It wasn’t always the case, but these days enterprise software is as sexy as they come, investment-wise. So much so that the business-facing crowd has its own accelerator in Silicon Valley, Alchemist, backed by a few of the industry’s largest companies and VCs.
Today we learned that SAP Ventures has joined backers DFJ, Khosla Ventures, USVP, and Cisco in funding the program. Between SAP and Cisco, Alchemist now has partners in both the application and infrastructure ecosystem. The company declined to publicly disclose funding details, but sources indicate that its on the upper end of a traditional seed investment.
Alchemist offers a unique take on the standard accelerator. Unlike most which run approximately 12 weeks, participants spend 24 weeks in the enterprise-grade program in acknowledgement that that enterprise startups are a different animal than their consumer-facing counterparts, with a more demanding and discerning user base.
Accordingly, the six-month program is broken into two segments, with the first focused on customer development and the second on product development. Alchemist’s first class began July 5 of this year, and its second on September 27. Those of you paying attention will notice that this means its six month classes are staggered and overlap such that there’s a batch focusing on customer development and another on product development at any given time. Applications for the third batch of up to 12 companies close on November 17, with the program commencing on January 3.
Also unique to Alchemist are what it calls Customer Summits, day long events occurring five times per six-month session that gather prospective Fortune 100 customers to meet with participating startups.
The San Francisco- and Palo Alto-based Alchemist offers participating companies $28,000 average investment, compared to $17,000 from crosstown counterpart and Dropbox backer Y-Combinator. Companies have typically not yet raised institutional funding prior to entering the program, but graduates of the first class succeeded in attracting capital from Andreessen Horowitz, Felicis Ventures, Greylock, and True Ventures, as well as individual executives of Salesforce, VMware and Apple.
The managing director of the enterprise accelerator is former Draper Fisher Jurvetson Associate and current Stanford professor Ravi Belani. Today the company announced the addition of Yammer CTO Adam Pisoni as a member of its “core faculty.”
Belani distinguishes this group from the many outside mentors who donate their time but on a less structured basis. Faculty members, including Pisoni as well as Badgeville CEO Kris Duggan, Xensource CEO Peter Levine, Citrix VP Prod Design Catherine Courage, and early Dropbox growth hacker Sean Ellis, among others, keep dedicated office hours and spend time with each participating company during their program.
Alchemist doesn’t see Y-Combinator, TechStars, AngelPad, or other traditional accelerators as competition. In fact, Belani claims that it has never had a company it accepted also be accepted by another program, although it’s likely to happen eventually. The closest analogs to Alchemist are Washington DC’s Accelleprise, TechStars Cloud in Austin, and Citrix’s internal accelerator program.
It’s a sign of clarity that investors are once again focusing on enterprise-facing companies. If it took an IPO flop from Facebook contrasted with a blockbuster from Workday, plus Yammer’s $1.2 billion acquisition and skyrocketing valuations for Box.net and Square, so be it. Alchemist enters the market at an ideal time and as it continues to collect A-List partners and faculty, would seem to be well situated to foster its next generation of winners.