Corporate impact investment can play an important role in aligning companies’ business efforts with some of the world’s most pressing problems. That’s why Orange Silicon Valley will be hosting its 2018 Corporate Impact Summit on June 28. Among the event’s featured speakers will be Claudine Emeott, who serves as Director of Impact Investment at the Salesforce Impact Fund.
In her work at Salesforce, Claudine focuses on the types of investments that can advance efforts in education, equality, sustainability, and elsewhere, sharing many values with the 17 Sustainable Development Goals outlined in 2015 by the United Nations. Ahead of her talk, she fielded a few questions from OSV about her fund’s decision-making process, what it does, and what she has already achieved.
Orange Silicon Valley: In your own experience, how has Salesforce gone about defining the values that drive its Impact Fund’s activities?
Claudine Emeott: Impact investing can mean a lot of things to different people and it is important to us to work in categories where we both have an area of expertise, but also that align to our company values. At Salesforce, social and environmental impact is core to who we are as a company.
The Salesforce Impact Fund is uniquely positioned to catalyze the growth of companies who are building products and solutions to benefit society across four key focus areas that are strategically align with our corporate priorities and product capabilities:
1. Education and Workforce development
4. Social sector
OSV: In practice, how have those decisions led you to the investments that it has already made?
CE: Through the fund, portfolio companies receive funding to accelerate their growth, in addition to the credibility, access and advice that comes with an investment from Salesforce Ventures. We chose these four key areas to focus on to ensure we’re driving the most impact and providing the most informative advice to our portfolio companies.
To date, we are very excited about all of our investments and their potential for both strong financial returns as well as measurable social and/or environmental impact.
OSV: What are the kinds of outcomes that characterize successful investments for you that might distinguish your goals from those of traditional VCs or other CVCs?
CE: Our goal at Salesforce Ventures is to create the world’s No. 1 enterprise cloud ecosystem, and this means that as a CVC we are a strategic investor looking for companies who are currently building on or considering integrating with Salesforce. We also look to invest in companies with best in class SaaS metrics like any other institutional VC.
But success for our Impact Fund also depends on demonstrable social or environmental impact. We assess potential for impact at the time of due diligence and then measure performance on an annual basis thereafter. We are committed to measuring what matters and only collect impact metrics that are key to the driving success for a business and their impact model. We work with our portfolio companies to help define those metrics upfront and continue to work with them as the measures may evolve over time.
OSV: Is the Impact Fund opening opportunities for any other parts of Salesforce’s business and activities that you would point to?
CE: Definitely. With our strategic investments in companies that are building on the platform, we can create a better product and experience for our customers doing good in the world. For example, we are investors in Hustle, a peer-to-peer messaging app used by nonprofits, advocacy groups, higher ed institutions, and traditional enterprise customers. With the soon-to-launch Hustle integration, our shared customers — and future customers — will have more powerful communication and engagement tools at their disposal.
OSV: Do impact-driven funds like Salesforce’s have anything unique to offer startups that they might not find from other sources? Anything you could characterize?
CE: Aside from the financial investment, portfolio companies also receive the credibility, access and advice that comes with an investment from Salesforce Ventures. As a strategic investor, we believe that our capital is just the start to a deeper relationship, and we are excited to roll up our sleeves and work alongside our entrepreneurs to help them leverage the power of the Salesforce ecosystem.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the position or views of Orange or Orange Silicon Valley.