The investment wing of cloud software vendor Salesforce.com announced a new $100 million fund targeting mobile apps and connected products this week, and Canadian companies could stand to see some of that money, according to an executive with the San Francisco-based firm.
The dedicated fund announcement was made in San Francisco at Techcrunch Disrupt, with CEO Marc Benioff interviewed on stage about the announcement. The money will be used to “invest in companies building innovative mobile apps and connected products that extend the power of the Salesforce1 platform,” according to a press release. Salesforce1 is the unifying platform accessible from smartphones and tablets in the form of an app download, and Salesforce has recently made a number of partnerships with wearable device makers, which would be included under the “connected devices” umbrella.
Salesforce.com is no stranger to investing in Canadian firms. Its past acquisitions from the Great White North include Radian6, Rypple, and Sitemasher. All now incorporated into various Salesforce.com cloud suite offerings, those offices remain as research and development outposts for Salesforce.com in Canada. Salesforce Ventures, the firm’s investment wing, has also put money into Toronto-based Vidyard, which offers a platform for using video for content marketing. So could some of that $100 million fund be coming here too?
“We think there’s some incredible innovation coming out of Canada. Canada has some of the best engineering schools in the world,” says John Somorjai, executive vice-president of corporate development and strategy at Salesforce. “We want to do more there.”
As for more details on what type of companies Salesforce will be investing in, Somorjai says the goal is to have Salesforce1 accessed by customers on whatever device they choose. The firm expects that by 2020 there will be 50 billion connected devices on the market, each one representing an opportunity to be a little closer to customers. So its focusing on entrepreneurs that are making the best products in mobility.
“We’re focused on use cases for enterprises,” he says. “We want cloud applications for business. That’s a key goal, we don’t do consumer type investments.”
Interested firms can apply at the Salesforce Ventures website.
There’s no concrete timeline over which the fund will be spent. It’s also not the full extent of the investments that will be made by Salesforce Ventures.
The fund is launching with four companies that are working on Salesforce1 solutions. Taking a look at them might help other companies get a clear picture of what Salesforce finds worthy of investment.
- DocuSign allows users to complete transactions with a digital signature captured on a mobile device. Its tie-in to Salesforce1 means Salesforce users can access those documents from their app and track the progress of a transaction. DocuSign participated in the Salesforce1 launch, and DocuSign’s features will be accessible from the platform soon.
- i.am+ is the company created by Black Eyed Peas singer will.i.am, who is a regular at Saleforce’s annual Dreamforce conference. Currently the company’s products are focused around accessories that transform an iPhone into a handheld camera with different lenses and filters. It’s not clear at this point how i.am+ will connect with Salesforce1.
- InsideSales.com offers sales automation tools that are tied to predictive analytics, allowing users to easily dial leads that are more likely to convert to sales. Its app for Salesforce1, mCall, pushes the InsideSales.com platform out to smartphones, so they can manage leads and tap to call them. Users can leave recorded voice messages and make notes on the results of the call.
- Skuid is an app-making platform for people that aren’t coders. It can be used to create Salesforce1 apps and tie-in Salesforce1 data to others apps. The partnership here is interesting as Skuid has been lukewarm about Salesforce1 in the past on its company blog.
All of the companies listed above have adopted a philanthropy approach endorsed by Salesforce called the “1-1-1-model” that sees one per cent of profits, one per cent of equity, and one per cent of employee time being dedicated to non-profit work. That translates to giving grants and organizing employee volunteer efforts. Interested companies can lean on the Saleforce.com Foundation to get help adopting the model.