How Salesforce Incorporates Social Impact with Corporate Venture

“There has arguably never been a time more important for business to be a force for good.”

Claudine Emeott, Director of the $150M Salesforce Impact Venture Fund

Claudine Emeott

The Salesforce Ventures Impact Fund launched in 2017 and addressed four initial sectors: Climate + Sustainability, Education + Workforce Development, DEI + Inclusion Tech, and Tech for the Social Sector. These areas were chosen for their opportunity to create impact and their ability to tie back to Salesforce’s core business. Suzanne DiBiancaa, a long-time Salesforce executive, knew the company had an opportunity to go beyond its philanthropic work and create a strategic business line by supporting for-profit businesses with social and environmental impact.

The Salesforce Ventures Impact Fund has grown to $150M and so far has invested in 30 companies, 60 percent of which are run by women and underrepresented minority founders or CEOs.

As demand for more accountability and performance around DEI and ESG increases within the corporate world, there are a number of lessons even more traditional funds can learn from Salesforce’s model.

Claudine Emeott, the Senior Director of the fund, discussed four of these best practices.

  1. Invest Strategically: The Salesforce Ventures Impact Fund team only considers investments where the impact is core to the investee’s business model or competitive advantage. “We are looking for companies that have a dedicated mission around solving this problem….companies that have built impact into their DNA.”
  2. Stress Test Your Ideas of Impact: Importantly, Claudine knew just defining investment areas that serve underserved populations was not enough to ensure impact on its own. Consequently, she built elements of both positive impact assessment and scanning for potential negative unintended consequences into the due diligence process. Claudine’s team does this by using the IMP 5-Dimension framework and regularly utilizing outside experts to test viability of theory of change. This work then informs their deal memos.
  3. Provide Portfolio Services: Purpose-driven founders increasingly recognize that creating truly world-positive companies requires its own set of competencies, and there are few places to go for founders to develop these skills. Claudine has been intentional about thinking about how to support her founders in areas such as impact assessments and DEI initiatives. “We regularly bring our portfolio together to hear from Salesforce executives on top-of-mind questions and facilitate knowledge sharing across companies.”
  4. Report Your Impact: As more LPs consider DEI and ESG mandates, Claudine has advanced meaningful thinking on how to report impact measurements alongside financial ones that all funds could learn from. Salesforce “strives to embody Stakeholder Capitalism,” and shares both quantitative metrics as well as qualitative narratives that tease out human-level impact behind the numbers in its annual Salesforce Stakeholder Impact Report.

Results

Other corporates are catching on. They are realizing rhetoric, advertising,and volunteer days aren’t enough to be good corporate citizens — they need to actually deploy capital. Similarly, more traditional venture funds are seeing demands from LPs and entrepreneurs alike to develop competencies around DEI and ESG.

We expect this trend to continue and both traditional and corporate funds would be well-served to look to some of the examples being set by Claudine and her team at Salesforce.

Accelerating the adoption of responsible company-building practices in tech