Protocol | Enterprise

Salesforce Ventures is done being a corporate VC — unless it helps win deals

Alex Kayyal, the new managing partner of Salesforce's venture arm, wants his operation to be known as one of the best enterprise software investors, period.

​Alex Kayyal

Alex Kayyal is now SVP and managing partner of Salesforce Ventures.

Photo: Salesforce Ventures

Alex Kayyal wants to shake the perception that Salesforce Ventures is one of the best corporate venture capital firms out there. Instead, as the new managing partner overseeing its investments, Kayyal wants Salesforce Ventures to be known as one of the best enterprise software investors out there — no "corporate" qualifier needed.

"In many ways, we've kind of stopped thinking of ourselves as [corporate venture capital], and I think that's a big change for us. As I looked at a lot of the companies that we're investing in today, it's remarkable how our remit has grown and our aperture for what kinds of companies we're excited about backing has really expanded tremendously," said Kayyal, who took over as Salesforce's lead after its longtime lead Matt Garratt left in June to join Palo Alto-based venture firm CRV.

Kayyal spent the last six years building out Salesforce Ventures' global presence, starting with Europe and then expanding to overseeing Asia-Pacific and Latin America. His next role will be running the whole thing as the new head of Salesforce Ventures investments, which also includes its impact fund and the newly included Slack Fund.

He's taking the reins at a busy time in the venture capital market. Call it what you will; corporate venture capital set records in the first half of the year. Funding rounds that included CVC backing globally reached $79 billion in the first six months, more than all of 2020 combined, according to CB Insights. Salesforce Ventures was the second most active investor in the first half after Alphabet's investing arm, GV. It surpassed GV, though, when it came to unicorn investments with 18 deals in the first half, including companies like coaching platform BetterUp and African payments company Flutterwave.

International investments will remain a focus under Kayyal, despite the fact that he's relocating from London to the Bay Area to oversee a team of around 40 people.

"A lot of people responded to the pandemic and started backing companies everywhere, and we've been doing it for six, seven, eight years now," Kayyal said. It's invested in companies in 26 countries, and over half the deals it did last year were in international markets, like Hopin, the London-based online events service in which it's grown its stake.

"The distinction of where they're being built is going away," he said, pointing to companies like developer security startup Snyk that started in Tel Aviv and London and is headquartered in Boston.

Kayyal's ambitions aside, the firm's Salesforce ties are still helping it win deals in what's a crazy market for startup investing. With deal valuations and money flowing into venture-backed companies at an all-time high, firms face more competition than ever and good founders tend to have their choice of backers, he said. It's now rare that a single fund takes a whole deal. Instead many deals are being done with a syndicate of investors all bringing different things to the table. "What we're seeing is this incredible momentum, but capital becomes a commodity," he said. "Our focus here is how do we create an unfair advantage."

That's where being a (corporate) venture capital investor gives Salesforce Ventures a leg up. It can dangle its connections to Salesforce and its customers as part of the investment package, and unlike a traditional fund, Kayyal can draw from the corporate balance sheet to continue to double down on its bets. The fund amassed a $2.17 billion gain on investments in 2020, and now it's hoping to do more.

"Our capital deployment has increased a lot; our number of companies has increased a lot," he said. "That's a reflection of the opportunity, but certainly it's also a reflection of our aspiration and what we want to do."

Protocol | Enterprise

How Cloudflare thinks it can become ‘the fourth major public cloud’

With its new low-cost R2 cloud storage service, Cloudflare is jumping into direct competition with the AWS service that launched the cloud computing revolution.

Cloudflare will not charge data-egress fees for customers using R2, taking direct aim at the fees AWS charges developers to move data out of its widely popular S3 storage service.

Photo: Martina Albertazzi/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Cloudflare is ready to launch a new cloud object storage service that promises to be cheaper than the established alternatives, a step the company believes will catapult it into direct competition with AWS and other cloud providers.

The service will be called R2 — "one less than S3," quipped Cloudflare CEO Matthew Prince in an interview with Protocol ahead of Cloudflare's announcement Tuesday morning. Cloudflare will not charge data-egress fees for customers using R2, taking direct aim at the fees AWS charges developers to move data out of its widely popular S3 storage service.

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Tom Krazit

Tom Krazit ( @tomkrazit) is Protocol's enterprise editor, covering cloud computing and enterprise technology out of the Pacific Northwest. He has written and edited stories about the technology industry for almost two decades for publications such as IDG, CNET, paidContent, and GeekWire, and served as executive editor of Gigaom and Structure.

The pandemic won't be over until the economy recovers. While cities, states and regions across the U.S. are grappling with new variants, shifting mask policies and other factors that directly impact businesses large and small, it is nevertheless time for brands and enterprises to jumpstart COVID-19 recovery strategies.

Data will undoubtedly be critical to such strategies, but there is one type of data in particular that is poised to yield greater impact than ever in the COVID-19 Recovery Era: location data.

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Michele Morelli, Foursquare
As SVP of Marketing, Michele is responsible for overseeing the brand strategy, communications, and product and performance marketing of Foursquare’s apps and enterprise products. Prior to joining Foursquare, Michele held several senior leadership positions with wide-ranging responsibilities at AOL, Toluna, Citibank and Yahoo!.

VR pioneer The Void is plotting a comeback

Assets of the location-based VR startup have been acquired by a former investor, who plans a relaunch with key former team members.

The Void's New York outpost closed during the pandemic. Now, the company is planning a comeback under new ownership.

Photo: The Void

Location-based VR pioneer The Void may rise from the ashes next year: A former investor has acquired key assets of the defunct startup and is now looking to relaunch it with key team members, Protocol has learned. The company is said to be actively fundraising, and is getting ready to start hiring additional talent soon.

The Void's patents and trademarks were recently acquired by Hyper Reality Partners, a company headed by former OneWeb CEO Adrian Steckel, who also used to be an investor in and board member of The Void. Hyper Reality Partners is actively fundraising for a relaunch of the VR startup, and is said to have raised as much as $20 million already, according to an industry insider.

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Janko Roettgers

Janko Roettgers (@jank0) is a senior reporter at Protocol, reporting on the shifting power dynamics between tech, media, and entertainment, including the impact of new technologies. Previously, Janko was Variety's first-ever technology writer in San Francisco, where he covered big tech and emerging technologies. He has reported for Gigaom, Frankfurter Rundschau, Berliner Zeitung, and ORF, among others. He has written three books on consumer cord-cutting and online music and co-edited an anthology on internet subcultures. He lives with his family in Oakland.

Protocol | Workplace

A new McKinsey study shows that women do more emotional labor at work

The 2021 Women in the Workplace report from McKinsey found that women are far more likely than men to help their teams manage time and work-life balance and provide emotional support.

Senior leaders who identify as women were 60% more likely to provide emotional support to their teams and 26% more likely to help team members navigate work/life challenges, according to the report.

Photo: Luis Alvarez via Getty Images

Over the last year, emotional support, time management skills and work-life balance have become drastically more important and difficult in the workplace — and women leaders were far more likely than men to step in and do that work for their teams, according to the latest iteration of McKinsey and's annual Women in the Workplace report.

Senior leaders who identify as women were 60% more likely to provide emotional support to their teams, 24% more likely to ensure their teams' workload is manageable and 26% more likely to help team members navigate work/life challenges, according to the report. In addition, about one in five women senior leaders spend a substantial amount of time on DEI work that is not central to their job, compared to less than one in 10 male senior leaders.

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Anna Kramer

Anna Kramer is a reporter at Protocol (Twitter: @ anna_c_kramer, email:, where she writes about labor and workplace issues. Prior to joining the team, she covered tech and small business for the San Francisco Chronicle and privacy for Bloomberg Law. She is a recent graduate of Brown University, where she studied International Relations and Arabic and wrote her senior thesis about surveillance tools and technological development in the Middle East.

Amazon needs New World’s launch to be a success

New World arrives Tuesday. Whether it flops could determine the future of Amazon Games.

New World launches on Tuesday, after four delays. It could be Amazon's first big hit.

Image: Amazon

Amazon's New World launches on Tuesday, marking the end of a long and bumpy road to release day for the company's most pivotal video game release to date. There's a lot riding on New World, a massively multiplayer online game in the vein of iconic successes like Blizzard's long-running World of Warcraft and Square Enix's immensely popular Final Fantasy XIV.

If the game succeeds, New World will mark a rare success for a technology company in the gaming space. With the exception of Microsoft, which entered the console game industry nearly two decades ago, tech firms have tried time and again to use their engineering talent and resources to crack the code behind making successful video games. Almost every attempt has failed, but Amazon is the closest to having a hit on its hands. If it flops, we could see Amazon's gaming ambitions go the way of Google's.

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Nick Statt
Nick Statt is Protocol's video game reporter. Prior to joining Protocol, he was news editor at The Verge covering the gaming industry, mobile apps and antitrust out of San Francisco, in addition to managing coverage of Silicon Valley tech giants and startups. He now resides in Rochester, New York, home of the garbage plate and, completely coincidentally, the World Video Game Hall of Fame. He can be reached at
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