Monday, January 28, 2013

The Enterprise Cool Kids

enterprise-cool-kids3No, this isn’t a guest column by Aaron Levie. Though he and his startup Box, the poster child of the “sexy enterprise,” are definitely included in the bunch. “You should definitely kick Aaron off the list. Just to mess with him,” Zendesk founder Mikkel Svane commented when he heard what we were writing. With VCs voting with their feet and eschewing consumer startups this play period, we’re seeing a major shift of sentiment and momentum to enterprise startups. Perhaps the most major in a while, definitely as far as we can remember. Venture money that a year ago was going into consumer deals is now flowing into enterprise, as the Series A crunch and reticence about Facebook’s lackluster IPO has dampened investor enthusiasm?for photosharing apps and their ilk. In contrast to Facebook, a series of stellar enterprise IPOs like?Palo Alto Networks, Splunk and (perhaps the original enterprise cool kid) Workday have fired the collective entrepreneurial?imagination. “We see entrepreneurs come in every other day telling us how they’re going to reinvent Splunk,” Sequoia’s Aaref Hilaly tells me. “The successful enterprise IPOs serve as beacons for the companies that come after them.” Although the VC profits baseline has traditionally come from enterprise deals, they certainly weren’t media darlings. Consumer startups, despite their high beta and tendency to be outliers, were the bell of the mainstream tech blog ball. “Consumer technology tends to create fewer winners. Its easier to keep track of what a Facebook or a Twitter may be doing than myriad enterprise software vendors,” NetSuite CEO Zach Nelson notes. “[There it] may take decades to decide the actual winners.” But the hype is changing. Conversations about “the next Instagram” at Coupa, The Creamery or on Caltrain have been replaced with staid assessments about the future of Big Data, storage and the cloud. The mobile, social, local gold rush of 2011 has been put on pause, at least as far as consumer Internet is concerned. VCs are?staffing up with enterprise experts to handle the sharp shift in focus. We’ve even heard someone was working on something described only as, “a Path for enterprise.” While the phenomenon is recent enough that the exact flow of investment dollars from consumer to enterprise has yet to be captured in a study, the data points are beginning to pop up. For example 2012 was the?first year in First Round Capital’s history in which consumer companies were


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