We all know what authentication is. You enter a username and password, or your face or fingerprint, and access a device or application. However, what you can do with that application or device falls within the realm of authorization, the close cousins of authentication. For years, developers have been forced to create their own authorization tools, and unless you’re one of the larger companies, it requires resources that many companies just don’t have.
Oso’s mission is to make it easy to add authorization to any application. “Authorization is a $25 billion market. It’s a problem every business needs to solve. But apart from my team and I, nobody stood up to think about it,” company boss Graham Neray told TechCrunch.
Investors see the same potential and today the company announced a $15 million round led by Felicis with participation from Sequoia and Harpoon Ventures. While it was at it, the company also announced that a new version of the Oso tools is now available.
Neray points out that companies like Slack, Google, and Airbnb have invested significant time and technical resources in developing authorization tools. “The problem is that most companies don’t have the resources of a company like Google or Slack and are therefore lagging. Their systems are terrible and the experience of the engineers is akin to a groundhog scenario where these systems keep being rebuilt even though no one wants it. And Oso solves that problem,” he said.
Part of the company’s approach is to educate people about the nature of the problem and the importance of solving it. This has the added benefit of acting as a marketing driver for the open source version of the product, which in turn can lead to sales of the cloud product.
“We’ve also created an extensive library of technical documentation, not specific to Oso, to educate developers about the domain. And as part of that, we provide them with vocabulary and mental models to understand their own authorization problems. That’s why we released a series called Authorization Academy. It’s a set of non-technical guides to building application authorization,” he explained.
In addition to the open-source product, which Neray says has been downloaded thousands of times, the company added Oso Cloud last year, with that product’s ARR increasing 20% month-on-month. He says they’re doing this with no outbound sales so far.
“Moreover, our movement is exclusively product-oriented and in-depth. So what I mean by that is that we don’t do any outbound activities [sales and marketing]. We don’t currently have any vendors, but I’m sure we will in the future. And all of our paying customers started with the free tier, which is no small feat, especially considering how companies spend their money and how efficiently they operate,” said Neray.
And being efficient meant keeping the company lean with just 13 employees. But with the $15 million investment, the startup plans to hire more people this year while considering ways to build a diverse workforce.
“So it starts at the top. It’s much more common to find people who are interested in working for an executive team that they can relate to, so I think that’s a key part of the strategy,” he said. And that means making sure the leadership team is diverse as the company grows.
As the Company invests the additional $15 million in capital into the work, Neray is focused on the opportunities he sees in the permitting area.
“I think the combination of the size of the opportunity, the strength of the company and the growth we are seeing is what compelled the Felicis team to lead this round. We also have Sequoia chairing previous rounds and Harpoon Ventures also attended. This brings our total funding to over $25 million, making us the best capitalized authorization company,” he said.