By: Greylock + Greymatter Sarah Guo
Date: Tuesday, May 17, 2022

There are a million different ways things can go wrong when running a startup. Most founders learn the hard way.

Frederic Kerrest’s experience was no different. The early days of Okta, which he co-founded with Todd McKinnon in 2009, were rife with challenges. From flawed go-to-market strategies and missed sales targets to struggles with hiring, Kerrest and McKinnon dealt with it all. On top of it all, it was in the midst of the Great Recession.

“I can pick specific dates because they’re burned into my brain when Okta almost died multiple times,” says Kerrest, who now serves as the Chief Operating Officer and Executive Vice Chairman of the identity management company.

That experience is why Kerrest wrote Zero to IPO, a collection of some of the best actionable advice from some of the world’s most influential entrepreneurs. The book, which was published earlier this year, details his early days at Okta as well as those of other iconic entrepreneurs such as Workday’s Aneel Bhusri. Kerrest outlines the key operational and philosophical shifts that set Okta on a strong course, and the identity management company is now used by thousands of businesses around the world every day.

The goal was to create the guidebook Kerrest wished he had back then.

“If you’re an entrepreneur and you go to all these mixers and you ask everyone, ‘Oh, how are you doing?’ Everyone’s killing it. They’re always killing it all the time, except you,” says Kerrest. “And the reality of it is even the best companies in the world go through many, many tough periods.

As part of our Iconversations speaker series, Kerrest joined Greylock general partner Sarah Guo to discuss the key themes of the book and share detailed examples of how they played out at Okta.


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