The top 25: John Somorjai, Salesforce Ventures

Salesforce Ventures, the corporate venturing arm of US-based enterprise software producer Salesforce, launched a $100m vehicle called Canada Trailblazer Fund this month that will focus on cloud services startups.

The news follows a February 2018 commitment by Salesforce, which has more than 1,300 employees in Canada, to invest $2bn in the country over the next five years.

John Somorjai, Salesforce’s executive vice-president of corporate development and Salesforce Ventures, said: “There is incredible innovation happening in Canada today and we want to encourage and empower the next generation of enterprise cloud startups in the region.

“Salesforce Ventures’ Canada Trailblazer Fund is a commitment to our mission to help startups grow and enable our customers to reach new levels of success.”

And Somorjai has been adding to his commitments in other areas since 2005, when he started leading the evaluation, deal execution and integration of M&A and investments at Salesforce.

Its largest acquisition was of a portfolio company. In March, Salesforce agreed to acquire Mulesoft, a US-based, publicly-listed application development software producer that was also one of its portfolio companies, at an enterprise value of $6.5bn.

Founded in 2006, Mulesoft has developed a software platform called Anypoint that enables organisations to build networks that integrate applications, data and devices.

The company went public in March 2017 in a $221m initial public offering that gave it a market capitalisation of about $2.9bn, pricing its shares at $17.00 each.

Mulesoft had raised $259m in funding prior to the offering. Salesforce’s corporate venturing unit, Salesforce Ventures, backed its $37m series E round in 2013 and a $50m round in 2014 that valued it at $800m, before returning to lead its $128m series G round the following year.

Somorjai was initially tasked in 2014, when he was promoted to executive vice-president from senior vice-president, with deploying its $100m Salesforce1 Fund. He then brought in Matt Garratt, a GCV Rising Star 2016, to run what became Salesforce Ventures in October that year and it quickly grew.

Salesforce then unveiled a partner program to facilitate the development of intelligent apps that can then be sold on its AppExchange marketplace, as well as a $100m fund to invest in startups “building an ecosystem of partners around us”, according to Somorjai. This Salesforce Platform Fund follows the $50m Lightning Fund, formed by the company last June and now fully deployed, as well as the $100m Salesforce1 Fund in 2014 and another $100m fund for Europe.

Last year, Salesforce added a $50m Impact fund last year – overseen by GCV Rising Star Meredith Finn. This was one of four funds it set up with an aggregate $250m committed for the ventures team that also saw three of its unicorn portfolio companies (private companies worth at least $1bn) going public.

The largest of these four initiatives was the $100m Platform Fund the unit launched in May, followed by the SI Trailblazer Fund, to invest in cloud consulting companies looking to expand their Salesforce services, and the AI Innovation Fund in late September to support developers of Salesforce-compatible artificial intelligence software.

Previously, Salesforce conducted minority equity deals through its corporate development function since 2009. It now has more than 200 investments, and Salesforce Ventures has investment offices in the US, UK and Japan. Its Europe division, run by Alex Kayyal, has a commitment of $100m over the next few years, while Shinji Asada, head of Salesforce Ventures for Japan, is probably the most active CVC at a foreign-headquartered parent in the country.

Most impressively, Salesforce Ventures has also exited more than 40 of its portfolio, according to Garratt, with recent initial public offerings including Dropbox and DocuSign. It is a speed of development that reflects the growth of its parent under founder Marc Benioff.

Somorjai previously worked for pay-per-call company Ingenio, which was acquired by AT&T, as its vice-president, business development, responsible for partnership, sales and strategic corporate activities. He has also worked for Oracle Corporation as a senior director of corporate development working on strategic transactions. Somorjai was originally Oracle’s corporate counsel in the corporate legal department.