At WorkOS, we’re building “Stripe for enterprise-ready features.” This means we provide a modern API platform that empowers any developer to quickly build and ship enterprise features. These include Single Sign-On (SAML), Directory Sync (SCIM), Audit Trail (SIEM), and more. If you’re a developer, check out our docs.
WorkOS already powers some of the fastest growing products in the SaaS ecosystem, including recent unicorns Webflow and Hopin, saving their teams countless hours and enabling them to quickly onboard enterprise customers. Over 100 enterprise-ready apps are built on WorkOS today, and our users span early-stage startups to Fortune 500 companies.
Today I’m delighted to announce our Series A financing, led by Lachy Groom. We’ve been pretty quiet about WorkOS since our start two years ago. So how did we get here? In this post I’ll share more details about the problem WorkOS is solving, why we are solving it, and what the future holds if we are successful in our mission.
Where did WorkOS come from?
Previous to WorkOS, I co-founded and led an email startup called Nylas. Our flagship product was Nylas Mail, a beautiful, fast, cross-platform email app that was renowned by users for its delightful and polished interface.
However, much too late in the game we realized our exclusive focus on the end-user experience had led us astray. We had never considered the real buyer — enterprise IT admins — and their long list of (understandably) complex requirements. Users loved our app, but it was not enterprise-ready.
Without this enterprise revenue, we couldn’t support the team or growth. So after years of tireless work, we ultimately shut down the app and pivoted into providing devops infrastructure for sales tools.
Nylas Mail was dead and I was heartbroken. How did we miss the mark by so much? This question haunted me. I had believed that to build a successful company, you just need to make something people want.
I couldn’t have been more wrong.
The Enterprise Chasm
I came to discover that Nylas Mail had fallen into a trap that was littered with countless other dead startups. The story for them was nearly identical to my own: founders with grand dreams of productivity apps were called by the siren song of building unique and shiny features, all the while completely avoiding the unglamorous needs of IT admins. Inevitably this would end in the same deadlock. Some teams would get acqui-hired but most were not so lucky. They simply shut down, quietly, and usually to the confusion of a fanatical (but un-paying) user base.
Eventually I realized the truth: missing or incomplete enterprise features are the #1 killer of post-PMF startups. I began calling this “the enterprise chasm” as it reminded me of Geoffrey Moore’s seminal book. And as I talked with more founders, I began to wonder if dozens of other companies were following in my footsteps, unaware of the looming danger ahead. I even gave a talk at SaaS School called “Crossing the Enterprise Chasm” in an attempt to sound the alarm.
I was determined to fix this, and so WorkOS was born.
What does it mean to be enterprise-ready?
Enterprise-ready means your app has all the features required to be adopted “wall-to-wall” in a large organization. This can include obvious things like Single Sign-On (users signing-in via Okta instead of a unique password), or new requirements such as SCIM provisioning (automatically creating accounts for newly hired employees). Audit logs, compliance tools, and security controls are also enterprise-ready features required by IT admins in large organizations. The list goes on.
For bottoms-up SaaS companies, these enterprise-ready requirements typically appear late in the deal process. The classic scenario (which Nylas experienced) is that an app’s adoption grows quickly within a company unbeknownst to IT, and then is abruptly blocked due to missing required features like Single Sign-On. Usually the app is immediately banned company-wide, much to the dismay of its fervent users who are then forced to return to the legacy apps. Even the IT admins hate to do this, caught between their responsibility to improve workforce productivity and the hard-line duty to enforce security and compliance. In the end, everybody loses.
Becoming enterprise-ready leads to more usage, customers, and revenue. And for startups who need to commercialize, the ability to quickly deliver enterprise-ready features is often the singular difference between life and death.
Why build WorkOS?
It used to be that only the biggest multi-billion dollar companies (Microsoft, Oracle, SAP, etc.) could endure the process of building for enterprise. And, in fact, they made compliance a competitive advantage (vs. utility or value). Nobody got fired for buying IBM.
Then the “future of work” wave of companies began to infiltrate the system, enabled by the open web and browsers. But even these needed many millions of dollars in VC funding and personal relationships with the enterprises to get wide adoption and sustain themselves.
Only a few SaaS companies have successfully crossed the enterprise chasm. None have done it quickly or efficiently. We are hoping to fundamentally change this with WorkOS — to democratize access to the enterprise market, such that a few software developers in Indonesia or a small team with a big idea in East LA — anyone — can have their product accepted and embraced by the biggest companies on the planet.
And perhaps equally important — if we do this right, these large enterprise companies will be able to finally rapidly adopt more cloud apps and take part in the resulting massive productivity gains. (Imagine the cascading impact this could have!) And all the while remaining fully compliant and secure, of course.
The web unlocked equal distribution. WorkOS unlocks equal access.
Our Series A financing
Last year WorkOS quietly raised $15M, led by investor Lachy Groom. Lachy began his career as an early employee at Stripe, and deeply understands the power and momentum of modern developer platforms. He operates as a “solo capitalist” investing in companies like Figma, Notion, Humane, and occasionally leading rounds himself. It took Lachy all of 30 seconds to understand the WorkOS mission and vision.
This round was also joined by many other tech founders and operators, including Elad Gil, Nat Friedman, Kevin Hartz, Brianne Kimmel, Josh Buckley, Scott Belsky, Rahul Vohra, Cristina Cordova, Akshay Kothari, Matt Biilmann, and Harry Stebbings. These individuals have all seen firsthand the challenges involved in building enterprise-ready features, across their networks and within their companies.
Previous investors Lightspeed Capital, Abstract Ventures, and Tuesday Capital all participated and were joined by new investors Uncorrelated Ventures and Audacious Ventures. I am grateful for their backing and continued support. WorkOS has raised $19M to date.
Who is using WorkOS today?
Although we only launched last year, WorkOS is already quietly powering some of the fastest growing products in the SaaS industry.
Two notable WorkOS customers:
- WorkOS powers Webflow Enterprise which is growing incredibly fast. Webflow is a recent unicorn, raising at a $2.1B valuation in January. (Webflow customer study)
- WorkOS powers Hopin, the virtual events platform which last week raised at a $5.5B valuation. Hopin may be the fastest growing SaaS company of all time, going from 0 to $70m ARR in 18 months. (Hopin customer study)
Both Webflow and Hopin chose to integrate WorkOS so they could ship to customers faster. Using WorkOS has saved them many months of development time and resulted in incredible growth in enterprise customers.
In the words of Webflow Co-founder and CTO, Bryant Chou:
Instead of planning, developing, and testing SSO for each identity provider individually in-house over three months as we initially scoped, I was able to support all Identity Providers in a few hours. Integrating WorkOS was straightforward and fun.
Over the last year there has been a massive acceleration toward remote work and virtual collaboration. Enterprise companies need to adopt new apps like Webflow and Hopin to support their teams. WorkOS helps them do this with security, safety, and speed.
What are the alternatives to WorkOS?
WorkOS is an alternative to Auth0 (acquired last week by Okta for $6.5B). Developers pick WorkOS over Auth0 because WorkOS provides a full suite of enterprise-ready features, whereas Auth0 only provides auth.
For example, WorkOS enables developers to integrate with enterprise directory systems, such as Microsoft Active Directory, and HR systems like Workday, Gusto, Rippling, BambooHR, and PeopleSoft. WorkOS also provides pre-built workflows for frictionless onboarding of enterprise customers via the WorkOS Admin Portal.
Before WorkOS, developers had to build these complex features in-house, taking several months and often requiring a dedicated team. With WorkOS, developers can integrate a single API and quickly become enterprise-ready.
Want to join? We are hiring!
The WorkOS team is rapidly growing across many areas. With this new financing, we are hiring in engineering, design, marketing, developer success, growth, sales, and more. Our team is fully-remote, however because we work synchronously we are only hiring in GMT-4 to GMT-8 (continental Americas time zones).
Please see our jobs page for all open roles. If you do not see a role that matches your background, but you believe you would be an excellent fit, please write to email@example.com and tell us a bit more about yourself.
If you have other thoughts, comments, or feedback, please let me know on Twitter. Thanks for reading!
— Michael Grinich (WorkOS founder & CEO)