Salesforce Ventures earmarks $100M to invest in Canadian enterprise cloud startups

After committing $2 billion towards expanding operations north of the border in Canada in February, Salesforce is now doubling down on startups in the country. Salesforce Ventures, the company’s investment arm, today announced the Trailblazer Fund, earmarking $100 million to invest in startups out of Canada, with a special focus on those working in enterprise cloud computing.

It’s also announcing the first four startups to get backed out of the fund. They include Tier1CRM, which develops cloud-based CRM solutions for financial services companies; Traction Guest, which builds visitor management systems (VMS systems power the digital sign-in services you go through when you visit many offices);
Tulip, a retail app developer focused on omnichannel commerce; and OSF Commerce, a customer experience specialist.

“Salesforce Ventures is an incredibly strong partner to Canadian startups,” said Ali Asaria, CEO and founder of Tulip, in a statement. “Their investment and the unique access we get to the Salesforce ecosystem has enabled us to expand our business faster and maintain that rapid pace of growth.”

The news follows several other funds out of Salesforce Ventures also focusing on specific areas or regions. In 2015 it set aside $100 million specifically for European cloud startups; and in 2017 it earmarked $50 million for cloud consulting startups and $50 million for those focused on AI solutions for the Salesforce platform (not unlike its own version of an Alexa or Slack Fund). Salesforce Ventures itself started as a fund, the Salesforce1 fund back in 2014.

Salesforce has invested in a number of startups out of the country before now, including those that do not look like they only indirectly offer a strategic fit into Salesforce itself. They have included the smart wristband company Bionym, video analytics startup Vidyard, and LeadSift.

“There is incredible innovation happening in Canada today and we want to encourage and empower the next generation of enterprise cloud startups in the region,” said John Somorjai, EVP of corporate development and Salesforce Ventures at Salesforce, in a statement. “Salesforce Ventures’ Canada Trailblazer Fund is a commitment to our mission to help startups grow and enable our customers to reach new levels of success.”

Canada plays a key role for Salesforce in its business. Today the company says that it’s the number-one CRM provider in the country, with 6,000 companies including Air Canada, Husky Energy, Loblaws, Manulife, Roots, TD Bank and TELUS among its customers.

The $2 billion investment announced earlier this year, which will be made over the next five years, was aimed at growing headcount, real estate footprint and data center capacity. This startup fund will not only be a boost to small tech businesses in the region; but it could prove to be an interesting dealflow funnel for Salesforce itself to tap into and acquire local talent for that bigger operation.

It’s also tapping into a large economy that is adjacent and tightly connected to that of Salesforce’s home market. It notes that IDC estimates Canada’s public cloud software market will be worth C$4.1 billion ($3.1 billion) by 2019.

“Canada is recognized as an excellent place to start and build globally competitive technology companies,” said the Honourable Navdeep Bains, Canadian Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, in a statement. “Corporate initiatives such as Salesforce Ventures’ new Canada Trailblazer Fund provide valuable support to technology entrepreneurs throughout their start-and-scale journey.”