Five years ago, Nate Szytel left Acquia, a B2B enterprise digital experience platform, to form Next Reason. The company was founded with a mission of supporting Enterprises as they built their global customer experience infrastructure. Within months of launching, the Next Reason team signed contracts with 3 global brands. Two years later, work started on what would become Next Identity, Next Reason’s customer identity access management product.
We caught up with Nate on the eve of launching Next Identity.
Q: Why did you start Next Reason?
I was working as an Engineer at Janrain [a Portland, OR customer profile and identity management software provider acquired by Akamai in 2019] back when the customer identity space was just emerging.
When people thought about authentication, they were thinking about social authentication, such as Facebook. Back then, if a consumer authenticated with a social sign-on, there was no regulation controlling how much data was sent back to that application. Everything- from first name, last name, email, friends list, personal preferences – was fair game.
Enterprises loved this. “If we can get consumers to authenticate with social, we get all this data about them.” But they didn’t know what to do with that data, which became a major problem and still is for, for many companies. It became alarming for me on a personal level. “I have apps. What are they doing with my data?”
I saw Enterprises trying to solve the same problems over and over. They needed secure data. Governance. The ability to market using the data. They had all these pieces that they needed to fit together that went way beyond authentication. But no one had a solution to string together all of these different technologies into a unified solution for customer identity.
The first thing I saw was an opportunity.
The second thing I saw was a gap in how Enterprises were engaging with consumer data. They knew there was value in acquiring consumer data, but they didn’t really know what they were doing with it, and they hadn’t gained the consumer’s trust.
Q: What is Next Identity?
Global enterprises have millions of identities, disparate integrations and often legacy systems, varying regulations and high service and security standards.
Next Identity is scalable, customizable customer identity access management (CIAM) infrastructure that supports the evolving compliance, privacy and customer experience needs of multinational corporations. We solve the problem of managing customer identity globally, and at scale.
Q: You started Next Reason as a professional services company. What were some of the challenges in building that kind of business?
Our biggest challenge in the beginning was not about finding customers. We were very fortunate to start the business with subcontracted work. But there was so much opportunity that we couldn’t keep up.
We knew from the start that there was no way that we were going to compete with the big development companies or Enterprise consulting services. We needed to specialize and find our niche.
What was challenging was finding technical talent with a strong customer orientation and an Enterprise mindset. We knew we could train on the nuances of the identity space. Early on we developed an onboarding program to get team members up to speed.
Q: What do you mean by quality?
Being able to advise customers on the specialized aspects of identity services such as authentication, governance, and token exchange policies is very different from pure-play development services.
Maintaining the quality of specialized expertise as we scaled meant recruiting for what we valued such as process orientation, customer focus, an understanding of the consumer and the business side of identity, and a willingness to learn.
Q: When did Next Reason start feeling like a real company?
It started to feel like a real company as we established rapport within our partners and our customers and built solid relationships with them.
Relationships have been at the center of Next Reason from the start. Not just with people that we’ve worked with and hired, but our customers. The majority of our customers have come through word of mouth.
Q: What was the catalyst for building Next Identity?
We started to see a market shift around identity in the broader CDP and data privacy space, and with our clients. Identity was starting to look like a viable business beyond services. We could actually make a dent in the identity world. What we would do differently is couple our services with a product, which is how Acquia grew. [Editor’s Note: Acquia was acquired for $1B in 2019 by Vista Equity Partners]
As we talked with customers, it became clear that there was a real need, and the product that would become Next Identity was something that they were actually interested in.
Q: You first started Next Reason to help address the friction point between enterprises and consumers around managing identity. How does Next Identity fit into the vision?
Next Reason and Next Identity exists because multinational Enterprises are a niche market with unique needs around customer identity. And the landscape keeps evolving. The value we bring is expertise, perspective, and agility.
The Enterprise is the most difficult from a logistical point of view to build for and to sell to. They are trying to steer a huge ship, while triaging 1,001 requirements, and adapting to the larger market.
But they’re the easiest from a market standpoint in that they tell you what they want. ALL the things that they want.
Risk increases the bigger you get. Enterprises need “enterprise class software,” but you can’t just pick a piece of software off the shelf and make it work for all their needs. As a result, enterprises often do custom builds or bring the work in-house. But that is a risk as well when it comes to time to market, staying ahead of the curve, and cost and time of finding a CIAM specialist.
There is this emerging third, perhaps better option, where you can outsource what isn’t core to your business, but critical to your success. Next Reason couples tested, off-the-shelf software, with managed governance and operations, to provide custom solutions that meet and exceed market standards.
What I learned working at Acquia and Janrain was deploying Enterprise technology requires an approach that goes beyond software. We knew there had to be a better way. And so we created it: a customer identity access management solution and managed service.
Want to see what we’ve been up to? Contact us to get a demo of Next Identity.