Meet the Team: Ludovic Ulrich

Q&A with Silicon Foundry’s Partner

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Prior to joining Silicon Foundry, Ludo led the Startup Ecosystem team at Salesforce where his team launched the Salesforce for Startups global program and the Salesforce Incubator in San Francisco. Before Salesforce, he was VP of Business Development at UP Global (now TechStars), a global organization powered by Google for Entrepreneurs dedicated to fostering entrepreneurship, grassroots leadership and startup ecosystems. Ludo also spent 9 years at Microsoft in Paris then Seattle and served as global program director for BizSpark, a program designed to expand Microsoft’s ecosystem and accelerate the success of tech startups.

Tell us about your career path — what are the key experiences that led you to Silicon Foundry?

I’ve always been interested in looking at innovation from a product and go-to-market standpoint.

After a few stints in Paris at a digital recruitment firm, Apple’s EMEA HQ and a technology consulting firm, I joined Microsoft. I was exposed to the complexity of a very large and sophisticated organization and had the opportunity to drive ambitious goals with significant resources. I also learned about the concept of an ecosystem and the mechanics of channels.

In 2010, when I had the chance to lead Microsoft’s global startup program, I realized the power of entrepreneurship and the global ecosystem that supports it. I joined the Startup Weekend movement (later acquired by TechStars) because I was inspired by their goal of fostering entrepreneurship across the world (and particularly in the U.S., after we merged with Startup America Partnership).

2014 was a critical year for me. My family and I moved to San Francisco, and I joined what was then a 9,000-employee cloud pioneer: Salesforce. My task was to envision and launch Salesforce for Startups and the SF-based Salesforce Incubator (now the Accelerate program) with the primary aim of creating a stronger ecosystem by investing in, supporting and showcasing the best of the Salesforce ecosystem.

Throughout the years, I’ve enjoyed connecting startups and innovators to Microsoft and Salesforce’s largest clients (with a minimal platform bias), which is essentially what I do at Silicon Foundry (without any bias). Our ultimate goal at Silicon Foundry is to generate meaningful business outcomes, from strategic business relationships to investments and acquisitions.

Since joining Silicon Foundry, what excites you the most about your role?

I would say three major things:

  1. Above all, the ability to work with both sophisticated corporations that are intentional about engaging with the “innovation ecosystem” and with some of the best founders looking to partner and grow their venture-backed companies.
  2. The diversity of the industries and topics I am exposed to. After spending many years in a digital world powered by software, I really enjoy engaging with a diversified set of global brands, from an advanced materials company to a financial services firm.
  3. Team, team, team. Our team is very diverse and complementary. I’m amazed by how much of a difference that can make when you are advising experts who sometimes just need a fresh, unbiased look at things.

What’s a particular example of a great corporate innovation or transformation process that you’ve seen in your current or past work?

Plenty of examples come to mind (although some of them remain confidential). Generally speaking, I really love our ability to “engineer serendipity” and connect entities or leaders who on paper have no reason to meet. Many sector leaders need to think outside of the box to identify where they can seek game-changing market data to inform their strategies. I really enjoy when we make non-obvious connections and generate strong interests from founders who could consider modifying their roadmap to leverage an unfair advantage that one of our Members could provide.

Given your European background, curious to know if and how you are seeing the international CVC landscape shifting?

As I mentioned in a previous post, I am fascinated by the trials and tribulations between startups and corporations. I must say that Europe is pretty advanced on that front with the proliferation of very mature startups’ engagement initiatives, the emergence of legitimate CVCs and even large conferences focused on this (e.g., VivaTech).

That said, European players, whether they are large corporations looking for innovation and strategic partnerships or startups looking for growth and international expansion, must look at the U.S. market. Yes, other ecosystems in the world have been booming (e.g., China and India), but the ability to do business without worrying about privacy risks and compliance, amongst other things, makes the U.S. market a must. And, in the spirit of the Rise of the Rest narrative, it’s not just the major U.S. cities that are worth looking at. While 75 percent of venture capital still goes to the Bay Area, Boston and NYC, it is now critical to look at other tech hubs (e.g., Austin, Colorado, Seattle) for building an ecosystem engagement strategy or for cross-border startups to establish a presence.

What sector or industry trend are you most fascinated by at the moment?

According to IDC, by 2023, 60 percent of Global 2000 corporations will build solid developer ecosystems — most of which will make >20 percent of their revenue from digital streams.

I am a strong believer in the emergence of a new role for most organizations upon reaching a significant size: the CEO — Chief Ecosystem Officer. Following the almost canonical “software is eating the world” from Marc Andreesen, tech-enabled companies will need to not only have a solid strategy, but also an execution playbook for building and orchestrating an ecosystem around themselves.

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