The platform wars are still going strong, and Salesforce.com is adding a new weapon to its arsenal with the launch of its $100 million Salesforce1 Fund.
The first dedicated fund launched by the cloud computing giant’s Salesforce Ventures group has one purpose — to woo innovative companies developing mobile applications and connected devices to develop on its platform.
With the launch, the San Francisco-based Salesforce.com formalizes a process that has been going strong for at least the past five years, according to John Somorjai, executive vice president of corporate development and strategy at the company. As of July 31, 2014, Salesforce.com had invested $109.6 million in private companies, up from $77 million at the beginning of the year, according to the filing. In all, Salesforce.com’s investments in privately held companies stood at $215 million as of July 2014.
Somorjai said that the $100 million commitment to the Salesforce1 Fund should last for several years, and declined to disclose the minimum, or maximum, commitment the company would make to startups.
Already, Somorjai and his team have committed an undisclosed amount to four startups, the electronic signature service, DocuSign; i.am+, the consumer products company developed by the musician Will.i.am; the sales and marketing analytics, automation and support company, InsideSales.com; and the HTML5 and Salesforce1 application development toolkit Skuid.
“We have a really deep pipeline of other salesforce1 investments that we’ll be announcing in the next few weeks,” says Somorjai. “We see a huge opportunity as mobile adoption in the enterprise gets bigger and bigger.”
The fund is stage agnostic and will typically only make one commitment to companies, the Salesforce.com executive said. Over the last five years the company has made commitments to more than 100 companies, but since the amount of money a company needs to raise to develop is so much smaller than in the past (thanks in part to tools like Amazon Web Services or Salesforce.com’s own hosting platform), the size of those commitments can be smaller and companies need to raise fewer follow-on rounds.
Veeva is a perfect example, says Somorjai. The company raised $5 million in capital and went on to an initial public offering in the waning days of 2013. It now has a market capitalization north of $3 billion. Indeed Salesforce.com investments in Box, Dropbox, and Evernote may pay off handsomely for the first enterprise company to float off into cloud computing.
What’s amazing is that the company has managed to make its bets on the back of a small team, whose roles are typically split with other corporate development functions, according to Somorjai. “We do a lot with a little,” he says. “We’re very efficient.”