Enrique Salem on Globalization and the Importance of Diversity
By Leo Rodriguez, SMB Ecosystem Marketing Director, DocuSign
In celebration of Latinx Heritage Month, we sat down for a fireside chat with Enrique Salem, DocuSign board member and managing director at Bain Capital Ventures.
Describe your experience growing up as an immigrant.
I came here from Columbia at a very young age and just celebrated my 50th anniversary in the U.S. As an immigrant family, we had to work harder to fit in and become a part of a new community. But I relied on my family values as guiding principles: have a positive attitude, work hard and treat people with respect.
What advice has stuck with you the most?
Be open minded. I always believe that you can learn something from everyone you interact with. There are always others who can help you improve what you’re doing. The moment you think you’ve got all the answers - that’s a good way to get into trouble. I like to say I’m a part of everybody that I’ve met.
What are the top things you look for when investing in startups?
We focus on the problem the company can solve. And we want founders who can articulate that problem really clearly and simply, such that we can turn around and explain it to someone else. We also look for high integrity and, back to that open-mindedness, someone who values working and learning from a group of people.
What unique expertise do you feel you bring as a board member?
I’ve been a CEO multiple times and have run a large public company so I can relate to the challenges of running a company that’s growing. I try to think about how you continue to make things better and focus on what matters. I try to pull back and not get into the weeds unnecessarily. I’ve also been in tech my entire career so I have a point of view on where tech is going.
What advice do you have for tech companies that want to grow their business internationally?
All markets aren’t created equal. In Europe, there are a lot of submarkets. You can’t treat all of Europe as one market. Also, it takes longer to grow your business internationally than you’d think. You have to remember what it took to establish your position in the U.S. and have patience.
In any market you go into, you want referenceable customers in that country because new customers want to know, “what are peers in my country doing, how are they solving this problem?” You also have to take pricing into account. Tech companies want to homogenize pricing but that’s not what every market can bear. Lastly, you have to deliver support to those customers in a way that creates a good experience and makes them feel important. In many countries this means providing support in the local language.
Why are diversity and inclusion important in tech today?
Tech companies are built on people. How do you get the best talent and get them to be excited about being at your company? Today there are more women than men graduating from college. The talent we need are not all San Francisco natives. If it’s a talent game, and you’re not thinking broadly about diversity and inclusion, you will not be successful. And you have to think about it at all levels. It starts in the boardroom. You want diverse points of view. The best way to miss things is to have everyone think and act the same.
I am so proud to participate in the Latino community. There’s not enough Latinx in my industry, so I work at thinking about how do we get them more involved in the tech community.