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May’s Big Finish (And Why Salesforce Likes Calendars)

Calendars are very hot this year.

It is one of those statements that initially comes as a surprise on a platform that talks all about payments and commerce.

But the calendars of the 2010s are no longer delivery mechanisms for photos of shirtless firemen or adorable kittens that they were in years past. Instead there are technologists reimagining calendars as virtual personal assistants powered by AI. These smart calendars can not only tell us when we have to be someplace (and where we have to go) – but also offer directions, a weather report so we can dress appropriately and a list of possible lunch destinations we might like to patronize after our appointment is over.

And while the race to build the best virtual assistant has recently edged into the spotlight – the team over at Tempo has thought calendars were cool since launching their take on the digital calendar with a specific focus on business users in 2013.

“We started Tempo to build an assistant for the mobile business professional,” CEO Raj Singh noted. “For most business people, the calendar on their phone and mobile device is in some way their guiding star. Tempo was essentially designed to be a calendar smart enough to keep up with business – we built our app using proprietary artificial intelligence so that we could do better than just list events – we can also provide context to them.”

That context includes some features that are duplicated across various “smart calendars” – like tying in to navigation or weather apps – while others are unique to Tempo’s platform. For example, the calendar will learn to pull important materials for upcoming meetings (documents, power points, previous emails), find social media postings relevant to the scheduled event and even make suggestions for additional participants.

“The goal is mobile productivity so that our users aren’t spending basically wasted time searching for content,” Singh noted. “And this is how we have saved our users millions of minutes and why we are looking to save hundreds of millions more.”

And it seems the Tempo team will have a crack at its wider audience – now that it has been acquired by Salesforce. And while the news of the acquisition itself did not come as a shock – some had expected Tempo to be snatched up by Microsoft or Google – the news that CRM firm Salesforce was the lucky winner to go home with Tempo was a little surprising when it was announced on Tempo’s blog last week.

“Today, we’re excited to announce that Salesforce has acquired Tempo. Joining the Salesforce family will give us the opportunity to continue our mission at a much larger scale,” the post noted.  Unfortunately, this means the Tempo app will be discontinued on June 30, 2015, and we are no longer accepting new users. Although we are sad to be closing this chapter, we are thrilled to join the world’s #1 CRM platform!”

PYMNTS was unable to reach Salesforce for a comment on their newest acquisition – though it comes at an interesting time for the much discussed mobile platform for retailers. Recent news reports indicated that the cloud computing firm was on the verge of being acquired via a purchase by Microsoft. That deal flopped, reportedly because the two firms could not come to terms on price. Salesforce was reportedly looking to sell out at around $70 billion – Microsoft was apparently only offering about $55 billion.

Neither Tempo or Salesforce are disclosing what the price tag on the acquisition is – nor is it entirely certain what Salesforce will do with its newest acquisition. Some think that since Tempo’s original design was created with retailers in mind, the AI enhanced calendar platform is a natural fit for Salesforce’s client pool. Others think that Salesforce pulled an acqui-hire.

Whatever Salesforce’s specific intentions for its new acquisition, it comes as the company is trying to develop its picture of what’s next. The firm has been expanding remarkably over the last few years — and seen its revenues increase upwards of 30 percent for the last four years. And while that is an undeniably strong performance, the other side of the coin is that Salesforce has not been a profitable since 2011 – and even Amazon has had a hard time selling the “it’s not about profit, it’s about growth” line in the last 12 months (well, in their case it’s been like 20 years).

For now at least, Salesforce seems committed to staying independent and beefing up its offering to retailers, and their latest acquisition is yet another step in strengthening that offering.

Whether that will include payments and commerce, only time will tell.

PYMNTS Innovation Investment Tracker
The Big Takeaways for Payments and Commerce in the fourth week of May.

The closing days of May saw an uptick investment activity, with around $5.2 billion in funds spread across a variety of investment types. That figure is based on 83 out of 96 deals reporting dollar amounts.

The biggest play of the week was Blue Coat Systems acquisition by Bain Capital Ventures for $2.4 billion. Retail payments grabbed 67 percent of the final week of May’s investment activity – or ~$3.5 billion. Commercial payments’ biggest investment move came care of Tenaya Capital’s Seventh Funding Round for $450 million followed by NXT Capital’s CLO Financing, which reached $408 million.

Most of the venture and strategic backed investments in retail payments were in the Security/Fraud and Payment FinTech. From a geographic perspective, the U.S. was the most active region, followed by the Middle East. The median investment amount was $7.15 million.


New PYMNTS Report: The CFO’s Guide To Digitizing B2B Payments – August 2020 

The CFO’s Guide To Digitizing B2B Payments, a PYMNTS and Comdata collaboration, examines how companies are updating their AP approaches to protect their cash flows, support their vendors and enable their financial departments to operate remotely.

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