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A conversation with Matt Garratt, Managing Partner of Salesforce Ventures

I’ve had the pleasure of attending Collision From Home, top technology conference, and sitting down with Matt Garratt currently serves as the Managing Partner of Salesforce Ventures, the global strategic venture arm for Salesforce with over 260 active  portfolio companies and over 100 exits. While at Salesforce, Matt has completed over 100 Investments in leading […]

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I’ve had the pleasure of attending Collision From Home, top technology conference, and sitting down with Matt Garratt currently serves as the Managing Partner of Salesforce Ventures, the global strategic venture arm for Salesforce with over 260 active  portfolio companies and over 100 exits. While at Salesforce, Matt has completed over 100 Investments in leading enterprise SaaS companies including companies such as Automation Anywhere, Snowflake, Zoom, Mulesoft, and Twilio.

What is Collision From Home?

Times may be uncertain, but one thing remains true. There’s a simple power in people coming together. 

Following in the spirit of Collision, Collision from Home attendees will participate from wherever they are in the world, live streaming talks from tech CEOs, international policymakers, and global cultural figures. They’ll chat and connect with each other through the bespoke Collision from Home app and they’ll engage with some of the world’s most influential companies and fastest-growing startups.

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Career

Thank you for joining us! Can you tell us about what brought you to your career path?

I’ve always liked math and science. As a kid, I would read Popular Science, and I was always curious about what the next new great technology was. That curiosity and love of science led me to work in engineering in a lab conducting fundamental research and development and launching new products.

From there, I went to business school and learned about finance and entrepreneurship. During my time at business school, I had the opportunity to do a lot of really interesting things outside of class. I invested in energy solutions in Africa, worked with the United Nations and started at a small venture capital firm in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

I was introduced to the partner at the venture capital firm and ended up talking my way into a role there. I still remember one of my first days at the firm. The partner had a magazine with 10 local technology companies. He said, “pick the one that is most interesting.” I pointed at one, and he said “That’s right. That’s the one that would make the best investment.”

Experiences like that really shaped my career path. That’s where I first got the itch for venture investing. I was fortunate enough to get a VC role at a SI Valley firm after business school. And now, I’m here.

Looking back, what are the catalysts or inflection points in your career?

One inflection point is when I went to the University of Michigan. That was a time where I was really able to explore my interests and passions. I was able to learn about sustainability and cleantech and had the opportunity to work with a group of like-minded friends and mentors.

I believe that just being with that cohort of people who were also just intensely curious and trying to figure things out is what lit that spark for me. We explored what we were interested in, we asked questions, we learned. 

Another inflection point is joining Salesforce. When I first joined, I wanted to dive deeper into enterprise software, and about a year and a half in, I had worked on a mix of mergers and acquisitions and investments. There was a point where I was deciding between staying at Salesforce, or potentially taking a COO type of role and becoming more of an operator. During this time, we decided to formalize a brand around our investment strategy at Salesforce, which is what Salesforce Ventures is today.

This was a huge catalyst. I was employee #1 at Salesforce Ventures. We hired a whole team–that is now about 25 people globally. We have employees from London to Japan. It’s been incredibly successful and rewarding. Look for those opportunities where you see an opening to build something new, or opportunities to mentor under industry luminaries. 

Can you share what Salesforce Ventures is currently focused on? How will this impact the world?

We are really interested in leading world-class enterprise cloud companies. Our goal is to build an ecosystem of partners and invest in the best-in-breed technologies that work with Salesforce. 

My team and I are scouting the world globally looking for that next amazing enterprise cloud company.  We invest across commerce, data, integration, marketing, sales, security, service and other solutions, and keep a pulse on cutting-edge technologies so that we can lead on important topics, from artificial intelligence to the future of work.

For example, we’ve invested in Blend, a digital lending platform. We’re looking at AI machine learning-enabled companies like HighSpot, as well as automation solutions like Automation Anywhere

Our goal is to invest in the best technology and provide comprehensive end-to-end solutions to solve large world puzzles. One puzzle we’re looking to solve is around the enterprise and data. So much data is in silos — how do we connect that? How do we visualize it or aggregate the information? How do we store it sustainability and safely? 

Salesforce Ventures invested in Snowflake – cloud data warehouse software, in BigID so companies know where all their sensitive data resides, and companies like Alation to organize and collaborate around data sets. Data is becoming a core part of digital transformation. 

How has COVID shaped Salesforce Ventures now or in the future?

We’ve stayed consistent with our strategy. Q1 of this year was our most active quarter, and Q2 has been very robust. We are seeing an acceleration of digital transformation, particularly in enterprise technologies. For example, we invested in Zoom and see a strong need for collaboration, and the need for an online platform for social activities, which has really taken off during COVID-19.

We’ve been very encouraged by how our portfolio companies have responded during this time. It’s been an incredible and inspiring experience to work with the entrepreneurs and help them as they navigate this tricky time, and to witness how the entrepreneurs go above and beyond to give back. For example, Rachel Carlson, CEO of Guild Education, started an initiative called Stop The Spread Coalition. One of our system integration partners has helped consult and provide solutions in Canada for the local hospitals and medical facilities to track patients and inventories. 

We’ve just been really really amazed at the response from our portfolio.

What has it been like for entrepreneurs to raise funding during a pandemic? 

It’s been very interesting and the world of venture capital has gone through phases. In the March and April timeframe, there was a bit of shock and trying to reassess what is going on, and we saw a number of companies doing a number of follow on rounds. But there is still a lot of activity happening right now in venture capital. It’s busier than ever. 

It’s very exciting to see how deals are getting done primarily through social platforms, digital technology, and social mediums. We are adjusting to remote investing, learning how to conduct deals with people you haven’t met before, how to meet people without the typical networking conferences, events and dinners. Investors and entrepreneurs are shifting even more to creating content and focusing on marketing and brand awareness.

What types of technology do you see evolving or thriving during this time?

We are so excited about all the innovations globally, and while this has been happening for a long time, COVID-19 has really accelerated the process of digital transformation. For example, healthcare is evolving rapidly to become more digital, and focusing on remote health. Companies are trying to figure out how to pivot to remote work, and how to set up at home call centers and support offices. There are a lot more security risks. How do you secure your devices? How do you manage them? There is room for so much innovation in the cloud right now.

Corporations are shifting to learn how to sell and market in a digital environment. Previously, many firms were focused on in-person sales meetings. Now, companies have to figure out and change the go-to-market strategy. 

So, we are seeing large acceleration in digital transformation occur in just a few short months, creating opportunities, new behaviors, and new technologies.

Where do you see the future of Salesforce Ventures/ corporate investing?

Salesforce Ventures has been very active. I don’t see that slowing down for the rest of the year. We’ll continue to be very active and robust. As you look at what is happening in the venture capital and private equity space, there is no shortage of capital. There is an increasing flight to quality. Companies are seeing a tailwind from remote work are seeing lots of preemptive term sheets at very high valuations. Businesses are seeing modest deceleration are still raising, but it’s harder. Companies facing headwinds are not getting attention from new investors. 

This is also putting a lot of pressure on venture firms to provide more help and value. That’s where corporate venture investing–when done properly- is able to separate from many other sources of capital. This requires that we continue to find additional ways to help founders. 

Personal

What are your “4 Things I Wish I Knew”? Can you share a story?

  1. Success if a function of pursuing things you are interested in, doggedly, over a long period of time. It requires some talent, but it isn’t always the most talented or the smartest people that are the most successful. It is always the people that continue to work at something for a long period of time deliberately with the goal of getting better. 
  2. The mind is malleable. I stole this from Naval Ravikant. You can shape how you perceive the world and respond to situations. However, it is just like building muscles or living a healthy lifestyle. It requires daily exercise and multiple types of activities to develop. Just as you have to eat well and exercise to build up good health, you will need to apply different techniques such as meditation, walking, mindfulness, and journaling to develop and maintain mental conditioning.
  3. You have a limited reserve of will power and making decisions deplete that reserve. Put systems in place to limit the decisions you have to make and play to your strengths. For example, I lost weight once I learned to intermittent fast. The rules were set, and that worked for me. Mornings are easier, and I was able to accomplish my goal.  No thinking or decisions. It’s also easy for me to control breakfast and lunch. Dinners, when we did social dinners, are much harder. And I’m tired by then and have less will power. 
  4. People are very complicated. Try to see them for their better angels. People are wise in one area but deficient in another. Learn to separate the two. Forgive others imperfections and learn to accept and look for the good. Conversely, don’t be jealous of one portion of someone’s life. You have to take the whole person. 

What is the blueprint for success?

As you get older, the blueprint for success is a combination of persistence, following your curiosity, and just getting into the flow to the point where you just want to do it. You want to learn more, you want to combine continuous questioning with hard work. And that combination is what builds success. If you continue to go down that path, success will come.

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