Arik Hesseldahl

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Former SuccessFactors CEO Lars Dalgaard Joins Andreessen Horowitz

lars_dalgaardLars Dalgaard, the founding CEO of SuccessFactors who over the course of a decade led that company from a startup to its $3.5 billion acquisition by the software giant SAP, has joined venture capital Andreessen Horowitz as a general partner.

The firm announced the move in a blog post by Ben Horowitz, the text of which you can read below.

Dalgaard stepped down from his position at SAP amid a wider management shakeup there last week. After closing the deal to sell SuccessFactors to that company he had been a member of its Executive Board.

The late 2011 acquisition of SuccessFactors by SAP was a watershed moment in the still-unfolding history of the transition of enterprise software to the cloud. For one thing, it kicked off a sequence of acquisitions by other companies.

Within two months, Oracle spent $1.9 billion to acquire Taleo, which like SuccessFactors was a player in cloud-based human resources software. Later, Salesforce.com acquired Rypple and turned it into Work.com. Both took place against the backdrop of the rise of Workday, which went public last year in a $637 million IPO.

I just got off the phone with Dalgaard and Horowitz. Dalgaard said he had spoken to three major private equity firms, but liked the fit with AH better. “At this time of my life I don’t want to be fixing other people’s companies,” he told me. “I want to help influence the future.”

And while he’s certainly going to bring considerable experience to cloud software companies and other enterprise-focused outfits that AH may want to invest in, he’s also got a fair set of chops on the consumer product front, having spent four years working for Darenas Denmark, a Danish division of consumer products giant Unilever.

“I don’t tend to think of myself as an enterprise guy, but with SuccessFactors I was just out to solve a problem that no one else was solving,” he said.

Horowitz said Dalgaard’s role as a general partner will be somewhat jack of all trades. “The general partner’s role is focused on whether or not you can help the founder develop into a CEO,” he said. “So he’ll have the freedom to look at a lot of categories. His experience at Unilever gives him sharp insight into how how you build up a consumer products brand.”

Here’s the text of the announcement.

It’s an honor, a privilege, and so supremely awesome to announce that our newest General Partner is Lars Dalgaard.

Lars is spectacularly qualified. He founded and ran Success Factors and led them to $364M in annual revenue ultimately resulting in a $3.5B acquisition by SAP in 2011. This was by far the largest and most important acquisition in the history of the SaaS category. SAP then put Lars in charge of its newly formed Cloud Business unit, which he promptly grew to $1B in annual revenue. He also served as a member of the SAP Executive Board and the SAP Global Managing Board. He holds a B.A. from Copenhagen Business School, Denmark and an M.S. from Stanford University Graduate School of Business as a Sloan Fellow. And if you are an entrepreneur doing business internationally, Lars speaks 7 languages.

But that’s not why we are so fired up about Lars. Yes, he built one ofthe most important enterprise companies of the era. Yes, he fits our standard of Founder/CEOs advising Founder/CEOs. Those are the reasons why we were initially interested in Lars, but those are not the reasons why we absolutely had to have him on our team.

In venture capital, we spend lots of time thinking about business models, product market fit, inflection points, network effects, viral coefficients, and other points of leverage in a business. Those things are important, but they are not what building a company is about. Those are not the things that founders and CEOs spend all day doing. They are not why engineers, product managers, and sales people put in insane hours and make great sacrifices.

Building a company isn’t about business models and inflection points; it’s about doing something larger than yourself. It’s about working for each other. It’s about being part of a team trying to make possible the impossible. It’s about doing it in a way that no matter what the outcome, everyone was glad they were there.

When Lars’ last day finally came after 12 long years of building SuccessFactors, a long line of employees formed. There each team member waited patiently to tell him one last story, recall one last thrill and give him one more hug. One by one, they told him how they did it together and wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. That’s what building a company is about. That’s why we’re here and that’s why he’s here.


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