The demand for such applications has skyrocketed within traditional enterprises as it helps generate revenue, improve user engagement, and thus increase customer loyalty. But there is a serious skill shortage in this sector due to skilled app developers moving to new-age mobile first enterprises & startups over the rest.
A convenient solution to these pressing matters would be a platform that enables builders to conveniently make their applications enterprise-ready. That is exactly what WorkOS, a company started in 2019 by Michael Grinich, wants to accomplish. Grinich understands that the services used within the IT sector are excessively fragmented and that they should be integrated, so making an app enterprise-ready is no longer impossible.
"WorkOS helps companies become ‘enterprise ready.’ This lets companies quickly grow upmarket and effectively unlocks revenue for them. "This is a big deal for post-product market fit startups," Grinich said.
Grinch’s innovative idea and the creative platform WorkOS have got the attention of around 200 customers, including Scale, Stripe, and Airtable. Its highlighting feature is allowing developers to include Single Sign-on (SSO). The start-up recently announced its successful Series B funding round, which was led by Greenoaks Capital, among several other noteworthy investors. Let’s get familiar with WorkOS and find out whether it’s worth the hype or not.
The complexity of selling a product, especially a software-based one, is well-known to enterprises of any level. The challenges include convincing the decision-makers that one’s product is better than the rest in all respects. The majority of the companies that offer software-as-a-service (SaaS) have introduced enterprise-level plans by keeping in mind the requirements of high-end customers. These plans are complete with premium features and more use-cases, which often come at a hefty price.
There are no convenient platforms where one could develop enterprise-level features that are mainly focused on security, compliance, and data privacy. But the circumstances took a turn in the form of WorkOS in 2019, when enterprises worldwide were battling with the COVID-19 surge to remain afloat. The founder and current CEO of WorkOS is Michael Grinich, an MIT alumnus with a passion for computer science.
"There’s a lot of fragmentation across services used by IT." "This fragmentation causes problems for developers who want to integrate across all systems."And that’s where WorkOS comes in."
Grinich started his career as a prototype who managed fluid interfaces, Opera of the Future, and Tangible Media during his time at the MIT Media Lab. But his first official job in a company began in 2011 when Dropbox hired Grinich as an engineer. But his entrepreneurial endeavors didn’t stop as he visualized and planned his first-ever start-up from his dorm room.
In an interview, Grinich shared his frustration of opening a flooded inbox. While he was still a student at MIT, Grinich wrote a thesis on syncing emails using fundamental tools. He shared his mind with Christine Spang, who instantly became a collaborator, and they started Nylas (formerly Inbox) in 2013. Nylas handles emails and other protocols through the underlying infrastructure by building unique features for applications.
The Nylas platform was a resounding success, earning Michael Grinich a spot on Forbes' list of the "30 Under 30" in 2016. platform’s flagship open-source email client launched as Nylas Mail. Nylas ended up receiving backing from Data Collective Great Oaks, 8VC, and SV Angel to venture into the API business. In 2017, Grinich decided to part ways with Nylas after naming Gleb Polyakov as CEO.
The CEO of WorkOS believes, "Founders with grand dreams of productivity apps were called by the siren song of building unique and shiny features, all the while completely avoiding the unglamorous needs of IT admins." Inevitably, this would end in the same deadlock. Some teams would get acqui-hired, but most were not so lucky. They simply shut down, quietly, and usually to the confusion of a fanatical (but un-paying) user base.”
In reality, Grinich took the decision to leave Nylas, the first-ever start-up that he created, because of the feedback their team got from enterprise-level clientele. Though the Nylas application was perfect and quite innovative, top-tier clients didn’t see it fit to take on enterprise-level challenges. As a result, with Grinich out, Nylas shut down operations for the app and focused on sales infrastructure. Grinich realized the opportunity to create a path which helped startups overcome the scaling gap.
Instead of being disheartened by Nylas’s failure, Grinich turned it into an inspiration to start WorkOS. WorkOS was created to take on the challenge of creating enterprise-level systems and software with features like SSO, access control, and audit logs. For his second time as a founder, Grinich was sure that clients would use it to make their software-based products enterprise-ready. WorkOS makes it possible to sell up-market to big corporations.
“The idea for Nylas was born from my personal frustrations with the world of email products and started out with just a few lines of code written in my dorm room. Many years later, with a small team and lots of hard work, we’ve been able to make a huge impact for developers worldwide, "says Michael Grinich.
While Grinch worked on the early stages of WorkOS, he recruited global talents to create a multifunctional remote team. With Kathleen Chung, former investment banker now chief of staff, and Alon Levi, ex-Dropbox and sales engineer now VP of Engineering, Grinich was able to launch the company out of stealth in 2020.
"We realized our exclusive focus on the end-user experience had led us astray. We had never considered the real buyer—enterprise IT admins—and their long list of (understandably) complex requirements. Users loved our app, but it was not enterprise-ready. "
In 2020, Grinich’s start-up WorkOS announced its public launch. The API for single sign-on (SSO) and directory sync is open for customers’ use. Shortly after the public launch of WorkOS, the admin portal hit the shelf. The admin portal is an "out-of-box solution" that helps enterprise IT admins.
"WorkOS accelerates SaaS companies in their journey to becoming Enterprise Ready, so their app has all the features to be adopted ‘wall-to-wall’ in a large organization." The WorkOS website
API Platform for WorkOS:
The WorkOS stack consists of three vital offerings which help companies cultivate enterprise-focused features. One of the features that make WorkOS better than its competitors is that it can sync an application's enterprise employee directory systems. It comes with a user-friendly dashboard where a customer can easily connect to the identity providers and also directories.
Let’s take a look at the three quick-build enterprise features that WorkOS offers to its global clients;
SSO is one of the most significant features offered by WorkOS. It can be implemented easily by Security Assertion Markup Language, or SAML. This is an XML-based language for security assertions, which is why it is considered to be a standard despite how challenging it is. Many applications, which are critical from a security perspective, rely on SAML.
WorkOS founder and CEO Michael Grinich has said that "SSO alongside directory sync for user and group provisioning, are the first features that enterprise customers require — building them in-house can take months, but with WorkOS it takes just a few hours."
The Directory sync feature is sometimes referred to as the System for Cross-domain Identity Management, or SCIM. It is utilized for provisioning users in applications within the company’s model. SCIM is considered more vital than SSO because it is related to controlling access to software in an organization. Using SCIM, it would be easier for a company’s IT team to add or remove access to certain software.
Bryant Chou, co-founder and CTO of Webflow, says, "Because WorkOS enabled Webflow to be enterprise ready quickly, we are able to continue to focus on our core product offerings." Webflow Enterprise powers enterprise websites, including Fortune 50 companies like Dell. Several months ago, enterprise deals made up a small fraction of Webflow’s revenue, and with the support of WorkOS, we are well on our way to growing that significantly. "
The admin portal on WorkOS delivers pre-built workflows for any sort of B2B software start-up. Using these workflows, it is possible for customers to enable smooth engagement for new customers of the enterprise. The Admin portal’s value for end users is encapsulated in key integrations with modern and legacy enterprise infrastructure and customer facilities.
Even before WorkOS launched, the challenges of introducing, handling, and offering enterprise solutions remained no less than a challenge. A recent Alpha Software survey proved that over 85% of enterprise development managers found that they suffered from a backlog of up to 20 mobile applications. Gartner’s report shared in Q3 indicates the demand for B2B and B2E applications within organizations will continue to increase in the coming years.
EnterpriseAppsToday recently shared data from a Q3 Gartner report that predicts the spending on – and demand for-enterprise applications will only grow as CEOs see the intersection of cloud, social media, big data (including analytics) and mobile as a way to creatively disrupt business models and generate higher income." — Alpha Software's Chris Conroy
WorkOS has impressively come a long way since 2019, as it came out of stealth in the next year to complete a seed funding round. By constructing enterprise techniques and software, WorkOS simplifies a lot, such as entry management, audit trails, and SSO. Grinich, the CEO of WorkOS, has stated that the company currently has over 200 paid clients but refused to reveal the income figures.
"WorkOS allowed us to seamlessly ‘install’ all the enterprise features we needed for Vercel to be adopted by large organizations. Creating them on our own would have wasted us money, time, and provided no meaningful differentiation to our core product offerings, "states Guillermo Rauch, the founder and CEO of Vercel, one of the earliest customers of WorkOS.
The services of WorkOS resemble a lot of Stripe or even Twilio, but Grinich’s start-up venture is offering all enterprise-level capabilities. Customers of WorkOS could be any post-product market participant or company that is developing a SaaS product. As mentioned earlier, within four years of operation, WorkOS has on-boarded companies like Loom, WebFlow, Drata, and Hopin as end users. But according to the CEO, the majority of clients that WorkOS works with are early-stage companies.
It's a big challenge to get product-market fit, but what comes after that is actually figuring out how to get customers to pay. That's what it means to "Cross the Enterprise Chasm" and become enterprise ready. "Getting Product-Market Fit is not enough today to quickly build and scale a successful SaaS product," Grinich told Forbes.
The following are a few direct competitors of WorkOS:
Okta is a well-known company that deals with SSO, provisioning, mobility management, and authentication solutions for B2B and B2E companies. The company is led by co-founder and CEO Todd McKinnon, and its headquarters are located in San Francisco. Okta acquired Auth0, a platform similar to WorkOS, in 2021. Okta currently generates around $1.5 billion in yearly revenue with over 5000 employees. Okta has raised $1 billion in post IPO debt.
Auth0 was founded in 2013 in Bellevue, Washington by Eugenio Pace, the co-founder and CEO. This identity authentication platform famously offers enterprise and user management solutions for both the media and financial industries. Around 1000 employees work for Auth0 as it generates around $500 million annually. Auth0 was acquired by Okta last year in a deal worth $6.5 billion.
This is an England-based platform dedicated to API management that offers performance monitoring and analytics solutions for businesses. Tyk was established in 2014 by co-founder and CEO Martin Buhr. This independent company’s estimated annual revenue is over 100 full-time employees. This company has raised $40 million in a recent growth funding round from investors like MMC Ventures and Scottish Equity Partners.
"We sometimes hear developers compare us to Auth0, but they exclusively focus on authentication, whereas WorkOS is looking to solve the wider challenge of becoming "enterprise ready." Grinich said, "We haven’t seen a slowdown here, but we’re also an infrastructure company. Our growth is the aggregate sum of all our customers’ growth. "
WorkOS has made ripples across the industry after getting full financial support from a number of backers. But what makes the recent financing round of WorkOS even more successful is the coincidental and first-ever acquisition of Modulz. Modulz was launched by Colm Tuite and Stephen Haney, who also created Radix and Stitches, two notable open-source projects. After the acquisition, Modulz created WorkOS to help developers build apps quickly and conveniently.
In the last 2 years, WorkOS has attracted over 200 paying customers despite the global pandemic. The economic shutdown did not affect the growth rate of WorkOS across the globe, according to the official blog. Many companies like Webflow, Vercel, Drata, and others have grown to a $1 billion valuation after integrating WorkOS into their enterprise model. After three successful financing rounds, WorkOS has assumed $95.
"Without WorkOS, our product development team would need to dedicate much more development time and energy to each new customer on-boarding. Setting up with WorkOS was smooth, seamless, easy to integrate, and took very little of Scoop's engineering resources, "states Scoop CPO Jonathan Sadow.
According to Oddup’s research data, the last valuation for WorkOS was around $500 million, and its post-money valuation after the Series B fundraiser was $580 million. Lightspeed is one of WorkOS lead investors who has shown interest in its potential to grow substantially in the future. The Oddup Score given to WorkOS is 52.79, which is quite low as this company exists in a highly competitive market with peers like Okta.
In 2019, when WorkOS was merely a few months old, its founder and CEO, Grinich, announced a seed funding round. The venture capital firms that rushed to make the WorkOS seed funding round a success were Abstract Ventures, SV Angel, and Lightspeed Venture Partners. At the end of this round, Nakul Mandan, founder of Lightspeed, and Ramtin Naimi, founder and GP of Abstract Ventures, joined the WorkOS team as partners.
After nearly a year of a victorious seed funding round, WorkOS proceeded with the Series A. This time around, four new VCs joined the Series B and made it a success. Out of the participating investors, Lachy Groom turned out to be the lead investor, followed by Worklife, Scott Belsky, CPO of Adobe, and Audacious Ventures. Together, with the support of its investors, WorkOS raised $15 million.
Out of the three financing rounds closed triumphantly by WorkOS, its most recent and most noteworthy one is the Series B. This particular round was participated in by a total of 14 different investors and VC firms, but the one that led them all was Greenoaks Capital. The existing investors in this round were Lightspeed and Lachy Groom. WorkOS managed to raise a total of $80 million in this round.
Grinich wrote in a blog. "We're humbled to be well-funded and grateful to have many years of runway, especially in light of current economic conditions." "This financing will enable us to stay focused on long-term impact, make bold bets, and always put our users first."
In a bid to make companies and their offerings "enterprise-ready," WorkOS has come a long way since its inception. CEO Grinich has prioritized quickly growing the upmarket by helping out WorkOS clients that are mainly post-product market fit start-ups to multiply their revenue. Michael Grinich also stated that the competitiveness observed in the Series B round of WorkOS was reassuring.
The acquisition of Modulz was a zealous move to help WorkOS fulfill its ambitions more effectively sometime in the future. As Modulz is a renowned open-source tool for creating design systems, In a Q&A e-mail, CEO Michael Grinich of WorkOS revealed that both the cash and the acquisition of Modulz will help with hiring and product growth initiatives. WorkOS’ 40-employee team has also been absorbed into WorkOS’ workforce.
"The API is still evolving, and we’re planning on adding more authentication factors in the future depending on user feedback." The CEO of WorkOS.
After making a notable entry in its relevant market, WorkOS is continuing to enhance the user interface components of their product, and with Modulz's buyout, the team is supposed to double their open-source efforts soon.