Four lessons for startup growth from $63 billion tech giant Salesforce

In just over a decade Salesforce has grown into a SaaS company giant worth more than $US48 billion.

But according to executives at the CRM developer, the tech company is just getting started and has grand plans to generate over $13 billion ($US10 billion) in annual revenue in the near future.

Just last year Saleforce’s revenue was $US6.667 billion.

Speaking at an international press conference in San Francisco, the Salesforce executives revealed four core strategies that have helped to build the company to where it is today.

1. Drive collaboration and knowledge sharing

The Dreamforce festival hosted by Salesforce is now in its 14 year of running and has grown significantly across this time.

The first installment barely attracted 1000 guests, but this year’s conference saw more than 170,000 people from all around the world register.

With peer learning, collaboration, “having fun” and “giving back” underpinning the festival each year, the event has become an iconic part of San Francisco’s tech scene, Salesforce president and chief product officer Alex Dayon says.

“Over the years, it took a bigger role in the industry, which was obviously eye-opening for us,” Dayon says.

“Companies can come together to discuss their digital and future strategies. Business leaders and tech leaders are coming together. It really became a place for: How do we work? How do we collaborate?

“What does it mean to transform yourself as an industry in a world where everything is changing? The way we work is way more transparent than ever.”

2. Speak to people, not technology

Dayon said tech companies like Salesforce are no longer talking about technology but an entire new digital agenda.

“Your customers are generating more data than ever before,” he said.

“The world is now customer-centric. You will hear less the words ‘SQL’ and ‘HTML’, you’ll hear a lot the word ‘customer’.”

3. Add value through partners and acquisitions

This week, Salesforce announced another acquisition, bringing in data management platform Krux into its suite of products.

“We’re bringing tonnes of new innovation into the new service,” Dayon says.

With an underlying focus on helping businesses “transform themselves”, Dayon says every new product, update and acquisition decision is driven by value-add for customers.

It’s what led them to acquire Quip, a documents app founded by Google Maps’ co-creator Brett Taylor, who says will add to the capabilities of Salesforce’s Chatt.

“The roadmap right now is to make the two work extremely well together,” Taylor says.

Similarly, the introduction of Einstein will enable users to automate sales, speed up customer interactions and get smarter about lead generation through artificial intelligence, Salesforce senior vice president of product John Ball says.

“It all starts with data,” Ball says.

“It takes the world’s number one CRM and makes it the world’s smartest CRM.”

With access to data across the billions of customer interactions that occur on Salesforce each day, Ball says Einstein will serve up predictions and recommendations, like a business’s very own data scientist.

“For marketers, we can predict whether an email is going to be opened or clicked on or whether the subscriber is going to buy a product,” Ball says.

4. Nurture internal CEOs

With every new acquisition or product, Salesforce aims to bring in experienced CEOs to take leadership of these in collaboration with the internal teams.

“We were acquired just two months ago,” Salesforce’s new Commerce Cloud CEO Jeff Barnett says.

With the likes of Barnett and Taylor taking a startup growth approach to their individual ventures within Salesforce, the giant tech company is able to stay agile as it increases in size.

“We are a big believer in terms of keeping the entrepreneurial culture,” Dayon says.

But to ensure it remains one cohesive engine, Dayon notes that they do take a focused approach to acquisition.

“We do one thing at the end of the day:  CRM,” Dayon says.

“The core of our business is to connect the customers with the new world. That is the guiding light of our strategy. If you look at the past acquisitions of Salesforce – we buy leaders and expand our market.

“Everything we do is driven by one thing: usage.”

StartupSmart is reporting from Dreamforce in San Francisco as a guest of Salesforce.

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