John Somorjai, Chief Corporate Development and Investments Officer at Salesforce Ventures, recently sat down with Clara Shih, CEO of Salesforce AI, on the “Ask More of AI” podcast for a wide-ranging conversation on the origins of Salesforce Ventures, Salesforce Ventures’ AI investment portfolio, how Salesforce Ventures applies its values in all investment decisions, and much more.
Here were a few of our favorite takeaways*.
*Quotes have been edited for clarity and concision.
On what inspired John to launch Salesforce Ventures…
“We started talking about creating a venture firm towards the end of 2008. It was the middle of the financial crisis, and we had many AppExchange partners who were struggling to raise funding. We had created this incredible ecosystem of partners that would tightly integrate with our products and it was really important for our business and our customers that they be able to access these solutions.”
“So we worked with Marc (Benioff) to create a venture arm that would fund within the broader Salesforce ecosystem and allow Salesforce to become the anchor investor of a fundraising round and pull in other investors. Companies we invested in during that time include DocuSign and Box.”
“From our origins, we could have never imagined the success Salesforce Ventures has had. The world changed and enterprises realized they could run their companies more efficiently by moving their systems to the cloud. So Salesforce, and all the companies that grew up around us, really benefited from changes in the industry.”
On what differentiates Salesforce Ventures from other VC firms…
“Through that early experience, we realized we have a few advantages as investors. One is we understand buying signals and have a good sense for the types of companies customers would want to buy from. Additionally, we have in-house experts that understand enterprise software and how to create the best products for the cloud that are secure, reliable, and scalable. So we can leverage the expertise of our entire organization to make better investment decisions.”
On launching Salesforce Ventures’ Generative AI Fund…
“Generative AI is one of the most transformative technologies we’ve seen in a long time in our industry. When we started to see interesting business models take off with this technology, we decided we wanted to be at the forefront of deploying capital into the industry to make sure we’re getting into the best companies while building an ecosystem of partners around our internal AI efforts.”
On Salesforce Ventures’ investment in application-layer AI companies…
“Notable application layer investments include Runway, Typeface, and AutogenAI. What all of these companies have in common is how much productivity they add back to the company. McKinsey says AI is going to save $4 trillion every year for companies. That’s an enormous productivity uplift. I think these companies are really on the cusp of breaking through and becoming very, very successful large businesses because when you can drive that much efficiency for a business, who’s not going to want to buy?”
On how Salesforce Ventures leads with its values…
“One of the greatest things about Salesforce is how much we value giving back. Our 1-1-1 model stipulates 1% of employee time is dedicated to volunteerism, 1% of our product is given away for free, and we put 1% of our equity into a 501(c)(3) foundation, which has now been able to give away over $700M in grants. We’ve brought our 1-1-1 model to our portfolio, and now have 190+ companies using it. They’re building on our success and helping their communities.”
“Another example is our focus on diversity and inclusion. We invest in many minority founders, and fund the Black Venture Institute, which trains black operators to become check writers. So I think everything we do with our values internally, we try to bring that to the companies we work with.”
Watch John’s full conversation with Clara here: