Founder Stories: Okta’s Todd McKinnon On What It Means To Be CEO And Employee Zero

Recently, I spoke with Todd McKinnon, co-founder and CEO of Okta, a cloud-based enterprise management system that helps companies securely merge and control the identities of their users across multiple applications and devices. Todd shared his experience of starting the company, which now has more than 120 employees and explains that the first thing he learned was how to be CEO of a self-started company:

“Being the CEO when you have zero employees basically means that you have to solidify the vision. You have to be able to come up with and articulate to first your co-founders, and then the first few employees you hire, the vision of why you should exist. Because everything is against you when you have zero people.”

He continued by stressing the importance of ignoring the minor details, being tactical, and trying to figure out what works in the early days of a startup. McKinnon suggests that when looking for advisors and investors in these early stages to look for people with different backgrounds and experiences that you can lean on for advice. He also shared insight on how to modify the employee interview process and hire the right people.

Editor’s Note: Michael Abbott is a general partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, previously Twitter’s VP of Engineering, and a founder himself. Mike also writes a blog called uncapitalized.