Salesforce announces first integrations with Slack after closing $28B sale

When Salesforce acquired Slack at the end of last year for almost $28 billion, you had to figure that they had some big plans for the company, and today the CRM giant announced some initial integrations that should prove useful for Salesforce customers.

Rob Seaman, SVP for Slack at Salesforce sees Slack as the communications platform for Salesforce moving forward. “We really want Slack to be the primary engagement surface for our users, their communications, their work, their workflows and the processes and the apps they support,” he said.

“What we’re announcing are these new capabilities to support that Slack vision for sales, service, marketing and analytics. And for each of those areas what we’re doing is a combination of articulating, both in best practices and codifying, how you can and should model your sales, service and marketing organizations in this new world,” he said.

The hope is that by taking advantage of Slack’s ability to integrate external enterprise apps inside the application, working together they can find ways to speed up and automate various Salesforce tasks, making it faster and easier to use without switching context to make it happen.

For starters, the Sales Cloud gets dedicated deal rooms, where all of the parties involved in a complex sale, whether internal departments like finance and product people or external partners, can come together in Slack throughout the sales cycle and stay on top of the ebb and flow of all the sales activity.

“I think the deal room is an expression of an opportunity from Salesforce into Slack in a way that makes it very simple to connect with everybody to effectively get a deal done, including customers and partners,” Seaman explained. “That’s where Slack Connect is extremely powerful [to connect with external partners]. We think we should be able to dramatically reduce sales cycle lengths as a result of this…” he said. Slack Connect is the service introduced last year that enables Slack users to connect with people outside of a company.

In addition, through integrations members of the sales team involved in a more complex deal can get daily updates, which are automatically pulled together in Slack and include personalized daily task lists, meetings and priority deals.

Service teams can meet together in a room Salesforce is calling a swarm, a place for the team to help one another with specific questions or problems they may be having. In a company with a large product catalogue this could be particularly helpful to get an answer quickly. While Einstein recommendations helps with related content, a swarm can come in handy when there is a more specific question involved and a human with that knowledge may be just the ticket. Service team members will also be able to search for experts to invite to the swarm, who may be able to help answer the question or solve the problem more quickly.

Not to be left out, marketing gets intelligent insights delivered with the help of Datorama, the company Salesforce bought in 2018. Marketers also get regular updates inside of Slack when a change is made to a marketing campaign.

Finally there are integrations with Tableau, the company that Salesforce bought in 2018 for $6.5 billion — Salesforce is a highly acquisitive company. In a similar way that marketers get updates to campaigns, other users can get Slack updates whenever data they consider important gets updated in Tableau, and they can also get daily digests of key metrics that matter to them right in Slack.

Seaman promised that these announcements were just the start, and we will be hearing about more integrations with Slack at the Dreamforce customer conference next month — and in the coming months. “This is just the beginning, and so you’ll continue to see expansion of the integrations between Salesforce and Slack for the four areas that we’re announcing today around sales, service, marketing and analytics, but also every single cloud and industry solution in [the] Salesforce [family of products] is working on this,” he said.


By Ron Miller

There could be more to the Salesforce+ video streaming service than meets the eye

When Salesforce announced its new business video streaming service called Salesforce+ this week, everyone had a reaction. While not all of it was positive, some company watchers also wondered if there was more to this announcement than meets the eye.

If you look closely, the new initiative suggests that Salesforce wants to take a bite out of LinkedIn and other SaaS content platforms and publishers. The video streaming service could be a launch point for a broader content platform, where its partners are producing their own content and using Salesforce+ infrastructure to help them advertise to and cultivate their own customers.

The video streaming service could be a launch point for a broader content platform, where its partners are producing their own content and using Salesforce+ infrastructure to help them advertise to and cultivate their own customers.

The company has, after all, done exactly this sort of thing with its online marketplaces and industry events to great success. Salesforce generated almost $6 billion in its most recent quarterly earnings report. That mostly comes from selling its sales, marketing and service software, not any kind of content production, but it has lots of experience putting on Dreamforce, its massive annual customer event, as well as smaller events throughout the year around the world.

On its face, Salesforce+ is a giant, ambitious and quite expensive content marketing play. The company reportedly has hired a large professional staff to produce and manage the content, and built a broadcasting and production studio designed to produce quality shows in-house. It believes that by launching with content from Dreamforce, its highly successful customer conference, attended by tens of thousands people every year pre-pandemic, it can prime the viewing pump and build audience momentum that way, perhaps even using celebrities as it often does at its events to drive audience. It is less clear about the long-term business goals.


By Ron Miller

Talkdesk’s valuation jumps to $10B with Series D for smart contact centers

Talkdesk, a provider of cloud-based contact center software, announced $230 million in new Series D funding that more than triples the company’s valuation to $10 billion, Talkdesk founder CEO Tiago Paiva confirmed to TechCrunch.

New investors Whale Rock Capital Management, TI Platform Management and Alpha Square Group came on board for this round and were joined by existing investors Amity Ventures, Franklin Templeton, Top Tier Capital Partners, Viking Global Investors and Willoughby Capital.

Talkdesk uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to improve customer service for midmarket and enterprise businesses. It counts over 1,800 companies as customers, including IBM, Acxiom, Trivago and Fujitsu.

“The global pandemic was a big part of how customers interact and how we interacted with our customers, all working from home,” Paiva said. “When you think about ordering things online, call, chat and email interactions became more important, and contact centers became core in every company.”

San Francisco-based Talkdesk now has $498 million in total funding since its inception in 2011. It was a Startup Battlefield contestant at TechCrunch Disrupt NY in 2012. The new funding follows a $143 million Series C raised last July that gave it a $3 billion valuation. Prior to that, Talkdesk brought in $100 million in 2018.

The 2020 round was planned to buoy the company’s growth and expansion to nearly 2,000 employees, Paiva said. For the Series D, there was much interest from investors, including a lot of inbound interest, he said.

“We were not looking for new money, and finished last year with more money in the bank that we raised in the last round, but the investors were great and wanted to make it work,” Paiva said.

Half of Talkdesk’s staff is in product and engineering, an area he intends to double down in with the new funding as well as adding to the headcount to support customers. The company also has plans to expand in areas where it is already operating — Latin America, Europe, Asia and Australia.

This year, the company unveiled new features, including Talkdesk Workspace, a customizable interface for contact center teams, and Talkdesk Builder, a set of tools for customization across workspaces, routing, reporting and integrations. It also launched contact center tools designed specifically for financial services and healthcare organizations and what it is touting as the “industry’s first human-in-the-loop tool for contact centers and continues to lower the barrier to adopting artificial intelligence solutions.”

In addition to the funding, Talkdesk appointed its first chief financial officer, Sydney Carey, giving the company an executive team of 50% women, Paiva said. Carey has a SaaS background and joins the company from Sumo Logic, where she led the organization through an initial public offering in 2020.

“We were hiring our executive team over the past couple of years, and were looking for a CFO, but with no specific timeline, just looking for the right person,” Paiva added. “Sydney was the person we wanted to hire.”

Though Paiva didn’t hint at any upcoming IPO plans, TI Platform Management co-founders Trang Nguyen and Alex Bangash have followed Paiva since he started the company and said they anticipate the company heading in that direction in the future.

“Talkdesk is an example of what can happen when a strong team is assembled behind a winning idea,” they said in a written statement. “Today, Talkdesk has become near ubiquitous as a SaaS product with adoption across a broad array of industries and integrations with the most popular enterprise cloud platforms, including Salesforce, Zendesk and Slack.”

 


By Christine Hall

Salesforce wants Salesforce+ to be the Netflix of biz content

Salesforce just closed a $28 billion mega-deal to buy Slack, generating significant debt along the way, but it’s not through spending big money.

Today the CRM giant announced it was taking a leap into streaming media with Salesforce+, a forthcoming digital media network with a focus on video that, in the words of the company, “will bring the magic of Dreamforce to viewers across the globe with luminary speakers.” (Whether that’s a good thing or not is in the eye of the beholder.)

Over the last year, Salesforce has watched companies struggle to quickly transform into fully-digital entities. The Slack purchase is part of Salesforce’s response to the evolving market, but the company believes it can do even more with an on-demand video service providing business content around the clock.

Salesforce president and CMO Sarah Franklin said in an official post that her company has had to “reimagine how to succeed in the new digital-first world.” The answer apparently is involves getting the larger Salesforce community together is a new live, and recorded video push.

In a Q&A with Colin Fleming, Salesforce’s senior vice president of Global Brand Marketing, he sees it as a way to evolve the content the company has been sharing all along. “As a result of the pandemic, we looked at the media landscape, where people are consuming content, and decided the days of white papers in a business-to-business setting were no longer interesting to people. We’re staring at a cookie-less future. And looking at the consumer world, we reflected on that for Salesforce and asked, “Why shouldn’t we be thinking about this too,” he said in the Q&A.

The company’s efforts are not small. Axios reports that there are “50 editorial leads” aboard the project to help it launch, and “hundreds of people at Salesforce currently working on Salesforce+” more broadly.

Notably Salesforce does not have near-term monetization plans for Salesforce+. The service will be free, and will not feature external advertising. Salesforce+ will launch in September in conjunction with Dreamforce and include four channels: Primetime for news and announcements, Trailblazer for training content, Customer 360 for success stories and Industry Channels for industry-specific offerings.

The company hopes that by combining the announcement with Dreamforce, it will help drive interest in what Salesforce has cooked up. After the Dreamforce push, Salesforce+ will enter into interesting territory. How much do Salesforce customers, and the larger business community really want what the company describes as “compelling live and on-demand content for every role, industry and line of business,” and “engaging stories, thought leadership and expert advice”?

Salesforce is considered the most successful SaaS-first company in history, and as such may have an opinion that people are interested in hearing. In its most recent quarterly earnings report in May, the company disclosed $5.96 billion in revenue, up 23% compared to the year-ago quarter, putting it close to a $25 billion run rate. The company also generates lots of cash. But being cash-rich doesn’t absolve the question of whether this new streaming effort will prove to be a money pit, costing buckets of cash to produce with limited returns.

The service sounds a bit like your LinkedIn feed brought to life, but in video form. At the very least, it’s probably the largest content marketing scheme of all time, but can it ever pay for itself either as a business unit or through some other monetization plans (like advertising) down the road?

Brent Leary, founder and principal analyst at CRM essentials says that he could see Salesforce eyeing advertising revenue with this venture and having it all tie into the Salesforce platform. “A customer could sponsor a show, advertise a show, or possibly collaborate on a show. And have leads generated from the show directly tied to the activity from those options while tracking ROI, and it’s all done on one platform. And the content lives on with ads living on with them,” Leary told TechCrunch.

Whether that’s the ultimate goal of this venture remains to be seen, but Salesforce has proven that there is market appetite for Dreamforce content at least in the physical world with over a hundred thousand people involved in 2019, the last time the company was able to hold a live event. While the pandemic shifted most traditional conference activity into the digital realm, making Dreamforce and related types of content available year-round in video format makes some sense in that context.

Precisely how the company will justify the sizable addition to its marketing budget will be interesting; measuring ROI from video products is not entirely straightforward when it is not monetized directly. And sooner or later it will have to have some direct or indirect impact on the business or face questions from shareholders on the purpose of the venture.


By Ron Miller

Salesforce’s Kathy Baxter is coming to TC Sessions: SaaS to talk AI

As the use of AI has grown and developed over the last several years, companies like Salesforce have tried to tap into it to improve their software and help customers operate faster and more efficiently. Kathy Baxter, principal architect for the ethical AI practice at Salesforce will be joining us at TechCrunch Sessions: SaaS on October 27th to talk about the impact of AI on SaaS.

Baxter, who has more than 20 years of experience as a software architect, joined Salesforce in 2017 after more than a decade at Google in a similar role. We’re going to tap into her expertise on a panel discussing AI’s growing role in software.

Salesforce was one of the earlier SaaS adherents to AI, announcing its artificial intelligence tooling, which the company dubbed Einstein, in 2016. While the positioning makes it sound like a product, it’s actually much more than a single entity. It’s a platform component, which the various pieces of the Salesforce platform can tap into to take advantage of various types of AI to help improve the user experience.

That could involve feeding information to customer service reps on Service Cloud to make the call move along more efficiently, helping salespeople find the customers most likely to close a deal soon in the Sales Cloud or helping marketing understand the optimal time to send an email in the Marketing Cloud.

The company began building out its AI tooling early on with the help of 175 data scientists and has been expanding on that initial idea since. Other companies, both startups and established companies like SAP, Oracle and Microsoft have continued to build AI into their platforms as Salesforce has. Today, many SaaS companies have some underlying AI built into their service.

Baxter will join us to discuss the role of AI in software today and how that helps improve the operations of the service itself, and what the implications are of using AI in your software service as it becomes a mainstream part of the SaaS development process.

In addition to our discussion with Baxter, the conference will also include Databricks’ Ali Ghodsi, UiPath’s Daniel Dines, Puppet’s Abby Kearns, and investors Casey Aylward and Sarah Guo, among others. We hope you’ll join us. It’s going to be a stimulating day.

Buy your pass now to save up to $100, and use CrunchMatch to make expanding your empire quick, easy and efficient. We can’t wait to see you in October!

Is your company interested in sponsoring or exhibiting at TC Sessions: SaaS 2021? Contact our sponsorship sales team by filling out this form.



By Ron Miller

OwnBackup reels in $240M Series E on $3.35B valuation, up from $1.4B in January

OwnBackup, the late stage startup that helps companies in the Salesforce ecosystem back up their data, announced a $240 million Series E today at a $3.35 billion valuation. The latter is up from $1.4 billion in January when the company announced a $167.5 million Series D.

Alkeon Capital and B Capital Group co-led today’s investment, which also included BlackRock Private Equity Partners and Tiger Global along with existing investors Insight Partners, Salesforce Ventures, Sapphire Ventures and Vertex Ventures. The company has now raised close to $500 million, over $455 million coming since last July.

That’s a lot of capital, but OwnBackup CEO Sam Gutmann says that as the Salesforce ecosystem has grown, which includes not only Salesforce itself, but companies like Veeva and nCino, business has been booming, growing 100% year-over-year since 2018. That kind of growth gets investor attention and Gutmann reported a lot of inbound investor interest in this round.

What’s more, the company announced that it will now support the same type of backup for Microsoft Dynamics 365 customers, thereby greatly expanding its potential market. “We’re also announcing that we are expanding into the Microsoft ecosystem specifically around Microsoft Dynamics 365’s huge ecosystem. I think it’s the second largest B2B SaaS ecosystem beyond Salesforce. We’re just getting started there, but super excited about the opportunity,” he said.

The company also sees the opportunity to grow the business through acquisition. Over the last year, it bought two small companies, but he says that was more focussed on acquiring specific talent to develop the platform, while future acquisitions could be more focussed on expanding the business itself. He certainl

As the company takes on this kind of investment, Gutmann sees an IPO possibility at some point in the future, but for now he’s concentrating on growth. “We’re not focused on exiting. We’ve really focused on developing what is already a huge market and growing into an even bigger market, continuing to expand with a business that has great unit economics and continues to grow nicely,” he said.

The company has ballooned to 500 employees this year with plans to double that number in the next year. As he does that, Gutmann says that hiring in general is challenging, but he is always looking to find ways to diversify his workforce. “It’s really, really hard. Our hiring managers definitely focus on [diversity], but at the end of the day, we want the best employees for the job. I think we’ve made a lot of strides. We’re working with one of our largest investors Insight, who is co-sponsoring a program to train, more on the junior side, some underrepresented minorities in technical fields and bring them on as full time employees after that program,” Gutmann said.

Gutmann says his offices have remained open throughout the pandemic, but nobody was required to come in. In fact, he says that his company is one of the few that has actually added office space to make it easier to distance. The company, which is located in New Jersey, has also expanded space outdoors for working outside when the weather permits.


By Ron Miller

Salesforce steps into RPA buying Servicetrace and teaming it with Mulesoft

Over the last couple of years, Robotic Process Automation or RPA has been red hot with tons of investor activity and M&A from companies like SAP, IBM and ServiceNow. UIPath had a major IPO in April and has a market cap over $30 billion. I wondered when Salesforce would get involved and today the company dipped its toe into the RPA pool, announcing its intent to buy German RPA company Servicetrace.

Salesforce intends to make Servicetrace part of Mulesoft, the company it bought in 2018 for $6.5 billion. The companies aren’t divulging the purchase price, suggesting it’s a much smaller deal. When Servicetrace is in the fold, it should fit in well with Mulesoft’s API integration, helping to add an automation layer to Mulesoft’s tool kit.

“With the addition of Servicetrace, MuleSoft will be able to deliver a leading unified integration, API management, and RPA platform, which will further enrich the Salesforce Customer 360 — empowering organizations to deliver connected experiences from anywhere. The new RPA capabilities will enhance Salesforce’s Einstein Automate solution, enabling end-to-end workflow automation across any system for Service, Sales, Industries, and more,” Mulesoft CEO Brent Hayward wrote in a blog post announcing the deal.

While Einstein, Salesforce’s artificial intelligence layer, gives companies with more modern tooling the ability to automate certain tasks, RPA is suited to more legacy operations, and this acquisition could be another step in helping Salesforce bridge the gap between older on-prem tools and more modern cloud software.

Brent Leary, founder and principal analyst at CRM Essentials says that it brings another dimension to Salesforce’s digital transformation tools. “It didn’t take Salesforce long to move to the next acquisition after closing their biggest purchase with Slack. But automation of processes and workflows fueled by realtime data coming from a growing variety sources is becoming a key to finding success with digital transformation. And this adds a critical piece to that puzzle for Salesforce/MulseSoft,” he said.

While it feels like Salesforce is joining the market late, in an investor survey we published in May Laela Sturdy, general partner at CapitalG told us that we are just skimming the surface so far when it comes to RPA’s potential.

“We’re a long way from needing to think about the space maturing. In fact, RPA adoption is still in its early infancy when you consider its immense potential. Most companies are only now just beginning to explore the numerous use cases that exist across industries. The more enterprises dip their toes into RPA, the more use cases they envision,” Sturdy responded in the survey.

Servicetrace was founded in 2004, long before the notion of RPA even existed. Neither Crunchbase nor Pitchbook shows any money raised, but the website suggests a mature company with a rich product set. Customers include Fujitsu, Siemens, Merck and Deutsche Telekom.


By Ron Miller

Box unwraps its answer to the $3.8B e-signature market: Box Sign

Box released its new native e-signature product Box Sign on Monday, providing e-signature capability and unlimited signatures as part of Box’s business and enterprise plans at no additional cost.

The launch comes five months after the Redwood City, California-based company agreed to acquire e-signature startup SignRequest for $55 million.

Box CEO Aaron Levie told TechCrunch the company is already securing content management for 100,000 businesses, and Box Sign represents “a breakthrough product for the company” — a new category in which Box can help customers with business processes.

“We are building out a content cloud that powers the lifecycle of content so customers can retain and manage it,” Levie said. “Everyday, there are more transactions around onboarding a customer, closing a deal or an audit, but these are still done manually. We are moving that to digital and enabling the request of signatures around the content.”

Here’s how it works: Users can send documents for e-signature directly from Box to anyone, even those without a Box account. Places for signature requests and approvals can be created anywhere on the document. All of this integrates across popular apps like Salesforce and includes email reminders and deadline notifications. As with Box’s offerings, the signatures are also secure and compliant.

The global e-signature software market was estimated to be around $1.8 billion in 2020, according to Prescient & Strategic Intelligence, while IDC expects it to grow to $3.8 billion by 2023.

Levie considers the market still early as less than one-third of organizations use e-signature due to legacy tool limitations and cost barriers, revealing massive future opportunities. However, that may be changing: Box worked with banks during the pandemic that were still relying on mailing, scanning and faxing documents to help them adapt to digital processes. It also surveyed its customers last year around product capabilities, and the No. 1 “ask” was e-signature, he said.

He mentioned major players DocuSign and Adobe Sign — two products it will continue to integrate with — among the array of technology within the space. He said that Box is not trying to compete with any player, but saw a need from customers and wanted to proceed with an option for them.

The e-signature offering also follows the hiring of Diego Dugatkin in June as Box’s new chief product officer. Prior to joining, Dugatkin was vice president of product management for Adobe Document Cloud and led strategy and execution for Adobe’s suite of products, including Adobe Sign.

“Our strategy has been for many years to expand our portfolio and power more advanced use cases, as well as a vision to have one platform to manage everything,” Levie said. “Diego has two decades of tremendous domain experience, and he will make a massive dent in powering this for us.”

In addition to the e-signature product, Box also introduced its Enterprise Plus plan that includes all of the company’s major add-ons, as well as advanced e-signature capabilities that will be available later this summer, the company said.

 


By Christine Hall

Slack’s new voice, video tools should fit nicely on Salesforce platform after deal closes

It’s easy to forget, but Salesforce bought Slack at the end of last year for almost $28 billion, a deal that has yet to close. We don’t know exactly when that will happen, but Slack continues to develop its product roadmap adding new functionality, even while waiting to become part of Salesforce eventually.

Just this morning, the company made official some new tools it had been talking about for some time including a new voice tool called Slack Huddles, which is available starting today, along with video messaging and a directory service called Slack Atlas.

These tools enhance the functionality of the platform in ways that should prove useful as it becomes part of Salesforce whenever that happens. It’s not hard to envision how integrating Huddles or the video tools (or even Slack Atlas for both internal and external company organizational views) could work when integrated into the Salesforce platform.

Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield says the companies aren’t working together yet because of regulatory limits on communications, but he could definitely see how these tools could work in tandem with Salesforce Service Cloud and Sales Cloud among others and how you can start to merge the data in Salesforce with Slack’s communications capabilities.

“[There’s] this excitement around workflows from the big system of record [in Salesforce] into the communication [in Slack] and having the data show up where the conversations are happening. And I think there’s a lot of potential here for leveraging these indirectly in customer interactions, whether that’s sales, marketing, support or whatever,” he said.

He said that he could also see Salesforce taking advantage of Slack Connect, a capability introduced last year that enables companies to communicate with people outside the company. “We have all this stuff working inside of Slack Connect, and you get all the same benefits that you would get using Huddles to properly start a conversation, solve some problem or use video as a better way of communicating with [customers],” he said.

These announcements seem to fall into two main categories: the future of work and in the context of the acquisition. Bret Taylor, Salesforce president and COO certainly seemed to recognize that when discussing the deal with TechCrunch when it was announced back in December. He sees the two companies directly addressing the changing face of work:

“When we say we really want Slack to be this next generation interface for Customer 360, what we mean is we’re pulling together all these systems. How do you rally your teams around these systems in this digital work-anywhere world that we’re in right now where these teams are distributed and collaboration is more important than ever,” Taylor said.

Brent Leary, founder and principal analyst at CRM Essentials says that there is clearly a future of work angle at play as the two companies come together. “I think moves like [today’s Slack announcements] are in response to where things are trending with respect to the future of work as we all find ourselves spending an increasing amount of time in front of webcams and microphones in our home offices meeting and collaborating with others,” he said.

Huddles is an example of how the company is trying to fix that screen fatigue from too many meetings or typing our thoughts. “This kind of “audio-first” capability takes the emphasis off trying to type what we mean in the way we think will get the point across to just being able to say it without the additional effort to make it look right,” he said.

Leary added, “And not only will it allow people to just speak, but also allows us to get a better understanding of the sentiment and emotion that also comes with speaking to people and not having to guess what the intent/emotion is behind the text in a chat.”

As Karissa Bell pointed out on Engadget, Huddles also works like Discord’s chat feature in a business context, which could have great utility for Salesforce tools when it’s integrated with the Salesforce platform

While the regulatory machinations grind on, Slack continues to develop its platform and products. It will of course continue to operate as a stand-alone company, even when the mega deal finally closes, but there will certainly be plenty of cross-platform integrations.

Even if executives can’t discuss what those integrations could look like openly, there has to be a lot of excitement at Salesforce and Slack about the possibilities that these new tools bring to the table — and to the future of work in general — whenever the deal crosses the finish line.


By Ron Miller

Slack’s new video and voice tools are nod to changing face of work

Slack started talking about a new set of communications tools to enhance the text-based channels at the end of last year. Today the company released a new audio tool called Slack Huddles and gave more details on a couple of other new tools including the ability to leave a video message and an enhanced employee directory, which you can access from inside Slack. All of these appear to have been designed with the changing nature of work in mind.

Let’s start with Slack Huddles, the audio tool that lets you have a real-time conversation with someone in Slack instead of typing out all of your thoughts. This will be much easier for people who find typing challenging, but the company also believes it will allow more spontaneous discussion, which mimics being in the office, at least to some degree.

“Huddles is a light-weight, audio-first way of communicating right in Slack. [It] recreates the spontaneous and serendipitous interactions that happen outside of scheduled meetings,” Tamar Yehoshua, chief product officer at Slack explained in a press briefing yesterday.

As companies continue to introduce more flexible working models, they will have to adjust how they work. Huddles is one way of thinking about that, says Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield.

“Some things can be synchronous, but only take three minutes. Instead of [scheduling a meeting for] next Tuesdays from 11:30 to 12 and [using] the whole half hour because that’s what we scheduled, it’s two or three minutes, right now, And if the conversation fizzles out in the Huddle you leave it open, maybe someone joins later and says something, which you wouldn’t do on a call,” Butterfield said.

And recognizing that not everyone will be able to hear, the new tool includes real-time transcription.

The company has also been talking about providing some kind of video message capability since last year. The idea is almost like a video voicemail or an Instagram Story where you shoot a short video and post it in Slack. “We’ve been thinking about it and we believe that by giving people a way to expressively and asynchronously share and consume information we can enable people to be more flexible in how they work, and reduce the need for video meetings,” Yehoshua said.

The new feature will enable Slack users to play back video, voice and screen recordings natively in Slack. People can record and upload short clips into a channel or DM, “enabling others to watch and respond on their own schedule,” she explained.  While this feature isn’t ready to release yet, Yehoshua reported it is being piloted and will be available to paid teams some time in the coming months.

The last piece is based on the Rimeto acquisition, which Slack bought last year with an eye toward upping their corporate directory piece. The Rimeto product has in fact been repurposed as Slack Atlas, a corporate directory that users can access right in Slack, rather than moving to another program to find that information. It’s another way Slack can keep users in Slack to find the information that they need, while avoiding context switching. This is currently in limited customer testing, but should be available some time later this year, according to the company.

Slack first announced these tools last year, initially saying they were experimental, but quickly shifting them to the product road map. Butterfield appeared in a Clubhouse interview in March with former TechCrunch reporter Josh Constine, who is now a SignalFire investor ostensibly to talk about the future of work, but he also went into more detail about these tools for the first time.

It’s hard not to wrap this discussion into the future of work, and indeed Slack’s future as part of Salesforce, which bought the communications tool for $27 billion last year. Work is changing and Slack is looking to be a broader part of that solution, whatever the future holds.


By Ron Miller

Salesforce, AWS announce extended partnership with further two-way integration

Salesforce and AWS represent the two most successful cloud companies in their respective categories. Over the last few years the two cloud giants have had an evolving partnership. Today they announced plans for a new set of integration capabilities to make it easier to share data and build applications that cross the two platforms.

Patrick Stokes, EVP and GM for Platform at Salesforce, points out that the companies have worked together in the past to provide features like secure sharing between the two services, but they were hearing from customers that they wanted to take it further and today’s announcement is the first step towards making that happen.

“[The initial phases of the partnership] have really been massively successful. We’re learning a lot from each other and from our mutual customers about the types of things that they want to try to accomplish, both within the Salesforce portfolio of products, as well as all the Amazon products, so that the two solutions complement each other really nicely. And customers are asking us for more, and so we’re excited to enter into this next phase of our partnership,” Stokes explained.

He added, “The goal really is to unify our platforms, so bring [together] all the power of the Amazon services with all of the power of the of the Salesforce platform.” These capabilities could be the next step in accomplishing that.

This involves a couple of new features the companies are working on to help developers on both the platform and application side of the equation. For starters that includes enabling developers to virtualize Amazon data inside Salesforce without having to do all the coding to make that happen manually.

“More specifically, we’re going to virtualize Amazon data within the Salesforce platform, so whether you’re working with an S3 bucket, Amazon RDS or whatever it is we’re going to make it so that that the data is virtualized and just appears just like it’s native data on the Salesforce platform,” he said.

Similarly, developers building applications on Amazon will be able to access Salesforce data and have it appear natively in Amazon. This involves providing connectors between the two systems to make the data flow smoothly without a lot of coding to make that happen.

The companies are also announcing event sharing capabilities, which makes it easier for both Amazon and Salesforce customers to build microservices-based applications that cross both platforms.

“You can build microservices-oriented architecture that spans the services of Salesforce and Amazon platforms, again without having to write any code. To do that, [we’re developing] out of the box connectors so you can click and drag the events that you want.”

The companies are also announcing plans to make it easier from an identity and access management perspective to access the platforms with a guided setup. Finally, the companies are working on applications to build Amazon Chime communications tooling into Service Cloud and other Salesforce services to build things like virtual call centers using AWS machine learning technology.

Amazon VP of Global Marketing Rachel Thorton says that having the two cloud giants work together in this way should make it easier for developers to create solutions that span the two platforms. “I just think it unlocks such possibilities for developers, and the faster and more innovative developers can be, it just unlocks opportunities for businesses, and creates better customer experiences,” Thornton said.

It’s worth noting that Salesforce also has extensive partnerships with other cloud providers including Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform.

As is typically the case with Salesforce announcements, while all of these capabilities are being announced today, they are still in the development stage and won’t go into beta testing until later this year with GA expected sometime next year. The companies are expected to release more details about the partnership at Dreamforce and re:Invent, their respective customer conferences later this year.


By Ron Miller

DealHub raises $20M Series B for its sales platform

DealHub.io, an Austin-based platform that helps businesses manage the entire process of their sales engagements, today announced that it has raised a $20 million Series B funding round. The round was led by Israel Growth Partners, with participation from existing investor Cornerstone Venture Partners. This brings DealHub’s total funding to $24.5 million.

The company describes itself as a ‘revenue amplification’ platform (or ‘RevAmp,’ as DealHub likes to call it) that represents the next generation of existing sales and revenue operations tools. It’s meant to give businesses a more complete view of buyers and their intent, and streamline the sales processes from proposal to pricing quotes, subscription management and (electronic) signatures.

“Yesterday’s siloed sales tools no longer cut it in the new Work from Anywhere era,” said Eyal Elbahary, CEO & Co-founder of DealHub.io. “Sales has undergone the largest disruption it has ever seen. Not only have sales teams needed to adapt to more sophisticated and informed buyers, but remote selling and digital transformation have compelled them to evolve the traditional sales process into a unique human-to-human interaction.”

The platform integrates with virtually all of the standard CRM tools, including Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics and Freshworks, as well as e-signature platforms like DocuSign.

The company didn’t share any revenue data, but it notes that the new funding round follows “continued multi-year hyper-growth.” In part, the company argues, demand for its platform has been driven by sales teams that need new tools, given that they — for the most part — can’t travel to meet their (potential) customers face-to-face.

“Revenue leaders need the agility to keep pace with today’s fast and ever-changing business environment. They cannot afford to be restrained by rigid and costly to implement tools to manage their sales processes,” said Uri Erde, General Partner at Israel Growth Partners. “RevAmp provides a simple to operate, intuitive, no-code solution that makes it possible for sales organizations to continuously adapt to the modern sales ecosystem. Furthermore, it provides sales leaders the visibility and insights they need to manage and consistently accelerate revenue growth. We’re excited to back the innovation DealHub is bringing to the world of revenue operations and help fuel its growth.”


By Frederic Lardinois

Once a buzzword, digital transformation is reshaping markets

The notion of digital transformation evolved from a buzzword joke to a critical and accelerating fact during the COVID-19 pandemic. The changes wrought by a global shift to remote work and schooling are myriad, but in the business realm they have yielded a change in corporate behavior and consumer expectation — changes that showed up in a bushel of earnings reports this week.

TechCrunch may tend to have a private-company focus, but we do keep tabs on public companies in the tech world as they often provide hints, notes and other pointers on how startups may be faring. In this case, however, we’re working in reverse; startups have told us for several quarters now that their markets are picking up momentum as customers shake up their buying behavior with a distinct advantage for companies helping customers move into the digital realm. And public company results are now confirming the startups’ perspective.

The accelerating digital transformation is real, and we have the data to support the point.

What follows is a digest of notes concerning the recent earnings results from Box, Sprout Social, Yext, Snowflake and Salesforce. We’ll approach each in micro to save time, but as always there’s more digging to be done if you have time. Let’s go!

Enterprise earnings go up

Kicking off with Yext, the company beat expectations in its most recent quarter. Today its shares are up 18%. And a call with the company’s CEO Howard Lerman underscored our general thesis regarding the digital transformation’s acceleration.

In brief, Yext’s evolution from a company that plugged corporate information into external search engines to building and selling search tech itself has been resonating in the market. Why? Lerman explained that consumers more and more expect digital service in response to their questions — “who wants to call a 1-800 number,” he asked rhetorically — which is forcing companies to rethink the way they handle customer inquiries.

In turn, those companies are looking to companies like Yext that offer technology to better answer customer queries in a digital format. It’s customer-friendly, and could save companies money as call centers are expensive. A change in behavior accelerated by the pandemic is forcing companies to adapt, driving their purchase of more digital technologies like this.

It’s proof that a transformation doesn’t have to be dramatic to have pretty strong impacts on how corporations buy and sell online.


By Ron Miller

Slack wants to be more than a text-based messaging platform

Last October as Slack was preparing for its virtual Frontiers conference, the company began thinking about different ways people could communicate on the platform. While it had built its name on being able to integrate a lot of services in a single place to alleviate the dreaded task-switching phenomenon, it has been largely text-based up until now.

More recently, Slack has started developing a few new features that could bring different ways of interacting to the platform. CEO Stewart Butterfield discussed them on Thursday with former TechCrunch reporter Josh Constine, now a SignalFire investor, in a Clubhouse interview.

The talk was about the future of work, and Slack believes these new ways of communicating could help employees better connect online as we shift to a hybrid work world — one which has been hastened by the pandemic over the last year. There is a general consensus that many companies will continue to work in a hybrid fashion, even when the pandemic is over.

For starters, Slack aims to add a way to communicate by video. But instead of trying to compete with Zoom or Microsoft Teams, Slack is envisioning an experience that’s more like Instagram Stories.

Think about the CEO sharing an important announcement with the company, or the kind of information that might have gone out in a company-wide email. Instead, you can skip the inbox and deliver the message directly by video. It’s taking a page from the consumer approach to social and trying to move it into the enterprise.

Writing in a company blog post earlier this week, Slack chief product officer Tamar Yehoshua was clear this was going to be an asynchronous approach, rather than a meeting kind of experience.

“To help with this, we are piloting ways to shift meetings toward an asynchronous video experience that feels native in Slack. It allows us to express nuance and enthusiasm without a meeting,” she wrote.

While it was at it, Slack decided to create a way of just chatting by voice. As Butterfield told Constine in his Clubhouse interview, this is essentially Clubhouse (or Twitter Spaces) being built for Slack.

Yeah, I’ve always believed the ‘good artists copy, great artists steal’ thing, so we’re just building Clubhouse into Slack, essentially. Like that idea that you can drop in, the conversation’s happening whether you’re there or not, you can enter and leave when you want, as opposed to a call that starts and stops, is an amazing model for encouraging that spontaneity and that serendipity and conversations that only need to be three minutes, but the only option for you to schedule them is 30 minutes. So look out for Clubhouse built into Slack.

Again, it’s taking a consumer social idea and applying it to a business setting with the idea of finding other ways to keep you in Slack when you could be using other tools to achieve the same thing, whether it be Zoom meetings, email or your phone.

Butterfield also hinted hinted that another feature — asynchronous audio, allowing you to leave the equivalent of a voicemail — could be coming some time in the future. A Slack spokesperson confirmed that it was in the works, but wasn’t ready to share details yet.

It’s impossible to look at these features without thinking about them in the context of the $27 billion Salesforce acquisition of Slack at the end of last year. When you put them all together, you have this set of tools that let you communicate in whatever way makes the most sense to you.

When you combine that Slack Connect DM, a new feature to communicate outside the organization that was released this week to some controversy, as people wanted assurances that they could control spam and harassment, it takes the concept one step further — outside the organization itself.

As part of a larger entity like Salesforce, these tools could be useful across sales, service and even marketing as a way to communicate in a variety of ways inside and outside the organization. And they greatly expand the value prop of Slack as it becomes part of Salesforce sometime later this year.

While it began talking about the new audio and video features last fall, the company has been piloting them since the beginning of this year. So far Slack is not saying when the new features will be generally available.


By Ron Miller

Why Adam Selipsky was the logical choice to run AWS

When AWS CEO Andy Jassy announced in an email to employees yesterday that Tableau CEO Adam Selipsky was returning to run AWS, it was probably not the choice most considered. But to the industry watchers we spoke to over the last couple of days, it was a move that made absolute sense once you thought about it.

Gartner analyst Ed Anderson says that the cultural fit was probably too good for Jassy to pass up. Selipsky spent 11 years helping build the division. It was someone he knew well and had worked side by side with for over a decade. He could slide into the new role and be trusted to continue building the lucrative division.

Anderson says that even though the size and scope of AWS has changed dramatically since Selipsky left in 2016 when the company closed the year on $16 billion run rate, he says that the organization’s cultural dynamics haven’t changed all that much.

“Success in this role requires a deep understanding of the Amazon/AWS culture in addition to a vision for AWS’s future growth. Adam already knows the AWS culture from his previous time at AWS. Yes, AWS was a smaller business when he left, but the fundamental structure and strategy was in place and the culture hasn’t notably evolved since then,” Anderson told me.

Matt McIlwain, managing director at Madrona Venture Group says the experience Selipsky had after he left AWS will prove invaluable when he returns.

“Adam transformed Tableau from a desktop, licensed software company to a cloud, subscription software company that thrived. As the leader of AWS, Adam is returning to a culture he helped grow as the sales and marketing leader that brought AWS to prominence and broke through from startup customers to become the leading enterprise solution for public cloud,” he said.

Holger Mueller, an analyst with Constellation Research says that Selipsky’s business experience gave him the edge over other candidates. “His business acumen won out over [internal candidates] Matt Garmin and Peter DeSantis. Insight on how Salesforce works may be helpful and valued as well,” Mueller pointed out.

As for leaving Tableau and with it Salesforce, the company that purchased it for $15.7 billion in 2019, Brent Leary, founder and principal analyst at CRM Essentials believes that it was only a matter of time before some of these acquired company CEOs left to do other things. In fact, he’s surprised it didn’t happen sooner.

“Given Salesforce’s growing stable of top notch CEOs accumulated by way of a slew of high profile acquisitions, you really can’t expect them all to stay forever, and given Adam Selipsky’s tenure at AWS before becoming Tableau’s CEO, this move makes a whole lot of sense. Amazon brings back one of their own, and he is also a wildly successful CEO in his own right,” Leary said.

While the consensus is that Selipsky is a good choice, he is going to have awfully big shoes to fill.  The fact is that division is continuing to grow like a large company currently on a run rate of over $50 billion. With a track record like that to follow, and Jassy still close at hand, Selipsky has to simply continue letting the unit do its thing while putting his own unique stamp on it.

Any kind of change is disconcerting though, and it will be up to him to put customers and employees at ease and plow ahead into the future. Same mission. New boss.


By Ron Miller