Workday, the human resources software maker now worth $US15 billion, is expanding its footprint to investing with the launch of its own investment fund called Workday Ventures, the company said on Tuesday.
The fund will solely focus on data science and machine learning startups, the company said, as it looks to grow its presence beyond its core HR and finance software to the data analytics field.
The company declined to disclose the size of the fund, but Adeyami Ajao, Workday’s VP of technology product strategy who’s also leading the fund, told us the investment money will “come from Workday’s balance sheet.” Workday had about $US1.9 billion in cash as of April 2015.
Ajao also said most of the investments will be made in early stage and series A startups. As part of Tuesday’s announcement, Workday said it’s already invested in four data science startups working in job search, supply chain, security, and translations.
Today’s announcement doesn’t come as a big surprise, as seemingly every big company is launching its own VC arms these days. That includes not just big tech companies like Google and Salesforce, but also retail stores like Walgreens and 7-Eleven.
But Workday told us it didn’t consider launching this fund until late last year, when it revealed plans for Workday Insights, the set of applications that analyse massive amounts of data and shoot out sophisticated results, including predictions on when your top employees will leave.
That announcement and the actual launch of the apps in April spawned huge interest from startups and entrepreneurs willing to partner with Workday, Dan Beck, senior VP of technology products told us. Once it saw a real opportunity in the data science field, Beck and Ajao pitched Workday’s board with this idea.
“Their reaction was kind of like, ‘Of course, this is really obvious,'” Ajao said of the reaction he got from Workday board members Aneel Bhusri and Jerry Yang.
In fact, Ajao said the data science field holds so much promise, he sees it evolving into what cloud software has over the past decade — a niche software market to a multi billion dollar industry.
“Workday Ventures’ strategy, which is we want to invest in every enterprise company that is a machine learning company at its core, is akin to 10 years ago having the thesis of investing in every enterprise cloud company,” Ajao said.