Sequoia’s Carl Eschenbach, who led deals for Zoom and Snowflake, to run Workday as co-CEO

Sequoia’s Carl Eschenbach, who led deals for Zoom and Snowflake, to run Workday as co-CEO

Carl Eschenbach, a longtime enterprise software executive who joined Sequoia Capital in 2016 and went on to lead a number of profitable deals for the firm, is returning to an operations role.

As the new co-CEO of Workday, Eschenbach will lead the enterprise cloud application giant with his co-CEO, co-founder and company chairman Aneel Bhusri until 2024, at which point Eschenbach will take over as sole CEO.

Chano Fernandez, a former SAP executive who joined Workday in 2014 and served as its co-CEO since 2020, has “stepped down” as co-CEO and relinquished his seat on the company’s board, “with immediate effect,” says Workday.

Before joining Sequoia, Eschenbach spent his career at a variety of software companies. Most notably, before diving into VC, he was the president and COO of VMware, the cloud computing and virtualization technology company, where he spent more than 14 years. Prior to joining VMware, he served as a VP at Inktomi, a dot-com-era company acquired by Yahoo in 2002.

Eschenbach will remain a venture partner at Sequoia Capital, but is not expected to lead new deals. While at Sequoia, he made a number of deals that ultimately yielded big returns for the firm, including persuading Zoom founder and CEO Eric Yuan to take $100 million in Series D funding entirely from Sequoia to accept in 2017.

The company owned 11.4% of Zoom at the time of its 2019 IPO; Zoom’s stock subsequently soared as COVID-19 took hold the following year, shutting down much of the world, which largely turned to Zoom’s video communications platform.

Thanks in large part to Eschenbach, along with Sequoia partner Pat Grady, Sequoia also owned an 8.4% stake in Snowflake heading into its 2020 IPO (which was the largest software IPO ever).

Eschenbach joined the board of Workday in 2018. It is not a Sequoia portfolio company, but Sequoia’s partners are often asked to take non-board seats and on rare occasions the firm greenlights these moves. (Longtime partner Jim Goetz—who persuaded Eschenbach to join Sequoia—is on Intel’s board, as another example.)

The co-CEO role can be controversial. It seemed that Oracle could successfully achieve such a combination with top executives Safra Catz and Mark Hurd until his death last year. SAP, meanwhile, tried a co-CEO setup and abandoned it pretty quickly.

Salesforce’s experiments with co-CEOs have also not been successful. Earlier this month, almost a year to the day after he became co-CEO of the CRM giant, Bret Taylor stepped down in a stunning announcement that seemed to come out of the blue.

Taylor wasn’t the first co-CEO of Salesforce to throw in the towel for one reason or another. In 2018, Marc Benioff, founder of Salesforce, named Keith Block as co-CEO. Block lasted slightly longer than Taylor in the position and retired in 2020.

Perhaps Eschenbach and Bhusri will understand each other better than most, as they have similar histories. Before founding Workday in 2005, Bhusri himself was a venture capitalist at the firm Greylock Partners, investing on behalf of the firm for more than 23 years.

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