Today, we at Madrona are thrilled to announce we are leading Clerk’s Series A alongside our friends at A16Z, Spectrum28, Mango Capital, and some visionary angels, including Guillermo Rauch (CEO of Vercel) and David Wilner (former CRO of Auth0).
When Maria and I first met Clerk Founder Colin Sidoti through an introduction from my close friends Martin Gontovnikas (former CMO of Auth0) and Andrew Miklas (founder of Pagerduty and partner at Spectrum 28), we were excited to learn about the company fast becoming the next-generation platform for user management and authentication for React. We had already seen the developer love for Clerk oozing out of Twitter and Discord channels, with comments like this and this. We had also heard from multiple front-end developers how Clerk was a critical part of their application development stack. After watching a demo of the product that blew us away, it was clear Clerk was the future of identity, authentication and user management in a world where front-end developers are the architects and builders of next-generation applications.
While my excitement brewed, I was also apprehensive. In fact, the more excited I became about Clerk and Colin himself, the more a question nagged me. I had just spent seven years on the board of Auth0, working shoulder to shoulder with the team (from $5M in revenue to a $6.5B exit to Okta). I built deep relationships and remain close friends with Eugenio Pace, Matias Wolowski, Gonto, Dave, Shiv, and many others, who built Auth0 to be the de facto gold standard for authentication. It was an experience that was undoubtedly one of the highlights of my venture career that set a very high bar for me. Could anyone meet the bar set by Eugenio and Auth0? And if they did, would I allow myself to acknowledge that?
Throughout the next few weeks interacting with Colin, Braden, and the Clerk team, our conversations with many developers adopting Clerk, and calls with my friends at Auth0, I realized a few key things:
- Software continues to eat the world — probably with an even more voracious appetite — and authentication continues to be the linchpin for software.
- Modern application development is going through an architectural change and is being built on a new stack, with React leading the way for developers
- In a product-led-growth world, front-end developers are extending well beyond design and user experience to owning authentication and user management.
- Those front-end developers demand ease of use (simple and fully customizable components) and broad functionality (beyond authentication into user management, payments, etc.).
- Clerk is the ONLY full-stack and end-to-end solution on the market that meets the needs of these developers.
- Colin is one of the most thoughtful visionaries I have met who has combined his long-term vision for where the market is headed in the YEARS to come with a deep empathy for what developers need TODAY.
It became apparent very quickly that we had to be involved with this company and support Colin’s vision for Clerk. But I still wrestled with the earlier question.
The clarity I needed came a few days later when I was playing soccer with my kids. I’m a proud father of three, and it struck me that our commitment to invest and partner with companies very often carries the same sense of love, commitment, and responsibility as we do with our kids. More importantly, in my case, becoming a father the first time prepared me to be a better father the second and third times since the universe of “unknown unknowns” of parenthood was a lot smaller. The similarities between my kids gave me a level of comfort and common ground to build upon, but their differences made them truly unique and special.
I realized investing in Clerk after an amazing journey with Auth0 would be similar. I have deep respect and gratitude for the team at Auth0 — and a real sense of pride in what we were able to accomplish together. I was ready to dive in again to support and enable front-end developers through Clerk — where the differences in Clerk relative to Auth0 and others (the company’s focus on front end vs. Back end and deployment as reusable full-stack components vs. API) made Clerk unique enough to be special but similar enough for me to leverage my experience with Auth0.
We are thrilled today to back the amazing team at Clerk led by Colin and Braden and support them as they lead the way for Clerk to become the system of action and the system of record for customer identity for all modern applications. We are humbled that they chose to partner with us on this journey and look forward to building a company we can all be proud of.
As they say in the world of authentication — “Sign me up!”