Aneel Bhusri: An obvious omission from our best of 2012 nominees

By Sarah Lacy , written on December 26, 2012

From The News Desk

It struck me when I was dictating collaborating on our editorial picks for our best of 2012 reader's poll that there was a glaring omission from the nominations: Aneel Bhusri of Greylock and Workday.

Bhusri or his company could have been nominated for many of the categories, including best investor, startup of the year, entrepreneur of the year, and possibly even most surprising success story.

Since it wasn't, I'll just inaugurate a new category: Most unappreciated success story of the year. Underappreciated when it comes to the Valley, that is. Wall Street has shown plenty of appreciation for Workday of late.

A year ago, the omission wouldn't have been noticeable. Workday has been toiling away in the unsexy enterprise shadows since 2006, while social has been all the rage. It's eschewed press and attention, quietly signing up massive enterprise deals. And I mean that in the classic enterprise sense of the word. You know, actually selling huge deals to large companies and organizations. Workday actually competes with enterprise giants, as opposed to nearly everyone else who has wedged themselves into that category and nibbles at the periphery of IT budgets.

Not only has enterprise -- sorry, "enterprise" -- come back into vogue this year, but Workday had a monster IPO this year. Contrasting it to Facebook has been one of the main exhibits in the argument that the markets don't hate all tech -- they just hate consumer tech. There were a lot of factors pushing the startup ecosystem back to a place where companies actually charge for software, but Workday's IPO was hands down one of the biggest.

It was a big enough deal that the mere mention of Workday caused Oracle's CEO Larry Ellison to lose all composure during the Q&A session on stage at D10. When asked if Workday was a threat, he went on a long rant about how unthreatened he was. Compared to how calm and cool he'd been the rest of his appearance, it of course made him look nothing but threatened.

Bhusri was in the audience with an enigmatic smile that seemed to say, "You're full of shit, Larry," but also, "Thanks for this over-the-top reaction to the very mention of our name in front of a Wall Street crowd just before we go public." If you knew the Quentin Tarantino-like backstory of the cash and motivation that fueled Workday, the moment was even more delicious.

Oh, and when Bhusri isn't running a huge public company, he is also a partner at Greylock, where he is an investor in a few hot up and comers like Cloudera and Okta.

Bhusri never pivoted from enterprise. He never even diversified. If we're gonna say this category is now hot, we have to at least give a nod to the biggest IPO of the year from that category and one of the only guys from Sand Hill Road who never cared whether it was cool or not.

[Greylock's Discovery Fund is one of many investors in PandoDaily, but clearly we're not part of the  enterprise portfolio.]