Carl Eschenbach, a longtime enterprise software executive who joined Sequoia Capital in 2016 and went on to lead a series of lucrative deals for the venture firm, is returning to an operational role.
As the new co-CEO of Workday, Eschenbach will lead the enterprise cloud applications giant alongside his co-CEO, co-founder and company chairman Aneel Bhusri until 2024, after which Eschenbach will assume the sole CEO position.
Chano Fernandez, a former SAP executive who joined Workday in 2014 and has served as co-CEO since 2020, has “resigned” as co-CEO and has given up his seat on the company’s board “effective immediately,” according to Workday.
Before joining Sequoia, Eschenbach spent his career at various software companies. Prior to joining VC, he was primarily President and COO of VMware, the cloud computing and virtualization technology company, where he spent more than 14 years. Before joining VMware, he was 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 any new deals. During his time at Sequoia, he completed a number of deals that ultimately brought the company tremendous returns, including persuading Zoom founder and CEO Eric Yuan to raise $100 million in Series D funding entirely from Sequoia to adopt in 2017.
The venture firm owned 11.4% of Zoom at the time of its 2019 IPO; Zoom’s shares thereafter soared as COVID-19 gained traction the following year, shutting down much of the world, largely turning its attention to Zoom’s video communications platform.
Thanks largely to Eschenbach, Sequoia also owned an 8.4% stake in Snowflake, along with Sequoia partner Pat Grady, prior to its 2020 IPO (it was the largest software IPO of all time). And through Eschenbach’s efforts, Sequoia joined the Series C and later rounds of robotic process automation company UiPath, whose board Eschenbach joined in 2018 (the market decline.)
Eschenbach also joined the Workday Board of Directors in 2018. It’s not a Sequoia portfolio company, but Sequoia’s partners are often asked to fill outside board seats, and on rare occasions the company gives the go-ahead for those moves. (As another example, longtime partner Jim Goetz — who persuaded Eschenbach to join Sequoia — sits on Intel’s board of directors.)
The role of co-CEO can be controversial. Oracle seemed to successfully pull off such a pairing with top executives Safra Catz and Mark Hurd up until his death last year. SAP, on the other hand, tried a co-CEO setup and abandoned it fairly quickly.
Salesforce’s experiments with co-CEOs were also unsuccessful. Earlier this month, almost a year to the day after becoming 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 Salesforce co-CEO to throw in the towel for one reason or another. In 2018, Salesforce founder Marc Benioff named Keith Block co-CEO. Block stayed in the position slightly longer than Taylor and resigned in 2020.
Possibly Eschenbach and Bhusri get along better than most as they share a similar history. Prior to founding Workday in 2005, Bhusri was a venture capitalist at Greylock Partners, investing on behalf of the firm for more than 23 years.