February 10, 2011
A few days ago salesforce.com announced that it had acquired social productivity application ManyMoon. Surprisingly the blogosphere remained relatively silent about the deal beyond a post by Klint who referenced Sameer Patel saying;
With its strong project facilitation focus, Manymoon brings solid complementary ‘get-it-done’ functionality to a general purpose engagement platform such as Salesforce.com Chatter. As important, the Google Apps Marketplace is quickly becoming a valid choice for more and more enterprises.
Manymoon’s strong integration with the Google Apps Marketplace may well offer a needed bridge between Force.com and Google App Marketplace. Thanks to Manymoon’s integration with Google’s productivity applications such as word processing, spreadsheets and contact management, Salesforce.com now gets to tout a more complete collaboration picture that includes engagement, task management and content creation.
I wanted to take a look at this in light of salesforce’s recent spate of acquiring or investing in other applications, for the record, over the past couple of years they’ve purchased other applications including;
- Jigsaw (being reintroduced)
- Sitemasher (service shuttered)
- Enterprise collaboration tool GroupSwim (which seems to be dead and buried)
- The Heroku developer platform (a great move, but time will tell how well it works within the salesforce corporate structure)
- Web conferencing /Chat tools DimDim and Activa (hopefully we’ll see them again sometime soon)
- sCRM tool Etacts (dead and buried)
- $4mil investment in Seesmic (more on that below)
There’s a couple of common themes going on here;
- salesforce purchasing solutions that are targeting the smaller more nimble business users (I would say cool companies as opposed to enterprise but my enterprise friends might take offence at that)
- salesforce buying up technology companies for the talent, and then shuttering the service
Overall however I see most of these acquisitions as attention grabbing stunts designed more to reinforce (or reinvent) salesforce’s image as young and hip, rather than for any functionally valid reasons. It’s for this reason that I personally don’t agree with Patel’s analysis. I’m not seeing either the project facilitation perspective or the deep Google apps integrations as reasons for the deal. GroupSwim gave Salesforce the potential to leverage project facilitation and they shuttered that which Google apps integrations were the big announcement (that ended up being mainly vaporware) at Dreamforce a couple of years ago. Rather I see this move as another case of Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff’s infatuation with cool little startups – regardless of heir utility or applicability to his own business. Benioff often uses Facebook as an example of how the world is changing, all the while being at the head of an organization hat sells a product into primarily traditional enterprise markets – forays into nimble young apps retains the salesforce “street cred” of old.
Case in point: the investment in Seesmic. I remember months ago when Benioff and Seesmic CEO Loic Le Meur announced an integration between Chatter and Seesmic. It sounded exciting at the time but, almost half a year on, the announcement has been forgotten and seems to have been little more than vaporware – a chance for Benioff to once again push home his point about the social revolution. Now we here that salesforce has invest $4 million in the company – it’s hard to see what purpose the investment has beyond another the gain of some more (temporary) attention. I mean it’s not like they gain engineering talent, or social ideas – nothing that Seesmic is doing isn’t being done by one of the other social platforms after all.
There’s nothing inherently wrong about an acquisition that is aimed to grab attention – but I do wonder if a point will come when salesforce customers start pushing back and asking where all these beautiful new tools of the Facebook generations end up – and when he reality will actually match the hyperbole.