I often get asked, “aren’t you worried the big guys (IBM, Oracle, Sun etc.) will just come in and crush you?”
I’ve thought a lot about this question over the years, and my answer has evolved over time, as I’ve had a chance to observe how larger companies deal with emerging markets.
My current insight is that in rapidly evolving spaces, ones rich with room for innovation, offer a fair amount of blue ocean for start-ups to expand into before larger companies are able to mechanize their formula for steam-rolling a particular sector.
I’m not saying big companies don’t innovate, many do, but it appears quite a bit harder to do than within a small company, and many simply do it poorly.
I call this the glass ceiling phenomenon. When the headroom of innovation ceases to exist, you can set your watch by the amount of time you have before the steamrollers come knocking. I don’t see that glass ceiling approaching in Internet-scale identity any time soon (at least 3 to 4 years). In fact, I believe we’ve barely gotten started. Internet SSO is just the first of many complex problems that enterprises will need to solve as they effectively weave themselves into a fabric of inter-connectedness across the Internet. We’ve got a long ways to go before we have the federated identity life cycle (and all that this entails) figured out. Not just at the B2B level, but at the B2C level as well. We’ve got federated user provisioning, federated web services, federated authorization and role management, enterprise / web / desktop mash-ups, federated networks, federated risk management, compliance, audit, monitoring to figure out, and the list goes on and on.
Small, focused, innovative companies like Ping thrive in these rapidly evolving environments. Environments where the increasing rate of change is the only constant and customers are willing to pay a respectable amount to have their emerging network-based problems solved in a timely manner.
As I’ve instructed my crew, we’re in a marathon, not a sprint. While we need to be cognizant of our market stagnating, I don’t think it’s going to hit us for some time.
The big don’t eat the small, the fast eat the slow.