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IRM software dominance at stake: Norwegian ex-pat ForgeRock lands $30 million Series C

Identity software company ForgeRock has been through what you could call a turbulent quest for treasure. Today based in Silicon Valley, ForgeRock roots its origins in mountainous Norway, where the company first saw daylight under the leadership of current CTO Lasse Andersen. The now all-American tech firm is challenging its big market competitors with a new type of open source Information Rights Management (IRM).

Late last week, ForgeRock announced the closing of an overcrowded series C round worth $30 million, led by Meritech Capital Partners and backed by existing investors Accel Partners and Foundation Capital. The round is an increased follow-up of the 2012 series A ($7 million) and 2013 series B ($15 million) led by Accel Partners and Foundation Capital respectively. Additionally, as part of the investment, Paul Madera, co-founder and managing director of Meritech, will be joining ForgeRock board of directors.

Passion, betrayal and revenge, those are the Shakespearean ingredients that make up the corporate drama that is ForgeRock's birth.

Andersen, who previously worked as the CTO of Sun microsystem’s northern Europe branch, left the company back in 2010 after Sun got acquired by software giant Oracle for $5,6 billion. Oracle didn’t waste time replacing the Sun IAM tech with its own, creating a chain of reactions that would lead to the making of dangerous enemies, some of whom were previous top ranking Sun and Oracle execs. In addition to current ForgeRock CEO Mike Ellis, among the various deserters were Andersen. He bootstrapped his newly found company and based its flagship software’s principles on Sun’s technology, carrying its legacy forward despite the acquisition.

The company had set its eyes on US markets early on, sensing an open gap with enough empty space to penetrate, and tried to run business from Norway. This proved to be too consuming, and once the capital cash to really build the business up was found from US soil in the form of Accel Partners, ForgeRock moved to San Francisco and became an American company.

“The first two years, we didn’t have any funding to build a sales team in the U.S., so we did the best we could — booking cheap flights back and forth, working at night in Europe to address the difference in time zones, etc. It took a toll on our team and it wasn’t effective. We knew that we needed to be on the ground. People still buy from people, and the continuity in your sales process breaks down if you’re only in the U.S. every few weeks”, said Andersen in an interview with [N] Squared.

Plainly put, IAM, for those of you not familiar with the subject, is what identifies (authentication) and determines what level of access you are given (authorization) within or across the enterprise systems. Basically, ForgeRock could be one of the possible softwares used to identify your fingerprint when you’re on your way to read some really secret stuff, or in a more mundane setting it would be software overlooking your company network log in processes.

The field of IAM is becoming exponentially more complex, since big enterprises comprise large workforces that all require different levels of access to a multitude of platforms, devices and cloud-services. ForgeRock, having gathered heavyweight experts in the field of IAM and IRM (Identity Relationship Management) and a decent stack of venture cash, is without doubt going for full market dominance. However, their markets aren’t empty, previously mentioned Oracle being one of the big competitors among others. This does not seem to intimidate them though:

“Oracle, CA and IBM’s IAM products fail to meet the demands of today’s digital enterprise. Their inability to seamlessly manage identities, at scale, across devices, people and things puts enterprise customers at risk and leads to missed opportunities,” said Mike Ellis, CEO, ForgeRock.

“The IAM industry is undergoing a huge shift from IAM to IRM, and ForgeRock is leading the charge,” said Alex Ott, owner and founder of CrossContinentalVentures, a global provider of advisory services to entrepreneurs and ForgeRock board member.

“The company recognized this shift early and is creating a disruption in the market by extending the value of identity where legacy vendors have failed to innovate. With ForgeRock’s open source approach, organizations can create a seamless experience when developing customer-focused services across users, applications, devices and things.”

ForgeRock’s CEO Ellis took the position given to him by previous CEO Andersen. Today, ForgeRock has more than half a billion end users of its IRM solution in 30 countries and five continents.

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