Ping Identity expands mission to customers with UnboundID acquisition

Ping Identity announced its first acquisition since being acquired by Vista Equity Partners in June for $600 million, grabbing Austin-based UnboundID for an undisclosed purchase price.

The purchase, which Ping CEO Andre Durand says wouldn’t have been possible before the acquisition, expands his company’s mission beyond protecting pure business identity to customer identity and all that entails. Perhaps more importantly, UboundID also gives Ping its own identity data store, a foundational piece for its identity platform.

“The folks that have built Unbound ID have been around and understand how to build incredible user and profile systems. You can call it a directory or repository where people store user profiles and privacy preferences. At the end of the day, UnboundID has one of the world’s best customer-facing user directories,” Durand told TechCrunch.

He said it wasn’t a coincidence that this was the first purchase. Ping and UnboundID have been partners for several years, but he said there’s only so much innovation you can do as partners.

“Once we incorporate this into our platform and have capabilities to store user profiles, it allows us to innovate in ways we couldn’t before,” he said. That could involve finding better ways acquire, retain and engage with customers directly through the digital channel, he explained.

That platform idea is one that attracted Vista to Ping in the first place, and this acquisition provides a first step in expanding beyond pure business identity management, where Ping has lived for the last decade.

Martin Kuppinger, an analyst at KuppingerCole, a firm that covers identity, sees this as a logical first deal for Ping.

“From a feature perspective, there is little overlap, thus it expands the Ping Identity capabilities. From a strategy perspective, it fits into the emerging market of customer identity management (CIAM – Customer Identity & Access Management). From an execution perspective, there are already joint customers from the existing partnership” Kuppinger told TechCrunch by email.

He says this deal also puts Ping firmly at the intersection of identity and and customer engagement and management, a central place to be these days as companies strive to understand their customers better.

“These technologies are a counterpart to CRM (with its sales perspective) and marketing automation. In the area of consumer/customer identity, Ping Identity takes a very strong position after this acquisition,” he said.

UnboundID’s repository is also built for scale, meaning instead of hundreds or thousands of entries, it could support tens or even hundreds of millions. Durand sees kind of ability to expand opens up all kind of future possibilities, including Internet of Things devices.

Identity has up until now provided access to applications regardless of where they happen to be installed — inside companies, in the cloud or on a mobile device. Durand sees the next logical step will be having sensors connected to these applications, and that will provide a whole new set of authentication challenges.

“Every device or sensor has an owner or administrator, and we have to connect to the correct owners to protect these devices and information coming from them,” he said.

But that’s a use case for down the road. For now, he says it’s about understanding customer behavior and really knowing when to engage with the customer at the right time, with right message and the right privacy and user settings.

“That’s the intersection of where UnboundID fits,” he says.