ExactTarget Co-Founder Scott Dorsey Leaves Salesforce, McCorkle New CEO

A changing of the guard at ExactTarget, the email and digital marketing company that Salesforce acquired last year for $2.5 billion, its biggest acquisition to date. ExactTarget co-founder Scott Dorsey is stepping down as CEO, while Scott McCorkle, president of technology and strategy and COO, is stepping up.

Sources tell us that emails went out to staff yesterday from Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff as well as Dorsey. There will be an all-hands ExactTarget meeting as well this morning around the news.

Update. A spokesperson for Salesforce has now confirmed the news:

“ExactTarget co-founder and CEO Scott Dorsey has decided this is the right time to transition out of the business and Scott McCorkle, president of Technology and Strategy, will take over as CEO of the ExactTarget Marketing Cloud. McCorkle led the technology team at ExactTarget for nearly 9 years and was instrumental in every stage of their growth – from the IPO to Salesforce’s acquisition of ExactTarget in 2013.”

The news comes at a time when Salesforce is ramping up its cloud services business. Yesterday the company announced a landmark agreement with Microsoft to integrate Salesforce’s CRM solutions into Microsoft’s Windows and Office products.

Within that context, ExactTarget is in an interesting position as part of Salesforce’s cloud offerings. While ExactTarget’s heritage may lie in email marketing, its brand is now attached to a bigger digital marketing business, the ExactTarget Marketing Cloud, which covers mobile, advertising and more.

If cloud is the future, ExactTarget and related services are a long-term bet for Salesforce. In a 10-Q form filed earlier today for the quarter that ended April 30, Salesforce noted that it generated just under $1.15 billion from cloud services, and within that, ExactTarget Marketing Cloud accounted for the smallest portion of that, at $111 million.

It’s not clear what is behind the decision for Dorsey to step down. He doesn’t give much away in his farewell memo, except to note how long he’s been with the company.

“As you might imagine, this was an incredibly difficult decision. I have loved every minute of the last 14 years—and feel terrific about the future of the business,” Dorsey wrote in the memo, cited in a report in the Indianapolis Business Journal (ExactTarget is based in that city).  “This is a great time to begin a new chapter—both for our company and for me personally.”

The other co-founder of ExactTarget, Peter McCormick, appears to still be at the company as SVP of corporate development.

Salesforce’s move to create a partnership with a past rivals like Microsoft is a somewhat new but ongoing strategy at the company. It forged a similar partnership with Oracle last year. It speaks to how these behemoth companies realise that they need to offer their customers flexible, multi-vendor solutions to better fit the kind of products that enterprises have come to expect from cloud services — something underscored, too, by the number of startups that do the same in the space.

Big companies and once-rivals like Microsoft and Salesforce “are forced to come together if they hope to produce the kind of value and flexibility of choice that customers have begun to demand from their infrastructure,” as we noted around the time of the Salesforce/Oracle news last year.

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