May 23, 2019
Q&A: Salesforce Ventures’ Alex Kayyal on the New $125 Million Europe Trailblazer Fund
By Lisa Edwards, EVP of Strategic Business Operations
The Salesforce Ventures team.
What are you most excited about in terms of the European investment landscape today? And, where do you see it going in the next few years?
I think the level of sophistication we're seeing in Europe has totally evolved. Today, we have all the ingredients for making Europe one of the most exciting places to start a company. For the first time we're seeing companies that are valued at over $5 billion, $10 billion, even $20 billion coming out of Europe. As an example, Anaplan, a company that actually got started in the U.K., and which we are investors in, recently had a very successful IPO.
In the past it was common for companies to be predominantly local businesses that started and stayed in their own domestic market. Now we’re seeing more European businesses branch out globally, driving growth. Importantly, entrepreneurs have concrete examples now of successful businesses that have scaled out of Europe and built category-defining companies, and so the inspiration is that much more real.
Can you share what benefits your portfolio companies get from receiving a strategic investment from Salesforce Ventures?
I think it's important to keep in mind that we are the only strategic fund that's 100 percent dedicated to backing enterprise companies. The portfolio we’ve built at a global level is a best-in-class “who's who” of the leading cloud companies. At more than 300 investments, given the sheer size of our portfolio, there are a lot of best practices that we’re able to share with our companies.
Salesforce has had tremendous growth and continues to be on a path to be one of the fastest companies ever to get to $20 billion in revenue. I believe a lot of that has to do with our ecosystem. As we go to market in a new geography with new products, we're always looking for complementary solutions that our customers can benefit from.
In addition, we offer a lot of Salesforce support for portfolio companies. Every company has an executive sponsor who is a GM, and we also provide go-to-market advice. I think the best entrepreneurs out there have this innate ability to learn and our goal is to help them accelerate that learning curve. As an example, we recently held a webinar with our pricing team at Salesforce. Getting access to Salesforce’s own best practices on this topic was truly invaluable for the CEOs in our portfolio.
Can you provide an example of a company that has benefited from these synergies with Salesforce and its ecosystem?
A great example is a company called Onfido. They use artificial intelligence to onboard, identify and verify users’ identities. One of their most common use cases is verifying someone’s identity as part of opening up a bank account. When the bank is also a Salesforce customer, Onfido is able to plug into that existing workflow and verify the identity as part of the customer onboarding process. So it’s a clear example of a way that we can deliver “1 plus 1 equals 10.” Salesforce is able to effectively extend the value of its platform through Onfido. Onfido is able to extend additional value to our joint customers and in turn integrate into their customers’ existing workflow for a better experience.
What advice would you give entrepreneurs who want to approach and work with Salesforce?
The best advice I can give is to think of it as a partnership. As an entrepreneur, you need to dedicate the energy and focus to make the relationship a success. The key is understanding what value you can bring to the table as a startup. Be really thoughtful about how your solution addresses gaps in the market and within our ecosystem.
Salesforce Ventures can also help you define that growth strategy. We work with our companies to identify where the most pressing customer needs are and how we can deliver customer success jointly.
Anything else you’d like to share?
Twenty years ago, Salesforce was founded in a small apartment in San Francisco. Today, we’re a generational company that still thinks like a startup. We know how hard it is to build a successful and enduring company. Our new fund is a testament to our commitment to backing the next generation of enterprise companies in Europe, and we look forward to working with many more great companies in the years to come.