Expanded Okta presence in Canada to have positive impact on Canada channel

Okta has ramped up both its commitment to the Canadian market, and the staff and resources available. The enhanced focus should significantly benefit their Canadian channel business as well.

Okta’s Zac Kilpatrick, closing the TSE last week

Last week, identity management provider Okta officially opened their new offices in Canada. While they have had a Toronto office for years, the new one on King Street West is much larger, to accommodate a larger staff. Okta CEO Todd McKinnon stressed that the increased presence reflects a much stronger commitment to the Canadian market, which has evolved from a tactical opportunity to a strategic priority for the company. That increased importance will have significant implications for Okta’s channel business as well, as it means more resources and more focus.

Okta’s go-to-market is a hybrid one, with both significant direct and channel businesses.

“We started out direct, and evolved our strategy over time to add an indirect component,” said Zac Kilpatrick, who runs Okta’s Americas channel organization as Senior Director, Regional Alliances – Americas. “Over the last four or five years, we have become very focused on partnerships, and moved into a partner-led model.”

Kilpatrick manages the North American regional alliances.

“We form technology alliances and I manage hem in the field, with a staff of ten in North America,” he said. “We execute the go-to-market strategy that has been defined. It’s very much a meet in the channel approach, where we team up with vendor partners from the Okta Integration Network [OIN] like NetSkope or Palo Alto Networks, and reseller partners like Scalar Decisions.”

The OIN, which is for technical integrations, includes a large number of vendor partners – about 125 in all, accounting for over 5,500 separate integrations.

“The ones we really go to market are a much smaller subset of that,” Kilpatrick said.

While the VAR channel is an expanding part of the business, it is very much guided by a value approach rather than a volume one.

“We do use distribution, but the key relationships with our VAR channel partners are mainly direct ones,” Kilpatrick stated. “Our focus is on a smaller subset of high value partners. That’s where our focus is.”

In Canada, the number of these partners is measured in the single digits.

“Among the GSIs, we have strong relationship with Deloitte,” Kilpatrick said. “Among the VARs, it’s Scalar Decisions, Optiv and a few others,” Okta also has relationships with LARs like CDW, SHI and Insight.

Kilpatrick referred to Canada has a green fields market for Okta. While they have been here for years, they haven’t had market penetration commensurate with the size of the market opportunity.

“We have had a small office in Toronto, but sales were generally managed out of the U.S. on a regional basis,” he said. “We have been penetrating Canada in specific accounts, but this is our first real move in. The market here is receptive. When I first joined Okta, I thought the product would be really great for forward-thinking companies, but it is broader than that. The big banks in Canada have been early adopters.”

The expanded office presence will help the channel business considerably, Kilpatrick said.

“Because we are a SaaS company, we don’t need the office space to bring in customers to do a demo,” he said. “But the expanded presence in Canada is important because of what it means to our focus. The Toronto office was mainly a product engineering team before. We still have that, and it is significant, but the expansion also means a greater focus on business development and the channel. We have all four stories of this building, and it allows us to expand to 90 people. Sales and channel management in Canada in the past has basically been a second job for people whose principal territories are in the U.S. That will change now because of the added focus.”