenID Connect. And so those are the things that you really want to use. All of the big platform companies like the ones you mentioned, the Googles, the Twitters, the Apple are all supporting the standard that is based on public defined, interoperable standards.

Josh (00:15:36) - So thank goodness that was a thank goodness that they came to that a while back.

Eric (00:15:41) - Yeah, exactly. Exactly.

Josh (00:15:44) - To our friend, to our listener that's been listening in on our conversation. And they're like, this is great. What's kind of those first steps that they might take to start, you know, maybe a conversation or some some due diligence research to see if strides would be a good solution for them.

Eric (00:16:01) - Well, I would point people to our website at WW dot strata dot that's spelled s t a strategy and it is we've got a part on our website that has all of these recipes that you can use to solve your specific use cases. So you kind of or because orchestration can do a whole lot of things.

Eric (00:16:26) - So we organized it in a way to say, Hey, what is your problem that you're trying to solve? Whether it's applying non password based authentication to your app or you want to modernize an application, Both of those are recipes and available on our website and you can see that watch a video. You don't have to talk to anybody and you can even sign up and use the product for free. And so if you go to our website, you can do all of that yourself. And of course, if you want help, we're we're more than happy to help kind of shepherd you along the process. And if you have a particular use case that you're not sure that can anybody solve it. We have kind of a special program to submit your use case challenge. We call it the identity challenge. And if you go to Stratus slash podcast and you send us your use case, we'll show you an A demo and we'll give you a pair of AirPods Pro from Apple for for your time and the challenge. So it's kind of a fun way to do it.

Eric (00:17:31) - You get something out of it. We learn a lot more about what customers are trying to do and think that's a great place to start.

Josh (00:17:37) - Yeah, fantastic. Oh that's great. Again, Stratum IO slash podcast cast for the I've got the web page pulled up right here. What's your toughest challenge? We'll solve it for you. Very, very cool. So Eric Olden again co-founder and CEO Strata Identity website one last time Strategies. Oh, Eric, thank you so much for joining us.

Eric (00:18:02) - Thanks for having me. Josh It was great.

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