Aug
07
2018
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Salesforce promotes COO Keith Block to co-CEO alongside founder Marc Benioff

Salesforce is moving to a two CEO model after it promoted executive Keith Block, who was most recently COO, to the position of co-CEO. Block will work alongside Salesforce’s flamboyant founder, chairman and CEO (now co-CEO) Marc Benioff, with both reporting directly to the company’s board.

Block joined Salesforce five years ago after spending 25 years at Oracle, which is where he first met Benioff, who has called him “the best sales executive the enterprise software industry has ever seen.”

News of the promotion was not expected, but in many ways it is just a more formalized continuation of the working relationship that the two executives have developed.

Block’s focus is on leading global sales, alliances and channels, industry strategy, customer success and consulting services, while he also oversees the company’s day-to-day operations. Benioff, meanwhile, heads of product, technology and culture. The latter is a major piece for Salesforce — for example, it has spent Salesforce has spent over $8 million since 2015 to address the wage gaps pertaining to race and gender, while the company has led the tech industry in pushing LGBT rights and more.

“Keith has been my trusted partner in running Salesforce for the past five years, and I’m thrilled to welcome him as co-CEO,” said Benioff in a statement. “Keith has outstanding operational expertise and corporate leadership experience, and I could not be happier for his promotion and this next level of our partnership.”

This clear division of responsibility from the start may enable Salesforce to smoothly transition to this new management structure, whilst helping it continue its incredible business growth. Revenue for the most recent quarter surpassed $3 billion for the first time, jumping 25 percent year-on-year while its share price is up 60 percent over the last twelve months.

When Block became COO in 2016, Benioff backed him to take the company past $10 billion in revenue and that feat was accomplished last November. Benioff enjoys setting targets and he’s been vocal about reaching $60 billion revenue by 2034, but in the medium term he is looking at reaching $23 billion by 2020 and the co-CEO strategy is very much a part of that growth target.

“We’ve said we’ll do $23 billion in fiscal year 2022 and we can now just see tremendous trajectory beyond that. Cementing Keith and I together as the leadership is really the key to accelerating future growth,” he told Fortune in an interview.

Aug
07
2018
--

Salesforce promotes COO Keith Block to co-CEO alongside founder Marc Benioff

Salesforce is moving to a two CEO model after it promoted executive Keith Block, who was most recently COO, to the position of co-CEO. Block will work alongside Salesforce’s flamboyant founder, chairman and CEO (now co-CEO) Marc Benioff, with both reporting directly to the company’s board.

Block joined Salesforce five years ago after spending 25 years at Oracle, which is where he first met Benioff, who has called him “the best sales executive the enterprise software industry has ever seen.”

News of the promotion was not expected, but in many ways it is just a more formalized continuation of the working relationship that the two executives have developed.

Block’s focus is on leading global sales, alliances and channels, industry strategy, customer success and consulting services, while he also oversees the company’s day-to-day operations. Benioff, meanwhile, heads of product, technology and culture. The latter is a major piece for Salesforce — for example, it has spent Salesforce has spent over $8 million since 2015 to address the wage gaps pertaining to race and gender, while the company has led the tech industry in pushing LGBT rights and more.

“Keith has been my trusted partner in running Salesforce for the past five years, and I’m thrilled to welcome him as co-CEO,” said Benioff in a statement. “Keith has outstanding operational expertise and corporate leadership experience, and I could not be happier for his promotion and this next level of our partnership.”

This clear division of responsibility from the start may enable Salesforce to smoothly transition to this new management structure, whilst helping it continue its incredible business growth. Revenue for the most recent quarter surpassed $3 billion for the first time, jumping 25 percent year-on-year while its share price is up 60 percent over the last twelve months.

When Block became COO in 2016, Benioff backed him to take the company past $10 billion in revenue and that feat was accomplished last November. Benioff enjoys setting targets and he’s been vocal about reaching $60 billion revenue by 2034, but in the medium term he is looking at reaching $23 billion by 2020 and the co-CEO strategy is very much a part of that growth target.

“We’ve said we’ll do $23 billion in fiscal year 2022 and we can now just see tremendous trajectory beyond that. Cementing Keith and I together as the leadership is really the key to accelerating future growth,” he told Fortune in an interview.

Jul
23
2018
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SessionM customer loyalty data aggregator snags $23.8 M investment

SessionM announced a $23.8 million Series E investment led by Salesforce Ventures. A bushel of existing investors including Causeway Media Partners, CRV, General Atlantic, Highland Capital and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers also contributed to the round. The company has now raised over $97 million.

At its core, SessionM aggregates loyalty data for brands to help them understand their customer better, says company co-founder and CEO Lars Albright. “We are a customer data and engagement platform that helps companies build more loyal and profitable relationships with their consumers,” he explained.

Essentially that means, they are pulling data from a variety of sources and helping brands offer customers more targeted incentives, offers and product recommendations “We give [our users] a holistic view of that customer and what motivates them,” he said.

Screenshot: SessionM (cropped)

To achieve this, SessionM takes advantage of machine learning to analyze the data stream and integrates with partner platforms like Salesforce, Adobe and others. This certainly fits in with Adobe’s goal to build a customer service experience system of record and Salesforce’s acquisition of Mulesoft in March to integrate data from across an organization, all in the interest of better understanding the customer.

When it comes to using data like this, especially with the advent of GDPR in the EU in May, Albright recognizes that companies need to be more careful with data, and that it has really enhanced the sensitivity around stewardship for all data-driven businesses like his.

“We’ve been at the forefront of adopting the right product requirements and features that allow our clients and businesses to give their consumers the necessary control to be sure we’re complying with all the GDPR regulations,” he explained.

The company was not discussing valuation or revenue. Their most recent round prior to today’s announcement, was a Series D in 2016 for $35 million also led by Salesforce Ventures.

SessionM, which was founded in 2011, has around 200 employees with headquarters in downtown Boston. Customers include Coca-Cola, L’Oreal and Barney’s.

Jun
13
2018
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Salesforce deepens data sharing partnership with Google

Last Fall at Dreamforce, Salesforce announced a deepening friendship with Google . That began to take shape in January with integration between Salesforce CRM data and Google Analytics 360 and Google BigQuery. Today, the two cloud giants announced the next step as the companies will share data between Google Analytics 360 and the Salesforce Marketing Cloud.

This particular data sharing partnership makes even more sense as the companies can share web analytics data with marketing personnel to deliver ever more customized experiences for users (or so the argument goes, right?).

That connection certainly didn’t escape Salesforce’s VP of product marketing, Bobby Jania. “Now, marketers are able to deliver meaningful consumer experiences powered by the world’s number one marketing platform and the most widely adopted web analytics suite,” Jania told TechCrunch.

Brent Leary, owner of the consulting firm CRM Essentials says the partnership is going to be meaningful for marketers. “The tighter integration is a big deal because a large portion of Marketing Cloud customers are Google Analytics/GA 360 customers, and this paves the way to more seamlessly see what activities are driving successful outcomes,” he explained.

The partnership involves four integrations that effectively allow marketers to round-trip data between the two platforms. For starters, consumer insights from both Marketing Cloud and Google Analytics 360, will be brought together into a single analytics dashboard inside Marketing Cloud. Conversely, Market Cloud data will be viewable inside Google Analytics 360 for attribution analysis and also to use the Marketing Cloud information to deliver more customized web experiences. All three of these integrations will be generally available starting today.

A fourth element of the partnership being announced today won’t be available in Beta until the third quarter of this year. “For the first time ever audiences created inside the Google Analytics 360 platform can be activated outside of Google. So in this case, I’m able to create an audience inside of Google Analytics 360 and then I’m able to activate that audience in Marketing Cloud,” Jania explained.

An audience is like a segment, so if you have a group of like-minded individuals in the Google analytics tool, you can simply transfer it to Salesforce Marketing Cloud and send more relevant emails to that group.

This data sharing capability removes a lot of the labor involved in trying to monitor data stored in two places, but of course it also raises questions about data privacy. Jania was careful to point out that the two platforms are not sharing specific information about individual consumers, which could be in violation of the new GDPR data privacy rules that went into effect in Europe at the end of last month.

“What we’re [we’re sharing] is either metadata or aggregated reporting results. Just to be clear there’s no personal identifiable data that is flowing between the systems so everything here is 100% GDPR-compliant,” Jania said.

But Leary says it might not be so simple, especially in light of recent data sharing abuses. “With Facebook having to open up about how they’re sharing consumer data with other organizations, companies like Salesforce and Google will have to be more careful than ever before about how the consumer data they make available to their corporate customers will be used by them. It’s a whole new level of scrutiny that has to be apart of the data sharing equation,” Leary said.

The announcements were made today at the Salesforce Connections conference taking place in Chicago this week.

May
30
2018
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Salesforce keeps revenue pedal to the metal with another mammoth quarter

Salesforce just keeps on growing revenue. In another remarkable quarter, the company announced 3.01 billion in revenue for Q1 2019 with no signs of slowing down. That puts the CRM giant on a run rate of over $12 billion with the company’s most optimistic projections suggesting it could go even higher. It’s also the first time they have surpassed $3 billion in revenue for a quarter.

As you might expect Salesforce chairman and CEO Marc Benioff was over the moon about the results in the earnings call with analyst yesterday afternoon. “Revenue for the quarter rose to more than $3 billion, up 25%, putting us on $12 billion revenue run rate that was just amazing. And we now have $20.4 billion of future revenues under contract, which is the remaining transaction price, that’s up 36% from a year ago. Based on these strong results, we’re raising our full year top line revenue guidance to $13.125 billion at the high end of our range, 25% growth for this year,” Benioff told analysts.

Brent Leary, an analyst who has been watching the CRM industry for many years, says CRM in general is a hot area and Salesforce has been able to take advantage. “With CRM becoming the biggest and fastest growing business software category last year according to Gartner, it’s easy to see with these number that Salesforce is leading the way forward. And they are in position to keep moving themselves and the category forward for years to come as their acquisitions should continue to pay off for them,” Leary told TechCrunch.

Bringing Mulesoft into the fold

Further Benioff rightly boasted that the company would be the fastest software company ever to $13 billion and it continued on the road towards its previously stated $20 billion goal. The $6.5 billion acquisition of Mulesoft earlier this year should help fuel that growth. “And this month, we closed our acquisition of MuleSoft, giving us the industry’s leading integration platform as well. Well, integration has never been more strategic,” Benioff stated.

Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff Photo: TechCrunch

Bret Taylor, the company’s president and chief product officer, says the integration really ties in nicely with another of the company’s strategic initiatives, artificial intelligence, which they call Einstein. “[Customers] know that their AI is only as powerful as data it has access to. And so when you think of MuleSoft, think unlocking data. The data is trapped in all these isolated systems on-premises, private cloud, public cloud, and MuleSoft, they can unlock this data and make it available to Einstein and make a smarter customer facing system,” Taylor explained.

Leary thinks there’s one other reason the company has done so well, one that’s hard to quantify in pure dollars, but perhaps an approach other companies should be paying attention to. “One of the more undercovered aspects of what Salesforce is doing is how their social responsibility and corporate culture is attracting a lot of positive attention,” he said. “That may be hard to boil down into revenue and profit numbers, but it has to be part of the reason why Salesforce continues to grow at the pace they have,” he added.

Keep on rolling

All of this has been adding up to incredible numbers. It’s easy to take revenue like this for granted because the company has been on such a sustained growth rate for such a long period of time, but just becoming a billion dollar company has been a challenge for most Software as a Service providers up until now. A $13 billion run rate is in an entirely different stratosphere and it could be lifting the entire category says Jason Lemkin, founder at SaasStr, a firm that invests in SaaS startups.

“SaaS companies crossing $1B in ARR will soon become commonplace, as shocking as that might have sounded in say 2011. Atlassian, Box, Hubspot, and Zendesk are all well on their way there. The best SaaS companies are growing faster after $100m ARR, which is propelling them there,” Lemkin explained.

Salesforce is leading the way. Perhaps that’s because it has the same first-to-market advantage that Amazon has had in the cloud infrastructure market. It has gained such substantial momentum by being early, starting way back in 1999 before Software as a Service was seen as a viable business. In fact, Benioff told a story earlier this year that when he first started, he did the rounds of the venture capital firms in Silicon Valley and every single one turned him down.

You can bet that those companies have some deep regrets now, as the company’s revenue and stock price continues to soar.  As of publication this morning, the stock was sitting at $130.90, up over 3 percent. All this company does is consistently make money, and that’s pretty much all you can ask from any organization. As Leary aptly put it, “Yea, they’re really killing it.”

May
17
2018
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Rackspace acquires Salesforce specialist RelationEdge

Rackspace today announced that it has acquired RelationEdge, a Salesforce implementation partner and digital agency. The companies did not disclose the financial details of the acquisition.

At first, this may sound like an odd acquisition. Rackspace is still best known for its hosting and managed cloud and infrastructure services, after all, and RelationEdge is all about helping businesses manage their Salesforce SaaS implementations. The company clearly wants to expand its portfolio, though, and add managed services for SaaS applications to its lineup. It made the first step in this direction with the acquisition of TriCore last year, another company in the enterprise application management space. Today’s acquisition builds upon this theme.

Gerard Brossard, the executive VP and general manager of Rackspace Application Services, told me that the company is still in the early days of its application management practice, but that it’s seeing good momentum as it’s gaining both new customers thanks to these offerings and as existing customers look to Rackspace for managing more than their infrastructure. “This allows us to jump into that SaaS management practice, starting with the leaders in the market,” he told me.

Why sell RelationEdge, a company that has gained some good traction and now has about 125 employees? “At the end of the day, we’ve accomplished a tremendous amount organically with very little funding,” RelationEdge founder and CEO Matt Stoyka told me. “But there is a huge opportunity in the space that we can take advantage of. But to do that, we needed more than was available to us, but we needed to find the right home for our people and our company.” He also noted that the two companies seem to have a similar culture and mission, which focuses more on the business outcomes than the technology itself.

For the time being, the RelationEdge brand will remain and Rackspace plans to run the business “with considerable independence under its current leadership.” Brossard noted that the reason for this is RelationEdge’s existing brand recognition.

Apr
13
2018
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Zuora’s IPO is another step in golden age of enterprise SaaS

Zuroa’s founder and CEO Tien Tzuo had a vision of a subscription economy long before most people ever considered the notion. He knew that for companies to succeed with subscriptions, they needed a bookkeeping system that understood how they collected and reported money. The company went public yesterday, another clear sign post on the road to SaaS maturation.

Tzuo was an early employee at Salesforce and their first CMO. He worked there in the early days in the late 90s when Salesforce’s Marc Benioff famously rented an apartment to launch the company. Tzuo was at Salesforce 9 years, and it helped him understand the nature of subscription-based businesses like Salesforce.

“We created a great environment for building, marketing and delivering software. We rewrote the rules, the way it was built, marketed and sold,” Tzuo told me in an interview in 2016.

He saw a fundamental problem with traditional accounting methods, which were designed for selling a widget and declaring the revenue. A subscription was an entirely different model and it required a new way to track revenue and communicate with customers. Tzuo took the long view when he started his company in early 2007, leaving a secure job at a growing company like Salesforce.

He did it because he had the vision, long before anyone else, that SaaS companies would require a subscription bookkeeping system, but before long, so would other unrelated businesses.

Building a subscription system

As he put it in that 2016 interview, if you commit to pay me $1 for 10 years, you know that $1 was coming in come hell or high water, that’s $10 I know I’m getting, but I can’t declare the money until I get it. That recurring revenue still has value though because my investors know that I’m secure for 10 years, even though it’s not on the books yet. That’s where Zuora came in. It could account for that recurring revenue when nobody else could. What’s more, it could track the billing over time, and send out reminders, help the companies stay engaged with their customers.

Photo: Lukas Kurka/Getty Images

As Ray Wang, founder and principal analyst at Constellation Research put it, they pioneered the whole idea of a subscription economy, and not just for SaaS companies. Over the last several years, we’ve heard companies talking about selling services and SLAs (service/uptime agreements) instead of a one-time sale of an item, but not that long ago it wasn’t something a lot of companies were thinking about.

“They pioneered how companies can think about monetization,” Wang said. “So large companies like a GE could go from selling a wind turbine one time to selling a subscription to deliver a certain number of Kw/hr of green energy at peak hours from 1 to 5 pm with 98 percent uptime.” There wasn’t any way to do this before Zuora came along.

Jason Lemkin, founder at SaaStr, a firm that invests in SaaS startups, says Tzuo was a genuine visionary and helped create the underlying system for SaaS subscriptions to work. “The most interesting part of Zuora is that it is a “second” order SaaS play. It could only thrive once SaaS became mainstream, and could only scale on top of other recurring revenue businesses. Zuora started off as a niche player helping SaaS companies do billing, and it dramatically expanded and thrived as SaaS became … Software.”

Market catches up with idea

When he launched the company in 2007, perhaps he saw that extension of his idea out on the distant horizon. He certainly saw companies like Salesforce needing a service like the one he had decided to create. The early investors must have recognized that his vision was early and it would take a slow, steady climb on the way to exiting. It took 11 years and $242 million in venture capital before they saw the payoff. The revenue after 11 years was a reported $167 million. There is plenty of room to grow.

But yesterday the company had its initial public offering, and it was by any measure a huge success. According TechCrunch’s Katie Roof, “After pricing its IPO at $14 and raising $154 million, the company closed at $20, valuing the company around $2 billion.” Today it was up a bit more as of this writing.

When you consider the Tzuo’s former company has become a $10 billion company, that companies like Box, Zendesk, Workday and Dropbox have all gone public, and others like DocuSign and Smartsheets are not far behind, it’s pretty clear that we are in a golden age of SaaS — and chances are it’s only going to get better.

Apr
13
2018
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Sensu raises $10M to build a robust monitoring system for all your different operations

While companies’ operations become increasingly fragmented into a wide variety of different spots — especially if they exist somewhere in a group of different cloud tools — making sure those operations are still healthy has become more and more critical.

And for companies whose lifeblood is directly keeping that software online longer, it’s even more important. Uptime maps directly to revenue, and that’s why Caleb Hailey — who previously worked on this as a consultancy — decided to start Sensu to try to piece together the monitoring operations into a single spot where a company can keep an eye on the health of their operations. The company said it has raised $10 million in a new financing round led by Battery Ventures, with existing investor Foundry Group participating. Battery’s General Partner Dharmesh Thakker is joining the company’s board of directors.

“Big enterprises are hesitant to work on startups, they’re risk averse, and it reduces the risk exposure to double down on an open source stack,” Hailey said. ” But this open source technology, it’s used in the largest institutions in the world, and we have found that by delivering cost savings in a competitive market we have already established a rapidly growing developer stream.”

While all those different tools may have their own way of monitoring the health of a system, Sensu tries to get all this into one place to make things a little easier than checking things one-by-one. The aim is to be more proactive and try to flag problems before they are even noticed by the people using Sensu, plugging directly into services like Slack or sending emails to flag potential issues before they end up becoming larger problems. Like others like Cloudera, Sensu builds its business around helping companies deploy this otherwise open source technology efficiently.

Sensu’s backstory starts as a consultancy for Hailey, which was focused on infrastructure and automation — especially as more and more companies moved to a hybrid cloud model that existed partially in some box somewhere on Azure or AWS. Starting off as an open source project is one way that he hopes to convince larger enterprises that might already be using similar tools to adopt a known entity rather than just giving some random startup the keys to maintaining their operations.

The monitoring space is still a competitive — and crowded — one. There are tools like AppDynamics or New Relic, but Hailey argues that Sensu can be competitive with those as they are very bundled while his startup helps companies piece together a more complete solution. For example, a company might need higher granularity in their reports, and Sensu aims to try to provide a robust toolkit for companies that have many disparate operations they need to keep online and running smoothly.

Apr
09
2018
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Benioff: Every VC in Silicon Valley turned us down

In an interview last month with Julie Bort from Business Insider, Parker Harris and Marc Benioff told the story of how when they first launched the company, they were trying to raise money and nobody would give them a dime. Benioff said he went to every venture capital in Silicon Valley — and was turned down every single time.

This could be a lesson for every startup out there with a vision, who is not able to find conventional financing for your idea. Salesforce found the money, but it took one on one fundraising, rather than the traditional VC route.

The company famously launched in an apartment that Benioff rented, and he put up some of his own money to buy the company’s first computers. Then it was time to go downtown and ask the VCs for money and it did not go well.

“I had to go hat in hand, like I was a high tech beggar, down to Silicon Valley to raise some money…And as I go from venture capitalist to venture capitalist to venture capitalist — and a lot of them are my friends, people I’ve gone to lunch with — and each and every one of them said no,” Benioff said. “Salesforce was never able to raise a single dollar from a venture capitalist,” he added.

He suggested there were a lot of reasons for that including competitors who would call after his meetings and deliberately sabotage him or people who simply didn’t believe in the cloud as a vision of the future of software.

Whatever the reasons, Salesforce was eventually able to raise over $60 million from private individual investors, before going public in 2004. In the context of today’s venture capital environment, it is pretty tough to imagine a guy like Benioff not finding one taker, especially when you consider that he was not exactly an unknown quantity. And still no one would write him a check.

But this wasn’t now. It was in the late 1990s when nobody was thinking about cloud computing and the notion of software on the internet was a distant idea. Benioff was imagining something completely different and not one firm had the vision to see what was coming. Today, Salesforce is a $10 billion company and those folks that turned him down have to be wondering what they were thinking.

“When you start something like Salesforce, you want to surround yourself with people who do believe in you, who do believe you’re going to be successful because you’re going to have a whole bunch of people who are going to tell you that you’re not, Benioff said.

That’s something every entrepreneur should remember.

Apr
08
2018
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Salesforce is working on a blockchain product

Salesforce has always been a company that is looking ahead to the next big technology, whether that was mobile, social, internet of things or artificial intelligence. In an interview with Business Insider’s Julie Bort at the end of March, Salesforce co-founders Marc Benioff and Parker Harris talked about a range of subjects including how the company came to be working on one of the next hot technologies, a blockchain product.

Benioff told a story of being at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland where a bit of serendipity led him to start thinking about blockchain and how it could be used as part of the Salesforce family of products.

As it turned out, there was a crypto conference going on at the same time as the WEF and the two worlds collided at a Salesforce event at the Intercontinental Hotel. While there, one of the crypto conference attendees engaged Benioff in a conversation and it was the start of something.

“I had been thinking a lot about what is Salesforce’s strategy around blockchain, and what is Salesforce’s strategies around cryptocurrencies and how will we relate to all of these things,” Benioff said. He is actually a big believer in the power of serendipity, and he said just by having that conversation, it started him down the road to thinking more seriously about Salesforce’s role in this developing technology.

He said the more he thought about it, the more he believed that Salesforce could make use of Blockchain. Then suddenly something clicked for him and he saw a way to put blockchain and cryptocurrencies to work in Salesforce. “That’s kind of how it works and I hope by Dreamforce we will have a blockchain and cryptocurrency solution.”

Benioff is clearly a visionary and says a lot of that comes from simply paying attention as he did when he talked to this person in Davos, and recognizing an opportunity to expand Salesforce in a meaningful way. “A lot [these ideas] comes from paying attention, listening. There’s new ideas coming all the time,” he said. He recognizes that there are more ideas out there than they can possibly execute, but part of his job is understanding which ones are the most important for Salesforce customers.

Blockchain is the electronic ledger used to track Bitcoin or other digital currencies, but it also has a more general business role. As an irrefutable and immutable record, it can track just about anything of value.

Dreamforce is Salesforce’s enormous annual customer conference. It will be held this year from September 25-28 in San Francisco, and if it all works as planned, they could be announcing a blockchain product this year.

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Check out the whole interview between Salesforce founders Parker Harris and Marc Benioff and Julie Bort from Business Insider:

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