Marc Benioff will discuss building a socially responsible and successful startup at TechCrunch Disrupt
Salesforce chairman, co-founder and CEO Marc Benioff took a lot of big chances when he launched the company 20 years ago. For starters, his was one of the earliest enterprise SaaS companies, but he wasn’t just developing a company on top of a new platform, he was building one from scratch with social responsibility built-in.
Fast-forward 20 years and that company is wildly successful. In its most recent earnings report, it announced a $ 4 billion quarter, putting it on a $ 16 billion run rate, and making it by far the most successful SaaS company ever.
But at the heart of the company’s DNA is a charitable streak, and it’s not something they bolted on after getting successful. Even before the company had a working product, in the earliest planning documents, Salesforce wanted to be a different kind of company. Early on, it designed the 1-1-1 philanthropic model that set aside 1% of Salesforce’s equity, and 1% of its product and 1% of its employees’ time to the community. As the company has grown, that model has serious financial teeth now, and other startups over the years have also adopted the same approach using Salesforce as a model.
In our coverage of Dreamforce, the company’s enormous annual customer conference, in 2016, Benioff outlined his personal philosophy around giving back:
You are at work, and you have great leadership skills. You can isolate yourselves and say I’m going to put those skills to use in a box at work, or you can say I’m going to have an integrated life. The way I look at the world, I’m going to put those skills to work to make the world a better place.
This year Benioff is coming to TechCrunch Disrupt in San Francisco to discuss with TechCrunch editors how to build a highly successful business, while giving back to the community and the society your business is part of. In fact, he has a book coming out in mid-October called Trailblazer: The Power of Business as the Greatest Platform for Change, in which he writes about how businesses can be a positive social force.
Benioff has received numerous awards over the years for his entrepreneurial and charitable spirit, including Innovator of the Decade from Forbes, one of the World’s 25 Greatest Leaders from Fortune, one of the 10 Best-Performing CEOs from Harvard Business Review, GLAAD, the Billie Jean King Leadership Initiative for his work on equality and the Variety Magazine EmPOWerment Award.
It’s worth noting that in 2018, a group of 618 Salesforce employees presented Benioff with a petition protesting the company’s contract with the Customs and Border Patrol (CBP). Benioff in public comments stated that the tools were being used in recruitment and management, and not helping to separate families at the border. While Salesforce did not cancel the contract, at the time, co-CEO Keith Block stated that the company would donate $ 1 million to organizations helping separated families, as well as match any internal employee contributions through its charitable arm, Salesforce.org.
Disrupt SF runs October 2 to October 4 at the Moscone Center in the heart of San Francisco. Tickets are available here.
Did you know Extra Crunch annual members get 20% off all TechCrunch event tickets? Head over here to get your annual pass, and then email email@example.com to get your 20% discount. Please note that it can take up to 24 hours to issue the discount code.
The hype around blockchain seems to have cooled a bit, but companies like Kadena have been working on enterprise-grade solutions for some time, and continue to push the technology forward. Today, the startup announced that Kadena Scalable Permissioned Blockchain on Azure is available for free in the Azure Marketplace.
Kadena co-founder and CEO Will Martino says today’s announcement builds on the success of last year’s similar endeavor involving AWS. “Our private chain is designed for enterprise use. It’s designed for being high performance and for integrating with traditional back ends. And by bringing that chain to AWS marketplace, and now to Microsoft Azure, we are servicing almost all of the enterprise blockchain market that takes place in the cloud,” Martino told TechCrunch.
The free product enables companies to get comfortable with the technology and build a Proof of Concept (PoC) without making a significant investment in the tooling. The free tool provides 2000 transactions a second across 4 nodes. Once companies figure this out and want to scale, that’s when the company begins making money, but Martino recognizes that the technology is still immature and companies need to get comfortable with it, and that’s what the free versions on the cloud platforms like Azure are encouraging.
Martino says Kadena favors a hybrid approach to enterprise blockchain that combines public and private chains, and in his view, gives customers the best of both worlds. “You can run a smart contract on our public Chainweb protocol that will be launching on October 30th, and that smart contract can be linked to a cluster of private permission chain nodes that are running the other half of the application. This allows you to have all of the market access and openness and transparency and ownerlessness of a public network, while also having the control and the security that you find in a private network,” he said.
Martino and co-founder Stuart Popejoy both worked at JPMorgan on early blockchain projects, but left to start Kadena in 2016. The company has raised $ 14.9 million to date.
When Dell acquired EMC in 2016 for $ 67 billion, it created a complicated consortium of interconnected organizations. Some, like VMware and Pivotal, operate as completely separate companies. They have their own boards of directors, can acquire companies and are publicly traded on the stock market. Yet they work closely within Dell, partnering where it makes sense. When Pivotal’s stock price plunged recently, VMware saved the day when it bought the faltering company for $ 2.7 billion yesterday.
Pivotal went public last year, and sometimes struggled, but in June the wheels started to come off after a poor quarterly earnings report. The company had what MarketWatch aptly called “a train wreck of a quarter.”
How bad was it? So bad that its stock price was down 42% the day after it reported its earnings. While the quarter itself wasn’t so bad, with revenue up year over year, the guidance was another story. The company cut its 2020 revenue guidance by $ 40-$ 50 million and the guidance it gave for the upcoming 2Q 19 was also considerably lower than consensus Wall Street estimates.
The stock price plunged from a high of $ 21.44 on May 30th to a low of $ 8.30 on August 14th. The company’s market cap plunged in that same time period falling from $ 5.828 billion on May 30th to $ 2.257 billion on August 14th. That’s when VMware admitted it was thinking about buying the struggling company.
As companies collect increasingly large amounts of data about customers, the end game is about improving the customer experience. It’s a term we’re hearing a lot of these days, and we are going to be discussing that very topic with Amit Ahuja, Adobe’s vice president of ecosystem development, next month at TechCrunch Sessions: Enterprise in San Francisco. Grab your early-bird tickets right now — $ 100 savings ends today!
Customer experience covers a broad array of enterprise software and includes data collection, analytics and software. Adobe deals with all of this, including the Adobe Experience Platform for data collection, Adobe Analytics for visualization and understanding and Adobe Experience Cloud for building applications.
The idea is to begin to build an understanding of your customers through the various interactions you have with them, and then build applications to give them a positive experience. There is a lot of talk about “delighting” customers, but it’s really about using the digital realm to help them achieve what they want as efficiently as possible, whatever that means to your business.
Ahuja will be joining TechCrunch’s editors, along with Qualtrics chief experience officer Julie Larson-Green and Segment CEO Peter Reinhardt to discuss the finer points of what it means to build a customer experience, and how software can help drive that.
Ahuja has been with Adobe since 2005 when he joined as part of the $ 3.4 billion Macromedia acquisition. His primary role today involves building and managing strategic partnerships and initiatives. Prior to this, he was the head of Emerging Businesses and the GM of Adobe’s Data Management Platform business, which focuses on advertisers. He also spent seven years in Adobe’s Corporate Development Group, where he helped complete the acquisitions of Omniture, Scene7, Efficient Frontier, Demdex and Auditude.
Amit will be joining us on September 5 in San Francisco, along with some of the biggest influencers in enterprise, including Bill McDermott from SAP, Scott Farquhar from Atlassian, Aparna Sinha from Google, Wendy Nather from Duo Security, Aaron Levie from Box and Andrew Ng from Landing AI.
Early-bird savings end today, August 9. Book your tickets today and you’ll save $ 100 before prices go up.
Bringing a group? Book our 4+ group tickets and you’ll save 20% on the early-bird rate. Bring the whole squad here.
Managing your customers has changed a lot in the past decade. Out are the steak dinners and ballgame tickets to get a sense of a contract’s chance at renewal, and in are churn analysis and a whole bunch of data science to learn whether a customer and their users like or love your product. That customer experience revolution has been critical to the success of SaaS products, but it can remain wickedly hard to centralize all the data needed to drive top performance in a customer success organization.
That’s where Catalyst comes in. The company, founded in New York City in 2017 and launched April last year, wants to centralize all of your disparate data sources on your customers into one easy-to-digest tool to learn how to approach each of them individually to optimize for the best experience.
The company’s early success has attracted more top investors. It announced today that it has raised a $ 15 million Series A led by Vas Natarajan of Accel, who previously backed enterprise companies like Frame.io, Segment, InVision, and Blameless. The company had previously raised $ 3 million from NYC enterprise-focused Work-Bench and $ 2.4 million from True Ventures. Both firms participated in this new round.
Catalyst CEO Edward Chiu told me that Accel was attractive because of the firm’s recent high-profile success in the enterprise space, including IPOs like Slack, PagerDuty, and CrowdStrike.
When we last spoke with Catalyst a year and a half ago, the firm had just raised its first seed round and was just the company’s co-founders — brothers Edward and Kevin Chiu — and a smattering of employees. Now, the company has 19 employees and is targeting 40 employees by the end of the year.
In that time, the product has continued to evolve as it has worked with its customers. One major feature of Catalyst’s product is a “health score” that determines whether a customer is likely to grow or churn in the coming months based on ingested data around usage. CEO Chiu said that “we’ve gotten our health score to be very very accurate” and “we have the ability to take automated action based on that health score.” Today, the company offers “prefect sync” with Salesforce, Mixpanel, Zendesk, among other services, and will continue to make investments in new integrations.
One high priority for the company has been increasing the speed of integration when a new customer signs up for Catalyst. Chiu said that new customers can be onboarded in minutes, and they can use the platform’s formula builder to define the exact nuances of their health score for their specific customers. “We mold to your use case,” he said.
One lesson the company has learned is that as success teams increasingly become critical to the lifeblood of companies, other parts of the organization and senior executives are working together to improve their customer’s experiences. Chiu told me that the startup often starts with onboarding a customer success team, only to later find that C-suite and other team leads have also joined and are also interacting together on the platform.
An interesting dynamic for the company is that it does its own customer success on its customer success platform. “We are our own best customer,” Chiu said. “We login every day to see the health of our customers… our product managers login to Catalyst every day to read product feedback.”
Since the last time we checked in, the company has added a slew of senior execs, including Cliff Kim as head of product, Danny Han as head of engineering, and Jessica Marucci as head of people, with whom the two Chius had worked together at cloud infrastructure startup DigitalOcean.
Moving forward, Chiu expects to invest further in data analysis and engineering. “One of the most unique things about us is that we are collecting so much unique data: usage patterns, [customer] spend fluctuations, [customer] health scores,” Chiu said. “It would be a hugely missed opportunity not to analyze that data and work on churn.”
It is a simple question with a complex answer. How does a startup get from zero to execution when negotiating contracts with potential customers that are large enterprises? The 800-pound gorillas. Situations in which your negotiating leverage is limited (often severely so).
As a commercial contracts attorney, clients often ask me about the one right way to approach deals. Many are looking for a cheat sheet of universal terms they should push for in contracts. But there is no one answer.
Deals are not cookie-cutter, and neither are the contracts on which they are built. That said, a basic framework can help provide startups with some grounding to better think about negotiations with large enterprises. The idea is to avoid over-lawyering, and instead approach the discussion with a legally prudent yet deal-centric mindset.
There are generally six overarching considerations as you head into negotiations with large, enterprise organizations.
Last July, Google announced its Contact Center AI product for helping businesses get more value out of their contact centers. Contact Center AI uses a mix of Google’s machine learning-powered tools to help build virtual agents and help human agents as they do their job. Today, the company is launching several updates to this product that will, among other things, bring improved speech recognition features to the product.
As Google notes, its automated speech recognition service gets to very high accuracy rates, even on the kind of noisy phone lines that many customers use to complain about their latest unplanned online purchase. To improve these numbers, Google is now launching a feature called ‘Auto Speech Adaptation in Dialogflow,” (with Dialogflow being Google tool for building conversational experiences). With this, the speech recognition tools are able to take the context of the conversation into account and hence improve their accuracy by about 40 percent, according to Google.
In addition, Google is also launching a new model phone model for understanding short utterances, which is now about 15 percent more accurate for U.S. English, as well as a number of other updates that improve transcription accuracy, make the training process easier and allow for endless audio streaming to the Cloud Speech-to-Text API, which previously had a 5-minute limit.
If you want to, you can also now natively download MP3s of the audio (and then burn them to CDs, I guess).
Artificial intelligence is quickly becoming a foundational technology for enterprise software development and startups have begun addressing a variety of issues around using AI to make software and processes much more efficient.
To that end, we are delighted to announce that Jocelyn Goldfein, a Managing Director at Zetta Venture Partners will be joining on us a panel to discuss AI in the enterprise. It will take place at the TechCrunch Sessions: Enterprise show on September 5 at the Yerba Buena Center in San Francisco.
It’s not just startups that are involved in AI in the enterprise. Some of the biggest names in enterprise software including Salesforce Einstein, Adobe Sensei and IBM Watson have been addressing the need for AI to help solve the enterprise data glut.
Computers can process large amounts of information much more quickly than humans, and as enterprise companies generate increasing amounts of data, they need help understanding it all as the volume of information exceeds human capacity to sort through it.
Goldfein brings a deep engineering background to her investment work. She served as a VP of engineering at VMware and as an engineering director at Facebook, where she led the project that adopted machine learning for the News Feed ranker, launched major updates in photos and search, and helped spearhead Facebook’s pivot to mobile. Goldfein drove significant reforms in Facebook hiring practices and is a prominent evangelist for women in computer science. As an investor, she primarily is focused on startups using AI to take more efficient approaches to infrastructure, security, supply chains and worker productivity.
At TC Sessions: Enterprise, she’ll be joining Bindu Reddy from Reality Engines along with other panelists to discuss the growing role of AI in enterprise software with TechCrunch editors. You’ll learn why AI startups are attracting investor attention and how AI in general could fundamentally transform enterprise software.
Early Bird tickets to see Joyce at TC Sessions: Enterprise are on sale for just $ 249 when you book here; but hurry, prices go up by $ 100 soon! Students, grab your discounted tickets for just $ 75 here.
We’re less than two months out from our first TC Sessions: Enterprise event, which is happening in San Francisco on September 5, and did you know our buy 1 get 1 free sale ends today too! Among the many enterprise and startup executives that’ll join us for the event is Qualtrics’ Julie Larson-Green. If that name sounds familiar to you, that’s most likely because you remember her from her 25 years at Microsoft. After a successful career in Redmond, Larson-Green left Microsoft in 2017 to become the Chief Experience Officer at SAP’s Qualtrics.
In that role, she’s perfect for our panel about — you guessed it — customer experience management.
Larson-Green joined Microsoft as a program manager for Visual C++ back in 1993. After moving up the ladder inside the company, she oversaw the launch of Windows 7 and became the co-lead of Microsoft’s hardare, games, music and entertainment division in 2013. At the time, she was seen as a potential replacement for then-CEO Steve Ballmer.
Later, during a period of reshuffling at the company in the wake of the Nokia acquisition, became the Chief Experience Officer of Microsoft’s My Life and Work group.
Larson-Green joined Qualtrics before it was acquired by SAP for $ 8 billion in cash. Qualtrics offers a number of products that range from customer experience tools to brand tracking and ad testing services, as well as employee research products for gathering feedback about managers, for example. At the core of its product is an analytics engine that helps businesses make sense of their employee and customer data, which in turn should help them optimize their customer experience scores and reduce employee attrition rates.
Our buy one get one free ticket deal ends today! Book a ticket for just $ 249 and you can bring a buddy for free. Book here before this deal ends.
We’re still selling startup demo tables, and each package comes with 4 tickets. Learn more here.
Oracle has been complaining about the procurement process around the Pentagon’s $ 10 billion, decade-long JEDI cloud contract, even before the DoD opened requests for proposals last year. It went so far as to file a lawsuit in December, claiming a potential conflict of interest on the part of a procurement team member. Today, that case was dismissed in federal court.
In dismissing the case, Federal Claims Court Senior Judge Eric Bruggink ruled that the company had failed to prove a conflict in the procurement process, something the DOD’s own internal audits found in two separate investigations. Judge Bruggink ultimately agreed with the DoD’s findings:
We conclude as well that the contracting officer’s findings that an organizational conflict of interest does not exist and that individual conflicts of interest did not impact the procurement, were not arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with law. Plaintiff’s motion for judgment on the administrative record is therefore denied.
The company previously had filed a failed protest with the Government Accountability Office (GAO), which also ruled that the procurement process was fair and didn’t favor any particular vendor. Oracle had claimed that the process was designed to favor cloud market leader AWS.
It’s worth noting that the employee in question was a former AWS employee. AWS joined the lawsuit as part of the legal process, stating at the time in the legal motion, “Oracle’s Complaint specifically alleges conflicts of interest involving AWS. Thus, AWS has direct and substantial economic interests at stake in this case, and its disposition clearly could impair those interests.”
Today’s ruling opens the door for the announcement of a winner of the $ 10 billion contract, as early as next month. The DoD previously announced that it had chosen Microsoft and Amazon as the two finalists for the winner-take-all bid.
- 4 Can’t Miss Paid Media Keynotes
- Facebook has acquired Servicefriend, which builds ‘hybrid’ chatbots, for Calibra customer service
- Facebook has acquired Servicefriend, which builds ‘hybrid’ chatbots, for Calibra customer service
- How changing domains challenge SEO
- Q&A with Microsoft’s Noël Reilly: Data, discovery, customer-first mindset