Salesforce — not a VC firm — is now the top investor in one of the hottest tech industries

Salesforce — not a VC firm — is now the top investor in one of the hottest tech industries

This might just be one of the best-kept secrets in Silicon Valley’s venture-capital scene: Salesforce, the $50 billion cloud software maker, is beating all VC firms in funding some of the largest private cloud software companies in the world.

According to investment bank JMP Securities, Salesforce had the largest number of companies under its portfolio from JMP’s annual “Hot 100″ list, which tracks the best private companies in the software industry.

The cloud enterprise software market is one of the fastest-growing segments in tech, withForrester forecasting companies to spend roughly $620 billion on it this year.

The report, published last month, said Salesforce has investments in 20 of the 100 biggest business software companies, topping some of the most prominent VC firms in the Valley, including Andreessen Horowitz, Battery Ventures, and Sequoia Capital.

Companies under its portfolio include Dropbox, Twilio, DocuSign, Domo, and InsideSales, cloud software companies that were all valued at more than $1 billion.

“The rise of as a force in the venture industry is quite remarkable,” the report said. “This strategy helps keep its finger on the pulse of innovation.”

Here’s the chart:screen shot 2015-10-26 at 5.20.18 pm

Salesforce’s investment in private companies has been ballooning in recent years. According toits latest earnings report in July, Salesforce invested $449.7 million in privately held companies, nearly three times what it spent six months ago in January 2015.

And the money is turning out to be well-spent, too. The fair value of Salesforce’s investments in privately held companies went from $280 million in January 2015 to $631 million in July 2015, it states in its 10-Q report.

Salesforce’s success in the software investment space may be due to its unique strategy to solely focus on cloud-enterprise software makers — the same industry segment that Salesforce is in.

But Salesforce is also becoming more aggressive with the size of its investment, according to Menlo Ventures’ Matt Murphy, who has over 20 years of experience in the VC world.

“What’s more unusual is Salesforce leading rounds and its willingness to invest $10 [million] to $50 million,” Murphy told us in a previous interview, noting most corporate VCs tend to invest less than $5 million in a single round. “They are definitely one of the most active and collaborative corporate VCs in the valley.”

The clear goal of all this is to grow and nurture the overall enterprise cloud software space, an industry that Salesforce has pioneered since the late 1990s. But as Tom Roderick, managing director of investment firm Stifel, told us previously, it also puts Salesforce in a better position for potential acquisitions.

“This certainly gives them more visibility in the companies that they might look at as partners or potential acquisitions down the road,” he said.


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