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Olugbenga ‘GB’ Agboola, Founder & CEO of Flutterwave, on his Quest to Unite Africa through Payments

While many apps tap into Game Theory and Gamification to boost engagement, African payments company Flutterwave was built on an altogether different principle: Chaos Theory — or, more specifically, The Butterfly Effect.

Introduced in a 1972 paper by meteorologist and mathematician Edward Lorenz, the Butterfly Effect is the idea that a small, unpredictable variable such as a butterfly flapping its wings, could impact a complex system and set off a major event such as a tornado in Texas. GB tapped into this theory when he and his co-founders started Flutterwave, a mobile app that lets people pay bills, send and request money, and track funds.

GB imagined that one day the payment infrastructure that he and his team built in Lagos, Nigeria, could make a significant positive impact on the economies and people of Africa by making it easy for its under-banked population to trade with people and companies nearby and across international borders. The vision: If you are a fabric seller in Lagos you will someday be able to use Flutterwave to collect a payment from a customer in Austin, Texas — and vice versa — in real-time. “Payments have been a barrier to African trade,” says GB. “We wanted to connect Africa to the digital economy and provide access to new prosperity.”

GB is well-suited to such an ambitious challenge. Since he was born and raised in Nigeria, he has firsthand experience with the financial infrastructure of his birth country, as well as neighboring nations. A successful entrepreneur who founded two previous companies, he’s also a software engineer with an MBA and a Master’s degree in Information Technology Security and Behavioral engineering. Earlier in his career, he worked on fintech solutions at several tech companies and financial institutions such as PayPal and Standard Bank.

Just five years after its founding, Flutterwave’s impact on Africa’s fragmented financial and technological ecosystem is becoming clear: The company is now Africa’s largest payment platform by coverage. Flutterwave is knitting together the vast continent’s nations via an API that connects multiple niche payment methods onto one platform. Flutterwave processes 150 kinds of currency and is used in 34 of Africa’s 54 nations, including Ghana, South Africa and Uganda. More than 25,000 entrepreneurs use the Flutterwave store to sell their wares, and the company processes payments for more than 300,000 merchants.

The company’s addressable market is astonishing. The African population is expected to double, to 2.5 billion, by 2050. So far they have few banking or lending options; less than 5% of the African population has a credit card. Prior to Flutterwave, digital payments in many African countries were fragmented and difficult to navigate. Businesses found it difficult to integrate multiple card schemes to receive money from customers. And the only way to pay someone in another country was to use a wire transfer, which is expensive, slow, and not optimized for small payments.

Flutterwave allows people to send and receive money to each other in real-time via Barter; pay with a credit card equivalent using Virtual Card; sell goods over the internet with its Store and Invoices products; and pay bills using Checkout.

Flutterwave is also creating new markets and opportunities for multinational corporations who want to tap into Africa’s young, fast-growing, mobile customer base. Because of Flutterwave’s newly-introduced payment options, Microsoft, Netflix, and Uber have been able to expand into countries such as Nigeria.

“The goal was, ‘How do we do something that makes it easy for a business to scale using an advanced payments infrastructure?’ That was the driving force,” says GB. “In the future — for small business, international finance, large multinational business, and the African continent — all the barriers will be broken down.”

Trust and security were critical considerations for the product team, says GB. “When you have money in your bank account, you care about the fraud that can happen with your money.” So Flutterwave requires two-factor authentication for each transaction — another first for a payment app in Africa and has built a proactive support strategy to ensure that its merchants’ payments systems do not break.

As the company continues to march toward its goal of connecting the African people and economy to the world, it will need to contend with the myriad laws and regulations of other countries. Earlier this year, Flutterwave hired its first executive in charge of regulations and government affairs. The company has prioritized building trust with regulators, banks, customers, partners, and the public, through robust compliance architecture and security processes that support verification, security, and compliance.

“The world is becoming more and more of a global village,” says GB of his mission. “Any service that people like to use in San Francisco will be used in Lagos. When payments can exchange hands quickly, borders become less and less important.”

The proliferation of digital banking worldwide has been a critical development for financial inclusion of those historically excluded from traditional banking services. At Salesforce Ventures, we target fintech solutions that promote equal opportunity and economic empowerment for women and underrepresented groups. If that sounds like your business, we hope you will reach out.


Transforming Tomorrow by Salesforce Ventures: Co-founder and President of Snyk, Guy Podjarny

As an entrepreneur does it get easier the second time around? How should you handle skepticism from VCs? And how do you decide to hand over the reigns as CEO of the company you started?

Guy Podjarny has faced all these questions. He is co-founder and President of Snyk, a company built on the idea of embedding security in the code development process. After raising $7 million in a March 2018 Series A, the company is now worth $2.6BN following its recent Series D — and has raised more than $450M in funding. We’re delighted to have backed the company in their Series B at the end of 2018 and to be part of their incredible journey. Along the way, Guy has made decisions that were bold and oftentimes non-obvious.

I wanted to know more about his path, so I spent some time with him to talk about what led him to create Snyk — and what has made the company so successful.

Ignoring (and Winning Over) Skeptical VCs

Most great companies are founded on the back of some key insight or big idea. It’s usually something powerful yet simple enough that anyone can understand it.

In the case of Snyk, this insight came with deep domain expertise. Guy had spent over 10 years working on application security (with stints at Sanctum, Watchfire and IBM Rational Security). He then moved to the world of web performance and became part of the DevOps revolution that was taking hold. It was the culmination of those two experiences that led to his “aha” moment. Guy questioned and challenged the paradigm that existed in the security industry, and it was this new framing that made Snyk so appealing to us when we first met the team.

“I realized that the way to get developers to embrace security is to build a developer-tool company, not a security company,” he says, “a company that puts the developers’ needs and the developers’ experience at the center.”

Despite their success today, Guy and his co-founders Danny Grander and Assaf Hefetz heard mixed reactions when pitching their idea initially. The feedback from VCs was that developers won’t care about security and that there’s no money to be made in developer tooling. But Guy persevered with a level of conviction that we see from the very best founders.

“I felt like the destination was an inevitability,” he says. “So fundamentally, we have to be secure, and we will continue building faster and faster software. Maybe I succeed and maybe I fail, but this will happen. Either I do it or somebody else does, but it will happen.”

For Guy, it was a question of when not if. As an investor, I love these moments when an entrepreneur you meet has such a high sense of purpose and clarity that you can’t help but imagine the future with them as they disrupt an industry.

Lessons from the Second Time Around

There’s no single mold for being a successful entrepreneur. Being a repeat founder can help, however (though it doesn’t always). Guy’s first startup (Blaze Software) was a front-end web optimization company that was acquired by Akimai where he subsequently became CTO.

“I was keen to do something that matters, and to try and go big with the second one,” he says. “The more I was told it can’t be done, the more convinced I was that it needs to be.”

The second time around, entrepreneurs get a bigger leap of faith from those around them. Guy has also been able to leverage his network of investors and early hires when building Snyk. Most importantly, he admits that being a repeat founder gives you more confidence in your own skills.

As a fellow entrepreneur told me, when you found your second startup, you’re still meant to cross an ocean, but now you know how to swim.

Guy Podjarny

How can you learn how to swim if you’re a first-time founder? There’s no real substitute for the real thing, but you can at least shortcut key lessons by surrounding yourself with people you can learn from at every turn and who can help you grow. And whether it’s your first company or your fifth, remember that this becomes your life’s work so do something you’re insanely passionate about. Otherwise, what’s the point?

Being a Product Led Company

One of the hardest decisions any company makes is when to aggressively invest in sales & marketing. There’s certainly no one-size-fits-all approach here, but Snyk’s growth path does shed light on some important lessons.

First, by focusing on the developer experience first and foremost, Snyk found its true calling before the windfall of revenue that propelled its hyper-growth. Guy feels putting off monetization was critical to getting the bottoms-up motion established, and even then did so alongside expanding the community-led reach to two or three additional developer ecosystems.

So it’s absolutely fine not to focus on revenue in the beginning. For Snyk, building product depth at the expense of breadth was a huge long-term advantage. Today they have over 1.5M developers in their community because of that user experience.

With buying patterns in technology also changing, it’s important to keep in mind that the buyer and user of your product might not always be the same. Guy realized early on that he had to offer different value propositions to each persona, and this was key to the go-to-market success of the company.

This took some time to get right. Guy acknowledges that he wasn’t aware in the early days that sales and marketing are a product in their own right, and that they also require significant investment.

“You can’t just hire marketing and sales leaders and then have good marketing and sales off the bat,” he says. “It’s a product that requires iteration, so you need to hire it not too soon but sufficiently soon, sufficiently early.”

Knowing When to Bring in a CEO

One of the hardest decisions any founder makes is whether to bring on another CEO. It’s an intensely personal decision, but as Guy showed, you’re better off making it when things are going well.

Guy had grown from 23 people to 84 people in one year, and was on track to reach 250 employees by the end of the following year. Being self-aware paid off handsomely though.

“My energy as CEO was almost entirely focused internally, and I perceive myself as a product guy,” he says. “I think I have a pretty good ability to understand where the community is headed, where the market is headed, and help mobilize the troops. The company needed this forward-looking focus, and I was the right person to provide it, but as CEO I didn’t have that time.”

In other words, Guy had no time to do what he loved the most. He was doing that as part of his “3% time” at the edges instead of making it his core focus. At that point, he realized he wanted to bring someone in who could help operate the company at scale.

“I did some introspection as part of that, and I realized that being a CEO is not my journey. It’s not what I want, not how I identify. If anything, I’m probably closer to a CTO. So it was actually not as hard for me to give up that title as it might have been for others.”

He and Peter McKay, Snyk’s current CEO, also have a history of working together in multiple capacities over the last 15 years. They had both worked at Watchfire previously (where Peter was CEO), and Peter was also an investor and Board Member in Snyk. So when the opportunity to bring Peter on board as CEO presented itself, Guy jumped on it.

“Just because the situation is good doesn’t mean it can’t be better, so you don’t need to wait until you’re failing as a CEO to choose to change gears,” he says. “You need to think about what can be better, and in my case, being CEO wasn’t the best thing for the company. What’s good for the company is good for me.”

Indeed, the combination of Guy and Peter has been incredibly powerful as they compliment each other so well. Importantly, they share the same values which has been so fundamental to building the culture at Snyk. As investors, we believe that great teams build great companies.

Guy continues to spend a big part of his time on hiring, as well as broader strategy and execution. In his view “helping us add the right people to the company, or preventing the wrong people from joining the company, is one of the most valuable things that I can do.”

Despite Guy’s prior success, he remains incredibly humble and ambitious today. Maybe most importantly, he’s exceptionally self-aware as an individual, which has allowed him to continuously re-invent himself on the path to making Snyk an enduring company.

For me, one of the key lessons is that when you’re introducing something truly unique and disruptive as part of a new paradigm, it doesn’t seem obvious at the outset. For Snyk, what has sustained this path is deep conviction along with obsessive focus on customers and product, while at the same time continuously ensuring that the team is the very best it can be across every single function. We’re so grateful to be part of this journey and can’t wait to see what the future holds for Snyk and their customers.

Follow @SalesforceVC on Twitter and LinkedIn. For further insights on the enterprise SaaS landscape and additional founder spotlights, follow me on Twitter at @alexkayyal.


Guild Education: Getting a Degree in “Resilience”

As we continue to work our way through the pandemic and its impact on the economy, many experts say they are expecting a “K-shaped” recovery — one that will allow professional workers and the wealthy to excel, yet cause those in already dire straits to continue to fare worse.

COVID-19 is accelerating automation and compounding the advantages of the strongest companies. It’s even more important than ever we find ways to unlock opportunity and economic mobility for low and middle-income Americans. Inaction really isn’t an option — it risks leaving people behind permanently,” says Rachel Carlson, CEO of Denver-based Guild Education.

Carlson and her company are doing something about it. Guild works with Fortune 1000 companies to incorporate education and education benefits into their corporate strategy helping with problems such as retention, upskilling and training. Guild offers a software platform to help companies such as Walmart, Lowe’s and Taco Bell support their employees’ efforts to improve their skills and education, while empowering workers to take control of their careers and reach for new opportunities. Guild was named #46 on the Forbes 2020 Cloud 100 this year (up from #86 on the 2019 list), and #23 on the Inc. 5000 list of the fastest-growing private companies.

Guild’s model is particularly well-suited for the times. The COVID-19 crisis and its record unemployment arrived at a time in history when 88 million working adults are in need of reskilling or upskilling in order to compete in the future of work, 64 million of whom do not have a postsecondary degree.

As we shifted almost overnight to a shelter-in-place society, many workers saw a decrease in need for in-person jobs, such as those in hospitality and retail, and companies of all sizes raced to meet new demands, moving as many processes to the cloud as possible, increasing automation, as well as an even-more intense demand for a tech-savvy workforce. Walmart, for example, extended its tuition benefit in June to all of its employees on the first day of employment, rather than after three months.

“The trend toward automation and digitization was already happening before the pandemic and has been radically accelerated due to impacts from COVID-19,” says Carlson. “A generation of Americans are facing numerous changes due to a rapid evolution of work. In this time of reflection, I think many people will find education is the most secure way to get them where they need to go now, as well as in the future as things continue to change.”

The company has seen a 25% surge in interest from students eager to sign up for classes during the pandemic. In addition to increasing long-term opportunities, Guild helps employees level-up their economic stability in the short-term.

Guild has also seen increased demand from universities eager to make it easier for students to enroll in and pay for online classes. Guild and its partners are working to make higher education more accessible to more people — especially the underserved. Paul Quinn College, a historically Black college, recently signed up with Guild in an effort to provide educational opportunities to working adults, including short-term credential programs and accelerated degrees.

About half of Guild’s students are parents, and Carlson, a professional working mom with young twins, is acutely aware of the delicate balance between economic acceleration and mobility. Because of this, every Guild program is designed to reduce friction and meet employees where they can learn on their own terms, making it possible for parents to accelerate their careers even as they are at home supporting their kids in their “virtual learning” efforts.

“Guild was founded on the belief that companies and employees can work together to prepare each other for a future that demands resilience and in which the best jobs will require advanced training and education,” says Carlson. “We are built to help employers and employees who recognize that lifelong learning is the most important skill of the 21st century. The pandemic has confirmed for us that our mission is as important as ever.”

We couldn’t agree more. We feel privileged to work with Rachel Carlson and the rest of the team at Guild.


Ureeka Empowers Minority-Owned Businesses to Accelerate COVID-19 Recovery

As SMBs experience uncertainty during the COVID-19 shutdowns and reopening phases, many business owners and entrepreneurs are seeking support to adjust their business strategies — building new customer experiences, offering more relevant products and services, and making it easier and safer to do business. This crisis disproportionately affects the 1.1 million minority-owned small businesses in the U.S. that employ more than 8.7 million workers and generate more than $1 trillion in output annually.

Investment in underrepresented business owners is integral to a viable economic recovery — immediate relief in the form of grants, loans, access to legal advice, and professional assistance could help underrepresented small business owners respond to the pandemic and protect their employees.

Removing systemic and geographical barriers for entrepreneurs

That’s where Ureeka can help. Established in 2018, the Ureeka platform connects and strengthens a community of entrepreneurs, mentors, coaches, corporate partners, and investors to help small businesses grow. “We remove systemic and geographical barriers for entrepreneurs because access isn’t just for the insiders,” says Ureeka Co-Founder Melissa Bradley.

Ureeka’s coaching programs are a new kind of methodology that drives impact within the first interaction. Entrepreneurs get connected with someone the second they enter the community and can work with a coach to build a plan that works for their unique business. This empowers sustainable and ongoing success.

Bradley has a track record of accelerating entrepreneurs from high potential to high growth. She began as an entrepreneur herself, who faced significant challenges with finding investors and a community to support her. As a Black woman, the statistics are not in her favor. This sparked her foray into helping youth entrepreneurs of color, and she launched 1863 Ventures to support and enable new wealth by and for entrepreneurs of color.

Supporting the economy and providing immediate relief for SMBs through grants

Bradley and the Ureeka team saw a huge gap — and opportunity — amid the impacts of COVID-19. In just three months, Ureeka’s community membership grew over 30% as diverse entrepreneurs sought guidance on how best to run their businesses in the current economy. Ureeka also administered more than $100M in grants to 15,000 small businesses, nationwide through partnerships such as the Salesforce Care Small Business Grants and WeWork’s grants for Black-owned businesses. Grant recipients across all programs were 52% women and 60% underrepresented entrepreneurs (Black, Latinx, Asian, American Indian, Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander), spanning industries such as professional services, manufacturing, restaurants & hospitality, retail & consumer goods.

We feel privileged to work with Melissa Bradley, her co-founders Dave Jakubowski and Rob Gatto, and the rest of the team at Ureeka. As part of the Salesforce Ventures Impact Fund, we’re always looking for ways to support businesses that are using their platforms for change. If you’re working on something that positively impacts people or the planet, we’d like to hear from you.


Data is the Linchpin of Digital Transformation 2.0

If Digital Transformation is the act of modernizing your enterprise by converting old paper-based processes to smarter and more efficient cloud applications, Digital Transformation 2.0 is the act of securely and privately connecting the data from all of these digital processes to create a 360° view of your customer across all touchpoints and interactions. Digital Transformation 2.0 harnesses the power of data and unlocks the potential of artificial intelligence, business intelligence, and automation to deliver strategic insights that weren’t possible before.

Salesforce Ventures has been investing in companies that advance the next wave of digital transformation for some time, and our February investment in Snowflake, a cloud-based solution that breaks down data silos and enables cross-organizational data storage, sharing, and analysis, is a great example of that. We congratulate Snowflake on its achievements, including this week’s IPO.

We’re excited to share that in addition to our previous investment in the company, Salesforce Ventures has invested an additional $250 million in Snowflake.

This year, with so many things being upended, disrupted, and redefined, we’re seeing digital transformation happen much faster than we ever imagined. The pace of change is accelerating. Transitions we thought would take decades are happening right now.

Digital Transformation has clearly become an urgent imperative, and the next step, Digital Transformation 2.0 — leveraging the full value of customer data — is critical to its success.

We believe Snowflake is a foundational component of Digital Transformation 2.0. Last year the company brought on Frank Slootman, former CEO of ServiceNow and Data Domain, to be its CEO. Snowflake’s revenue for the six months ended July 31, 2020, jumped 133% from the year prior, to $242 million.* The eight-year-old company counts more than 3,100 customers, including Adobe, Capital One, and Sony. Customer satisfaction is incredibly high: Snowflake reports net retention of 158%* and a net promoter score of 71, which we believe is significantly above the industry average. (For more on our investment thesis and Snowflake, you can check out the post we wrote about our initial investment in the company here.)

To achieve the promise of Digital Transformation 2.0 and Customer 360, you need a holistic view of your customer data. In addition to warehousing data with Snowflake, Salesforce provides seamless enterprise integration with MuleSoft and business insights through Tableau, as well as Salesforce Ventures’ investments in Automation Anywhere, Alation, BigID, Privitar, Workato and more.

Last year, Salesforce Ventures invested in Automation Anywhere, which uses machine learning and artificial intelligence to automate specific tasks, such as managing invoices or populating data into Salesforce from other sources.

We’ve also invested in companies that help enterprises manage data at scale, such as Alation which allows data science, data engineering and analyst teams to structure and query data across different information sources within an enterprise, and Workato, which gives business users the power easily build workflows across all the silos where data resides.

Privacy and security are paramount when you’re sharing data across different apps and teams. To help enterprises rethink their approach to their most valuable assets — their data — we invested in Privitar, which makes it possible for organizations to protect and analyze their most sensitive data, and BigID, which automates data compliance and transforms how enterprises find, track, secure and govern their customer and employee data.

When all these apps come together, you can extract even more value from your existing apps. A business intelligence tool like Tableau, for example, becomes supercharged: Instead of a dashboard that represents specific parts of your business, such as your sales pipeline or the number of customer service cases, you can now see how your entire business is performing.

We believe the promise of Digital Transformation is more attainable than ever. Enterprises of all sizes can access high-performance software that helps ensure customer success at scale; enable richer collaboration between and within teams; draw insights from an endless stream of data; leverage machine learning; satisfy regulatory requirements; build predictive, personalized sales and marketing programs; amplify the power of their workforce, and keep global production and supply chains moving — all while seizing emerging opportunities in a rapidly changing environment.

Footnotes: *according to its S1. **as of July 31, 2020


Startups Are Supporting Those in Need With Special Access to Products During COVID-19

While these are clearly trying times, we see stories of generosity all around us as people and companies find new ways to show solidarity with those who are most in need. In an effort to help people and organizations throughout the global community find solutions to this crisis, many companies are making their products and services more accessible. From free technology tools for first responders and healthcare organizations to assistance for struggling individuals and businesses, companies are doing what they can to support the cause and quicken recovery.

We’ve provided a roundup of resources being offered by Salesforce Ventures portfolio companies below. For more information about these programs, please reach out to the companies directly.

Benefits for first responders and healthcare organizations

BugCrowd is offering emergency response teams, hospitals, & care providers free access to their Vulnerability Disclosure Program and Attack Surface Analysis for the next 90 days.

Guild Education has partnered with Southern New Hampshire University and Penn Foster to build free training courses to assist workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic with staying safe.

JazzHR is providing JazzHR PRO for free to Primary, Emergency & Urgent Care providers.

Process Street launched COVID procedure templates for hospitals and clinics and offered free accounts for certain facilities.

Snyk’s cloud-native application security solution is free for six months to organizations in the healthcare, hospitality, travel and entertainment industries.

Free or discounted tools for organizations working on COVID-19 solutions

Algolia’s Pro Plan is free to any developer or team working on COVID-19-related, not-for-profit websites or apps.

Automation Anywhere has a free thirty-day trial of Automation Anywhere’s Enterprise A2019 to create bots for solutions to aid those affected by COVID-19.

CartoDB is offering its spatial analysis and visualization platform to private and public sector companies using maps to fight against the COVID-19 outbreak.

Copado announced the immediate availability of free access to its platform for anyone working on applications to fight COVID-19.

Dropbox Business and HelloSign Enterprise subscriptions are free for a three-month period to nonprofits and NGOs that are focused on fighting COVID-19.

Helpshift is offering their technology to community, government and healthcare organizations at no cost, enabling them to leverage the power of automation to rapidly scale operations without additional staff.

PropelPLM launched the Healthcare Manufacturer Community, a free and open community built on Salesforce Care which contains easy to navigate medical device designs, sourcing and component data, and documentation that allows companies to pivot and manufacture ventilators, as well as other life-saving medical equipment.

Free or discounted access for schools, teachers, and students

AdmitHub is offering free access to the AdmitHub platform and its AI-powered bot to the government & educational community for 90 days.

FutureFuel launched a free service to help all student loan holders get on federal repayment plans that lower monthly payments, all the way down to $0 for 12 months.

Hustle’s texting platform is free through June 30, 2020 (up to 10,000 messages) to help governments, NGOs, and schools to connect with their communities.

Vidyard is offering free access to Vidyard for Schools to enable teachers and staff to record and share secure video messages for better engagement with students, parents, colleagues, and the community.

Zoom is free to all new users and has lifted the 40-minute meeting limit for free Basic accounts for K-12 schools. Zoom is used by businesses for meetings, by families to keep in touch, and by teenagers who want to hang out with their friends.

Services that make it easier to give back

Beliive is using technology and time exchange to help individuals connect with one another. By sharing an hour of knowledge or experience with someone in the community, you receive a credit that can then be used to learn from someone else.

Catalant is waiving their fee on projects for qualified 501(c)(3)s that need to accelerate strategic work to help people affected by the pandemic.

Classy’s online fundraising software modernizes the giving experience and allows nonprofits to start fundraising in minutes with no subscription fees. They have enhanced their free platform offering through May 31, 2020.

UniteUs is offering an option for new communities to launch a rapid-response network for the immediate crisis that also provides the infrastructure to grow in the coming months.

Support for small businesses

Automattic’s WooCommerce has partnered with GoDaddy to offer 3 months of WordPress e-commerce and hosting for just $1.

BringgNOW, a last-mile delivery solution to immediately launch or scale your delivery operations is free for SMBs.

Digital Asset’s world-class legal team is available free of charge to advise small companies who may be struggling under the current circumstances.

Gusto has put together a compilation of federal, state, and private resources to help small businesses find loans, grants, and credits.

SmartRecruiters SmartStart is available to make hiring easy for teams and smaller organizations of up to 250 employees. SmartStart is entirely free with an unlimited number of users and candidates.

Narvar is offering its Simple Returns solution to all retailers for free.

nCino’s SBA solution helps to quickly respond to regulatory changes as a result of the CARES Act and the Paycheck Protection Program by decreasing loan processing time and increasing capacity for new loan applications.

Ureeka has partnered with Salesforce for the Salesforce Care Small Business Grants as the grant application, judging and community partner. Ureeka will provide businesses with grant application support, ongoing resources, and counsel.

Tools to help companies take care of their employees and customers

Demandbase is offering two of its ABM Certification courses, available for free through July 31, 2020.

Dialpad is offering 2 free months of its business phone line and video conferencing products to help businesses impacted by COVID. Apply by May 31, 2020.

GO1 has made all COVID-19 related learning resources available for free to help teams continue to perform and feel supported during this time of disruption and change.

Odaseva launched, a free product that automatically exports Salesforce data every 24 hours, retaining it for 30 days.

Pymetrics is offering two free solutions, Digital Interviewing and Internal Mobility to companies interviewing or looking to move current employees to different roles.

Simpplr is waiving implementation fees and offering a two-week deployment to support organizations with an enterprise-wide internal communications platform to keep the workforce connected and aligned.

SurveyMonkey launched new, free survey templates designed by their in-house survey experts to help business leaders and individual managers stay connected.

Thousand Eyes is offering free use of their end-user experience monitoring agents for 90 days to IT teams that need to support remote workers at an unprecedented scale due to precautions businesses are taking in response to COVID-19. Reach out to their team by June 30, 2020.

Vidyard is offering its new internal communications tool, free through June 30, to help companies adjust and stay connected to your remote workforce.

Information and other resources

Forter has created this weekly report to share insights on consumer behavior and fraud trends during this unprecedented time.

Gusto has a resource hub that provides SMBs with updated news, information, and advice as you navigate this difficult time.

Traction on Demand, through their initiative, Respond Together, is sharing an online inventory of response solutions that highlight rapid development projects they’ve completed and made available to others who might benefit from their use.

Re-entering the workplace

Finalcad is offering part of its product for free, helping construction sites return safely back to work by digitizing their HSE (health, safety, and environment) processes more effectively.

Traction Guest launched ZeroTouch to help enterprises safely reopen during the pandemic. ZeroTouch automates proactive safety screening and fully contactless access for employees and visitors, mitigating current and future risks.

If you want to join or support the cause

COVID Tech Connect

Loop & Tie Founder and CEO Sara Rodell along with other technology leaders joined together to provide donated tablets to hospitals across the United States to connect critically ill COVID-19 patients with family members. Loop & Tie repurposed their operational structure to help receive orders from hospitals, device donations, and manage shipping and handling of devices to matching recipients.


Spearheaded by Rachel Carlson, CEO of Guild Education, Stop the Spread (STS) is a coalition of 1,500+ volunteer CEOs working to unlock the collective potential of US businesses to catalyze action and bolster the public sector in response to COVID-19.


Investing in Clarity: Our Investment in Snowflake

Businesses all over the world are striving to become data-centric as a way to compete in the era of digital transformation. But in order to gain the biggest advantage, they need to master the challenge of organizing data easily, quickly, and economically across all their data apps and data stores. This is the true promise of “digital transformation.”

However, as enterprises see the benefits of analyzing data about every aspect of their business, from sales and marketing to finance and operations, they find themselves with limited ability to access all of the insights these data hold. Why? Much of the data is trapped in silos, which can only be unlocked with heavy engineering and data science efforts. When leaders attempt to run high-value data analysis to solve more complex business problems, they realize they need more infrastructure and new solutions to manage the data, as well as more comprehensive data governance strategies.

It’s a massive opportunity for companies that can seamlessly manage the mashup of data. At Salesforce Ventures, we’re putting our weight behind multiple solutions in this emerging category, including our latest investment: Snowflake. We co-led the latest Series G investment alongside Dragoneer Investment Group.

San Mateo, Calif.-based Snowflake was founded eight years ago to create the first cloud-based analytics database. Backed by prestigious investors such as ICONIQ, Sequoia Capital, and Sutter Hill, Snowflake employs more than 1,500 people. Among its more than 2,000 enterprise customers are Capital One, Electronic Arts, Overstock, and Sony. Customers love Snowflake so much that it’s not uncommon to see a company ramp up its spend in just a few months, from tens of thousands to millions of dollars. It’s one of the fastest-growing SaaS companies we’ve ever seen. Last May, the company brought in Frank Slootman, former CEO of ServiceNow and Data Domain, to scale the company to the next level.

Snowflake today is a widely used solution for customers to store and analyze their operational data, including CRM data. Many of our customers also use Snowflake for their data warehouse to visualize their data in both Einstein Analytics and Tableau. With this investment, we will continue to strengthen our partnership.

Snowflake’s cloud data platform includes three layers: storage, compute, and cloud services. What makes it unique is the way the company has architected this structure to allow customers to quickly scale new warehouses and share and access data between them. Snowflake is built on top of AWS, Azure, and GCP, and gives customers the choice to run Snowflake on any of these platforms. And because Snowflake is cloud-native, it’s faster and easier to use, as well as more scalable and flexible.

Snowflake separates data and compute functions so you can store all your structured and semistructured data in one place, allowing you to create and manage all your data workloads on a single platform. For enterprises that are running lots of data-heavy applications, this is a big deal. Snowflake’s virtual warehouses are independent compute clusters that can simultaneously access the same data storage layer to run different queries without impacting the data or causing any performance issues.

Performance is phenomenal. Elastic compute makes it possible to instantly scale up and down and build multi clusters. You can start querying as soon as you load your data, and once you store it, your data is encrypted. It’s a game-changer for any business that relies on speed and security, such as those in finance or healthcare.

As companies around the world continue their data transformation and bring on more cloud applications that generate and consume more and more data, the need for solutions to control the data will continue to intensify. We’re committed to helping Salesforce customers manage this transition by supporting startups that are innovating in this space.


Samasource: A Tribute to Leila Janah, and Why We Invested

On Friday, January 24 I received the devastating news that Leila Janah, founder and CEO of Samasource, had died after a brief but hard-fought battle with a rare cancer. In the last week and a half, I’ve talked with many people who knew Leila, and I’ve uncovered a common thread of not only grief but also disbelief. For someone who conquered so many odds in her relentless pursuits of equity and empowerment for the world’s underserved, it seems impossible that her epithelioid sarcoma would win. But cancer is not the end of Leila’s story; in many ways, this story was just beginning, and it will continue. I feel so very fortunate to have played a small part in supporting her mission.

Leila and I both graduated from Harvard in 2004, but in a class of 1,600 people, our lives were one degree removed. It was not until I moved to San Francisco in 2012 for a job with Kiva that our paths began to intersect more directly. At the time both Kiva and Samasource were social enterprise darlings, representing some of the first nonprofit organizations to be tech-enabled, market-based, and mission-driven. Leila had founded Samasource from the incongruity of watching a booming tech scene unfold in Silicon Valley while also observing the untapped potential of the world’s underserved who were under- or unemployed. Her idea was simple but bold: recruit youth and women from low-income communities in Kenya and Uganda, train them in data annotation in a 10-day course, and employ them — for a living wage — at Samasource facilities that serve large tech companies and their digital outsourcing needs.

Not everyone understood Leila’s vision, however, and she ultimately launched Samasource as a nonprofit because she could not win over traditional venture capital in 2008. In those early years, Leila and her team scraped and scrapped for every dollar donated and every contract won, but over time it became clear that she was onto something. Along with the explosion of AI came a need for secure, high-quality training and model validation data for machine learning applications, and Samasource was uniquely positioned to meet that demand. A decade later, Samasource had served 25% of the Fortune 50, including Google, Microsoft, and Walmart, and the organization had become a profitable non-profit. Importantly, Samasource’s growth also fueled meaningful investments in its workforce; Samasource’s social impact business model enabled the company to pay a living wage, resulting in higher retention rates and overall worker engagement when compared to the rest of the training data industry.

In 2018 came another turning point for Samasource. The organization had developed an impressive earned revenue stream from an increasingly sophisticated portfolio of work across industries such as autonomous transportation and safety, communications media and entertainment, e-commerce, smart hardware, and biotech. And yet, as a nonprofit, Samasource was resource-constrained. Leila made the decision to transition Samasource to a for-profit model to further invest in and scale the company’s AI capabilities while remaining true to its social impact roots. It was time to pound the pavement again, but this time for venture capital.

By this time I had left Kiva to join Salesforce for a new opportunity leading a $50M Impact Fund. Though for years our paths had crossed and our worlds had overlapped, it was an investment opportunity in Samasource’s Series A raise that brought us working together closely for the first time. I remember vividly our first conversation about it over coffee because the idea seemed somewhat wild; not only was Leila converting Samasource to a for-profit, but she was also making the previous non-profit a shareholder in the new entity, ensuring that the company’s success would be used to fund social enterprises for years to come.

Over the course of due diligence, I grew more and more excited about the Samasource story. Against a backdrop of mega funding rounds for for-profit tech companies, Samasource’s growth was remarkable — with limited donor dollars and an overabundance of smarts, grit, and passion, Leila, COO Wendy Gonzales, and their team built a large, profitable, and increasingly specialized business with customers who demanded complex and secure AI services. Samasource had not only become an early market leader in AI but also led the industry in its ethical approach to employment and data sourcing, with a rigorous approach to impact measurement. Studies have shown that three years after leaving Samasource, workers increase their income 4x on average and gain valuable work experience that helps them build a pathway out of poverty. And through the ripple effect of providing its past and present workforce with a living wage, Samasource has positively impacted the lives of over 50,000 people.

For these reasons and others, the Salesforce Ventures Impact Fund ultimately invested in the Series A alongside Ridge Ventures, Social Impact Ventures, Bestseller Foundation, and Bluecrest Limited Capital. This funding propels the breadth of Samasource’s technology with more advanced features in the current platform, including building upon current annotation automation capabilities that increase efficiency and quality, and more advanced integration with customers’ machine learning models via API.

Over the years Leila earned an impressive array of awards — she was a WEF Young Global Leader, the youngest ever Heinz Award winner, and the accomplished author of the book Give Work — and ran in circles that included tech luminaries, world leaders, and the Pope. On the surface and in photos, her life could look glamorous, even easy. The reality was far different. The life that Leila deliberately chose meant very hard work, with great uncertainty, and a heavyweight that comes with tackling a massive problem. Leila was committed to “giving work,” but this required doing the work, day in and day out. The reason she did it, and returned to it every day, was because of her unwavering belief that connecting people to dignified work and paying a living wage had the potential to solve some of the world’s most pressing challenges, from reducing poverty to empowering women and mitigating climate change.

Leila was an impressive entrepreneur by any standard, but it was this belief that set her apart. Leila once said, “My biggest hope is that the world reorients itself to the concept of social business. If you’re an entrepreneur building a company, it damn well better be a company that does good in the world.” With words like these, it is abundantly clear that Leila’s story was really just beginning when her life was cut far too short. Her legacy will be powerful, and we at Salesforce are honored and committed to support it.


Seeing is Believing? More Like Seeing is Buying.

The online retail wars are getting fiercer as consumers continue to raise their expectations. In 2016, online shoppers expected three images of every product they considered in a mobile or online store. Today, just three years later, they expect eight images per product. In a recent survey, 83 percent of online buyers said images were the most influential factor in their purchase decision — even higher than star ratings and comparison charts. And nearly three-quarters of customers say experience is an important factor in their buying decisions — even more important than price or quality.

When consumers get used to a higher-level experience, retailers usually brace themselves to blow their budgets, and those with deeper pockets win at the expense of everyone else. But when an emerging technology comes along that can deliver a better experience for far less work at a drastically reduced cost, the whole industry leaps forward.

So when we saw what Threekit was doing for retailers, we jumped at the chance to invest. I’m happy to announce Salesforce Ventures has joined our friends at Shasta Ventures in a $20 million Series A for Threekit.

Customized Experiences for Every Shopper

Threekit is a product visualization software platform that makes it possible for customers to view items online in any configuration (fabric, material, color, shape, etc.) with picture-perfect quality. Historically, this could only be done via professional photography in a studio, which can easily cost tens of millions of dollars when you’re shooting a large catalogue of items such as clothes or furniture.

ThreeKit makes it easy for online shoppers to swap out colors, materials and styles to see photo-realistic versions of their custom creations — at one-thousandth the cost of traditional product photography for retailers such as SteelCase, Crate & Barrel and Herman Miller.

The results are stunning: Threekit has boosted conversion rates online by ~40%, reduced returns by ~80% and decreased photography costs by up to ~90%. For Crate & Barrel, Threekit rendered ~3 million photos in 3D so they could create a more immersive and satisfying shopping experience. For office furniture company SteelCase, Threekit was able to replace half a dozen different software tools to render and manage their 3D information.

Technology Built for Marketing and Sales Teams

The technology behind this innovation is equally as impressive as the results. Threekit has pushed the boundaries of 3D to make it quick and easy to put a vast catalogue of items into its customizable visualization engine. Previous 3D modeling programs were too expensive to use at scale and required teams of people trained in how to use these complex tools. But Threekit is so easy and collaborative that creative and merchandising teams can quickly get started.

While there are other 3D modeling tools on the market, they don’t have the same flexibility and ability to slide into existing workflows — this is often one of the hardest things to solve in enterprise software and one of the biggest barriers to mass adoption.

There are three main components to Threekit: A visual configurator, or interactive sales tool, that uses live 3D models to visualize product layouts and components, making it possible for sales reps or consumers to easily configure custom designs; a virtual photographer, which creates photo-realistic images of customer’s products using 3D modeling and visual effects; and augmented reality, an application that allows sales teams to project AR images of products on a smartphone to help customers imagine how their products will look in real life (picture that leather jacket on your body, or that sectional in your family room).

We feel privileged to work with the team at Threekit, including its founder, visual effects expert Ben Houston, and Godard Abel and Joachim Klein, who previously led SteelBrick, a quote-to-cash company Salesforce acquired in 2015.

At Salesforce Ventures, we’re always looking for ways to improve the customer experience for sales, marketing, service, and commerce. If you’re working on something that has the promise of Threekit and the potential to scale, we’d like to hear from you.


Improving the Search Box: Our Investment in Algolia

Today we are thrilled to announce our investment and partnership with Algolia as part of its Series C round together with Accel. With more than 8,000 customers worldwide — including Stripe, Twitch, Slack, Intuit, Sephora, LVMH, and Birchbox — Algolia quickly has become one of the most exciting businesses emerging out of Europe. We’ve known co-founders Nicolas Dessaigne and Julien Lemoine for a while now and are continuously impressed by their product leadership and vision. Our focus at Salesforce Ventures is backing the most ambitious SaaS companies strategic to the Salesforce ecosystem and our customers, and Algolia fits the bill as a true category leader.

A Future in API

These companies have figured out that businesses don’t need to reinvent the wheel when they build their tech stacks. By offering an outstanding developer experience, they enable organizations to better focus on their core competency.

We get excited when companies successfully drive such a bottom-up go-to-market motion and expand into larger accounts. With a strong and active developer community at its heart, Algolia is excitingly moving into enterprise ACVs with multi-year commitments and has built a world-class sales team led by CRO Jean-Louis Baffier, a sales leader with a track record from Salesforce, Oracle, and Microsoft.

Building Great Search is Hard

Creating a great search experience is one of the fundamental problems faced by any site online. It’s also one of the hardest to crack. Algolia understands that most companies’ core business does not involve building a search experience, but how impactful it can be when integrated with their products quickly.

Recognizing this, Nicolas and Julien quickly capitalized on an opportunity in a market that has just started to take off (online and mobile commerce) and built a product that is easy to implement and tailor to deliver engaging experiences to customers.

Driving Customer Success

At Salesforce Ventures, we see better search as integral to digital transformation and driving customer success. User experience and agility really matter. If you run an e-commerce business, Algolia ultimately helps you achieve significantly higher conversion by offering customers a best-in-class search experience.

You can see it when you take a stroll through the online offerings at Lacoste, a joint customer of both Salesforce Commerce Cloud and Algolia. Type a few keywords into the clothing company’s search bar and precise results spring up in real-time. The effect is delightful and drives sales.

Finding information is a seemingly simple problem that’s incredibly hard to fix; but if done right, its effects are clear. We’re glad to back such an incredible team and growth story and to enable our customers to offer an amazing search experience to their own customers.

Welcome, Algolia to Salesforce Ventures!

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