The Founder Of A $600 Million Startup Has Advice For People Thinking Of Dropping Out Of School To Start A Company


Todd McKinnon Okta

Business Insider

Todd McKinnon, cofounder, Okta.

Some of the most successful tech entrepreneurs are college dropouts.


In fact, billionaire investor Peter Thiel even pays you to skip college and launch your own startup.

But should this kind of thinking - starting your own company at a very young age, with almost zero work experience - become the norm in tech?

Todd McKinnon, CEO and founder of Okta, a $600 million company that specializes in enterprise security, thinks otherwise.

Before founding Okta, McKinnon was senior VP of engineering for Working directly under Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, McKinnon was responsible for growing its engineering team from 15 people in 2003 to 250 engineers in 2009.


"Some people say you should drop out of college (to start your own company), which may work if you have an amazing idea and get really lucky," McKinnon told Business Insider in an interview.

"But there's something to be said for working at a big, successful company first."

McKinnon said there's tremendous value in getting experience at a company "that wins" and learning what winning looks like. He described his time at Salesforce as "a gift" in that it really gave him a first-hand glimpse into a rapidly growing, successful company.

"My advice to people is to find a company's that's going to win and get some experience there, and learn what it looks like. And if you're going to start something, start it later," he said.

He added it doesn't necessarily have to be a huge company, but an established company with some momentum because it will arm you much better for what you're trying to do.


"If you start too early, the chances are you're going to fail, which is fine. But you're not going to learn what winning looks like," he said.

Okta, founded in 2009, has raised $155 million in funding so far. It was Andreessen Horowitz's first cloud investment and is now valued at roughly $600 million. With over 1,200 enterprise customers, Okta is one of the largest companies in enterprise security, and is expected to go public by 2016.