Salesforce has announced its second Impact Fund from Salesforce Ventures, its global strategic investment arm. The new $100 million fund will accelerate the growth of cloud companies addressing some of today’s most pressing needs including access to education and reskilling, climate action, diversity, equity and inclusion, and providing tech for nonprofits and foundations.
I caught up with Salesforce’s Chief Impact Officer and EVP of Corporate Relations, the inspiring Suzanne DiBianca (whom I’ve had the pleasure of profiling before in Forbes about her role in the creation of the Pledge 1% program) to learn more about the announcement.
Afdhel Aziz: Suzanne, welcome. Please tell us a little about how Salesforce has been helping people in these turbulent times?
Suzanne DiBianca: These intertwined crises – from health and economic, to inequality and leadership – have revealed the culture and core values of every company. At Salesforce, we’ve transformed our company and rewritten our playbook to serve all our stakeholders during the pandemic, leaning into our technology and influence.
Salesforce has helped combat COVID-19, securing and delivering over 60 million units of PPE for over 300 healthcare facilities. We have put technology in the hands of our students and teachers with work.com for Schools. Most recently, we launched Work.com for Vaccine Management to help the world deliver one of the largest mass vaccination campaigns in history.
We have also supported local business through small business grants, and are working to address racial inequality inside and beyond our four walls. And last month we launched a Sustainability at Home guide, to make working-from-home more productive, comfortable and sustainable for our employees and community.
DiBianca: Impact investing is experiencing significant growth as businesses and investors increasingly aim to make real-world change and build a better future for all stakeholders. We need to take this moment to invest in a new, more resilient and inclusive economy – one that ensures the long-term health and wellness of citizens, drives job creation and protects against future shocks coming from climate change.
During these unprecedented times, this work has never been more important. Building on the success of the first $50 million Salesforce Ventures Impact Fund in 2017, this new $100 million fund will accelerate the growth of cloud companies addressing some of today’s most pressing needs including access to education and re-skilling, climate action, and diversity, equity and inclusion. Efforts must also recognize existing inequalities, along the lines of race, gender, socioeconomic status and more, in order to support all people and prevent deepening social and economic divides.
Aziz: What are the kinds of categories you will be focusing on?
DiBianca: We are focusing particular attention on solutions that address today’s urgent and interwoven crises, including:
Education + Workforce Development: Companies enabling equal access to high-quality education, re-skilling and preparing workers for jobs of the future.
Sustainability: Companies creating better access to clean energy, improving resource efficiency, supply chain performance, and developing new technologies that will help address climate change.
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion: Companies developing tools that promote equal opportunity and economic empowerment for women and underrepresented groups, as well as investing in women and underrepresented founders.
Social Sector Technology: Companies amplifying impact for nonprofits, foundations, and public sector customers through technology that increases efficiency and transparency.
Aziz: What are the kinds of companies you want to support?
DiBianca: Salesforce Ventures’ mission is to build the #1 cloud ecosystem for Salesforce customers so we invest in technology that extends and complements Salesforce. With the first fund we invested in more than 25 companies that have now served over 3 million students, 1/3 of whom are low-income, reduced 133K Metric tons of CO2, opened up access to new financial services for more than 4.8M individuals, and unlocked $17B in grants and donations through their platforms.
Companies such as Guild Education achieved a $1B valuation while helping working adults gain an education. Unite Us was named as the 2020 start-up to watch at the JP Morgan Health Conference. Both AdmitHub and Samasource published compelling impact evidence from randomized control trials. Brooklyn-based energy technology startup, BlocPower, is rapidly greening American cities by combining intelligent software with project finance to simplify and accelerate energy-efficient retrofits of mid-sized urban buildings.
Aziz: Finally, what message do you have for other large corporations about putting their money where their mouth is during these times people need help?
DiBianca: This is a defining moment. As the physical, social and economic health of our communities comes into question – now is the time to not only rebuild our world, but to reimagine our future for the better. We all have a role to play based on our unique skills and core competencies. I hope that we continue to see more corporates launch impact investing initiatives, bringing more capital to bear.
If that is not an option, I hope companies consider Pledge 1%. It is an easy way to leverage a portion of your future success to support nonprofits in your community. It’s a small commitment that can make a huge impact. Today, more than 10,000 companies in over 100 countries have Pledged 1%, generating a half-a-billion net new dollars to invest back into the community.