Why identity startup Auth0’s founder still codes: It makes him a better boss

If you ask Eugenio Pace to describe himself, “engineer” would be fairly high on the list.

“Being a CEO is pretty busy,” he told TechCrunch in a call last week. “But I’m an engineer in my heart — I am a problem solver,” he said.

Pace, an Argentinan immigrant to the U.S., founded identity management company Auth0 in 2013 after more than a decade at Microsoft. Auth0, pronounced “auth-zero,” has been described as like Stripe for payments or Twilio for messaging. App developers can add a few lines of code and it immediately gives their users access to the company’s identity management service.

That means the user can securely log in to the app without building a homebrew username and password system that’s invariably going to break. Any enterprise paying for Auth0 can also use its service to securely logon to the company’s internal network.

“Nobody cares about authentication, but everybody needs it,” he said.

Pace said Auth0 works to answer two simple questions. “Who are you, and what can you do?” he said.

“Those two questions are the same regardless of the device, the app, or whether if I’m an employee of somebody or if I am an individual using an app, or if I am using a device where there’s no human attached to it,” he said.

Whoever the users are, the app needs to know if the person using the app or service is allowed to, and what level of access or functionality they can get. “Can you transfer these funds?,” he said. “Can you approve these expense reports? Can you open the door of my house?” he explained.

Pace left Microsoft in 2012 and founded Auth0 during the emergence of Azure, which transformed Microsoft from a software giant into a cloud company. It was at Microsoft where he found identity management was one of the biggest headaches for developers moving their apps to the cloud. He wrote book after book, and edition after edition. “I felt like I could keep writing books about the problem — or I can just solve the problem,” he said.

So he did.

Instead of teaching developers how to become experts in identity management, he wanted to give them the tools to employ a sign-on solution without ever having to read a book.