Contact: Brenon Daly
When it comes to M&A at salesforce.com, starting small has yielded higher returns than going big. The SaaS giant has returned to the ‘buy and build’ strategy with its latest step into a new market with Analytics Cloud. The data visualization offering, which was unveiled this week at Dreamforce, was underpinned by the acquisition of EdgeSpring back in June 2013.
The $134m price notwithstanding, EdgeSpring stands as a small deal for salesforce.com. (We profiled EdgeSpring shortly after it emerged from stealth and a half-year before it was acquired. At the time, it claimed more than 10 paying customers and about 30 employees.)
Certainly, there were bigger targets for a move into the analytics market by salesforce.com, which will do more than $5bn in revenue this fiscal year and says it has a ‘clear line of sight’ to $10bn in sales. For instance, both Qlik Technologies and Tableau Software offer their data visualization software on salesforce.com’s AppExchange. With hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue, either of those vendors would have established salesforce.com as a significant player in the data analytics market as well as moving the company closer to its goal of doubling revenue in the coming years.
However, in that regard, a purchase of either Qlik or Tableau would be comparable with salesforce.com’s reach for ExactTarget in June 2013, which serves as the basis for its Marketing Cloud. The deal was uncharacteristically large, with salesforce.com spending more on the marketing automation provider than it has in all 32 of its other acquisitions combined. More significantly, salesforce.com has struggled a bit with ExactTarget, both operationally (platform integration and cross-selling opportunities) and financially (margin deterioration).
In contrast to that big spending, salesforce.com dropped only about one one-hundredth of the price of ExactTarget on InStranet in August 2008 ($2.5bn vs. $32m). The purchase of InStranet helped establish Service Cloud, which is now the company’s second-largest business behind its core Customer Records Management offering. And salesforce.com says the customer service segment is much larger than the market for its sales software.
Those divergent deals are something to keep in mind when salesforce.com buys its way into a new market. If we had to guess, we would expect the company to next make a play for online retailing (maybe call it Commerce Cloud?). If that’s the case, we might suggest that it look past the big oaks like Demandware and focus on the seedlings that can then grow up in the salesforce.com ecosystem.
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