Styra, the startup behind Open Policy Agent, nabs $40M to expand its cloud-native authorization tools

·3-min read

As cloud-native apps continue to become increasingly central to how organizations operate, a startup founded by the creators of a popular open-source tool to manage authorization for cloud-native application environments is announcing some funding to expand its efforts at commercializing the opportunity.

Styra, the startup behind Open Policy Agent, has picked up $40 million in a Series B round of funding led by Battery Ventures. Also participating are previous backers A. Capital, Unusual Ventures and Accel; and new backers CapitalOne Ventures and Citi Ventures. Styra has disclosed CapitalOne is also one of its customers, along with e-commerce site Zalando and the European Patent Office.

Styra is sitting on the classic opportunity of open source technology: scale and demand.

OPA -- which can be used across Kubernetes, containerized and other environments -- now has racked up some 75 million downloads and is adding some 1 million downloads weekly, with Netflix, Capital One, Atlassian and Pinterest among those that are using OPA for internal authorization purposes. The fact that OPA is open source is also important:

"Developers are at the top of the food chain right now," CEO Bill Mann said in an interview, "They choose which technology on which to build the framework, and they want what satisfies their requirements, and that is open source. It's a foundational change: if it isn’t open source it won’t pass the test."

But while some of those adopting OPA have hefty engineering teams of their own to customize how OPA is used, the sheer number of downloads (and potential active users stemming from that) speak to the opportunity for a company to build tools to help manage that and customize it for specific use cases in cases where those wanting to use OPA may lack the resources (or appetite) to build and scale custom implementations themselves.

As with many of the enterprise startups getting funded at the moment, Styra has proven itself in particular over the last year, with the switch to remote work, workloads being managed across a number of environments, and the ever-persistent need for better security around what people can and should not be using. Authorization is a particularly acute issue when considering the many access points that need to be monitored: as networks continue to grow across multiple hubs and applications, the needs get more complex, which has led to a whole cadre of startups and engineers specifically addressing the issues that arise from that (which could include inadvertent permissions conflicts, resulting security loopholes that can be exploited, and much more). In other words, having a single authorization tool that can cover the whole stack becomes even more important.

Styra said that some of the funding will be used to continue evolving its product, specifically by creating better and more efficient ways to apply authorization policies by way of code; and by bringing in more partners to expand the scope of what can be covered by its technology.

“We are extremely impressed with the Styra team and the progress they’ve made in this dynamic market to date,” said Dharmesh Thakker, a general partner at Battery Ventures. “Everyone who is moving to cloud, and adopting containerized applications, needs Styra for authorization—and in the light of today’s new, remote-first work environment, every enterprise is now moving to the cloud.” Thakker is joining the board with this round.

Updated to redact one of the investors.