Buying and building at

Contact: Brenon Daly

At the rate Marc Benioff is going, we have to wonder how long it will be until he renames the company he founded. Or at the very least, shouldn’t Benioff, who founded in 1999 and continues to serve as the company’s CEO, be thinking about swapping the company’s current ticker (CRM) for something that captures the broad, all-encompassing vision for the ‘social enterprise’ that he laid out at last week’s Dreamforce?

After all, the company’s core sales force automation (SFA) product barely merited a mention at the conference. Instead, most of the attention was directed toward upgrades and expansions to the Chatter and Radian6 offerings, as well as moves to broaden its two main platform plays, Heroku and As such, Dreamforce dramatically underscored just how much of’s future has been staked on its M&A program.

Of course, virtually all tech vendors use acquisitions to change the trajectory of their business, whether it’s a slight nudge in some new direction through a tactical purchase (Informatica comes to mind) or roll-the-dice-and-bet-the-company transformational transactions (Dell and, more painfully right now, Hewlett-Packard.) But hardly any other tech company (with the possible exception of VMware) has used M&A so consistently to expand beyond its original offering while still managing to preserve an acrophobia-inducing valuation.

Just consider the role that acquired companies played in announcements around’s conference:

  • Chatter has been bolstered by the purchase of two firms (GroupSwim and Dimdim), as has Service Cloud (InStranet and Activa Live). Service Cloud is’s largest non-SFA product.
  • The product, which was launched at the show, goes back to the purchase of Jigsaw Data in April 2010. It was further bolstered last week through a partnership with company records provided by Dun & Bradstreet.
  • Heroku was acquired last December, and noted at the conference that the platform currently has triple the number of customer applications built on it than it did a year ago.
  • The social media monitoring capabilities that obtained with its acquisition of Radian6, which was announced in late March, are only starting to make their way into the products but are a key part of the ‘social enterprise’ that the company has described.

Altogether, noted that non-SFA offerings – in other words, products and technology that got significant boosts through acquired IP or engineers – accounted for a full 20% of second-quarter revenue. (That was the first time the company has broken out revenue for its new products.) Given that booked nearly $550m in Q2 revenue, that would imply non-SFA sales of about $110m. To be clear, very little of that amount has come directly from the acquired companies, all of which were still in their early days. Instead, it’s the net result of the ‘buy and build’ approach at