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Salesforce.com Launches $100 Million Mobile Development Fund

Salesforce.com establishes dedicated fund for startups building mobile apps on Salesforce1 platform.
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Salesforce.com on Monday formally named its five-year-old technology investment arm Salesforce Ventures, and marked the occasion by introducing a $100 million fund to promote mobile development.

The Salesforce1 Fund is specifically earmarked to support companies building mobile apps on the Salesforce1 development platform. As part of Monday's announcement the company revealed that the first four companies to receive support from the new fund include DocuSign, InsideSales.com, i.am+, and Skuid.

"The goal is to create a really large ecosystem of companies that are building the next generation of mobile innovation for our customers," John Somorjai, EVP of corporate development and strategy at Salesforce.com, said in a phone interview with InformationWeek.

[Want more on Salesforce wearables plans? Read Salesforce.com Adds Devices To Wearables Platform.]

DocuSign built a mobile app that lets users sign documents. InsideSales is a telephony app that helps sales reps be more productive. Launched by Black Eyed Peas singer Will.i.am, i.am+ is venturing into the connected wearable devices market. Skuid is a toolkit built on Salesforce1 that supports drag-and-drop development of Web and mobile apps on Salesforce1.

The new Salesforce1 Fund is not exactly a huge war chest by venture capital standards. Just last week, for example, DataStax, the Cassandra NoSQL database support provider, raised $106 million all on its own to pave the way to a likely initial public offering. Nonetheless, Somorjai said Salesforce investments are a welcome resource for many startups.

"There's a lot of capital out there, but for many entrepreneurs it's hard to attract," he said. "If they can get Salesforce into an investment round, it can give them a lot of credibility and help to bring in other investors."

Salesforce Ventures is already invested in more than 100 privately-held companies, said Somorjai. As part of the program, Salesforce executives offer startups advice, and they can pitch the company's sales team to get feedback on their ideas.

According to Salesforce.com's last quarterly financial statement, the value of those investments, as of July 31, stands at $215 million. Companies on the list include enterprise vendors Adaptive Insights, Anaplan, FinancialForce.com, Kenandy, and Veeva, and more consumer-oriented vendors including Box, DropBox, and Evernote. Along the way, Salesforce.com has also acquired some of the companies it has invested in, including Assistly, Dimdim, and Model Metrics.

Is the Salesforce1 Fund necessary because startups that are dependent on Salesforce.com development platforms are somehow seen as too dependent upon the larger vendor?

"Our platform has been so well-adopted by so many companies, including public companies, that that issue has been taken off the table," Somorjai said. We co-invest with all the major venture capital firms in many companies that are building on our platform. There's now widespread belief that we have a really fast way for companies to get started."

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