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Putting 1 Billion Dollars to Good Use

September 21, 2016 by Jon Leiberman, Judith Magyar 18

To pave the way for the future, SAP invests in Sapphire Ventures.

“There are investors and then there are builders,” says Sudheesh Nair, president of Nutanix, when referring to Sapphire Ventures, the VC firm that was instrumental in building Nutanix into one of the hottest enterprise cloud companies in Silicon Valley today.

Rami Branitzky, MD of Sapphire Ventures and former MD of SAP Labs North America, hosted a panel discussion this week in Santa Clara following the news that SAP will invest $1 billion in Sapphire Ventures. During the conversation, Sudheesh admitted that he doesn’t stay awake at night worrying about money, competition or the market. What he does worry about is how to grow the company without losing its soul.

Becoming a Unicorn is About People

Founded in 2009, Nutanix quickly became a unicorn, a startup company valued at over $1 billion.

“There were six of us when we got started. We would meet every day at Starbucks where they had free wifi. Making decisions was easy when it was just six people,” said Sudheesh. “As the company grew to 60 then 600 and then to 3,000, it became much harder to maintain the company culture intact. You can teach skills, but you can’t teach attitude or integrity. We hire mostly through our network; our people recommend people they know, people they believe will fit our culture.”

That’s not to say money does not play a big role for companies like Nutanix, one of the 130 companies in Sapphire Ventures’s portfolio. But it’s not everything. “A billion dollars is great, but even more important is the association with SAP. For Nutanix, the might of SAP is a powerful factor. Sapphire Ventures stands out from the crowd, says Sudheesh because “SAP lets Sapphire be independent. That’s almost unheard of in the corporate world.”

A Big Responsibility

Money also plays a big role for the venture capital firm closely affiliated with SAP. “A billion dollars is a big commitment,” said Branitzky as he opened the discussion with Sudheesh and the other guest on the panel, Brad Brooks, CMO, DocuSign. “It’s a big responsibility to put the money to good use.”

The money helps innovative entrepreneurs build global businesses. Sapphire Ventures has invested in growth-stage technology companies ranging from FitBit to LinkedIn and CurrencyCloud, and early-stage venture funds in America and Europe.

DocuSign CMO Brooks said what keeps him awake at night is customer satisfaction.

“Our customer base is growing 50 percent year over year. We’re moving beyond the startup stage. The relationship between entrepreneurs and VCs is important because it brings out great ideas. Access to money is OK, but access to relationships is much more difficult. SAP is a partner and a customer of DocuSign. And DocuSign is a customer of SAP. The closeness to SAP is a big differentiator.”

Hasso Plattner originally founded the corporate venture capital firm, formerly known as SAP Ventures, in the heart of Silicon Valley nearly 20 years ago because he believed it was SAP’s responsibility to uncover new advancements in technology and consider how they could help provide SAP with unique insights into emerging trends.

Committing 1 billion dollars to Sapphire Ventures is a clear signal from SAP about the importance of preparing strategically for the future with new trends and business models in mind.

Together with SAP, Sapphire Ventures helps companies bring innovative ideas for a sustainable future to the market. What can be more inspiring?

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