Retail

Salesforce To Throw $100M At Developing Startups

Salesforce is getting serious about helping startups that can help it — and is putting $100 million worth of money where its mouth is.

Salesforce Ventures — the investment arm of the business — has launched a Salesforce Platform Fund to support early-stage companies. The goal of the new investment is “building an ecosystem of partners around us,” according to John Somorjai, executive vice president of corporate development and Salesforce Ventures.

Corporate venture capital has been an increasingly popular trend over the last several years — particularly among larger, established and older firms hoping to stay on the cutting edge of technological progress.

Boeing Co., Kellogg Co. and Campbell Soup Co. are among the firms that have pushed into venture this year.

Past Salesforce investments include Web-storage company Box Inc., document-sharing startup DocuSign Inc. and communications software maker Twilio Inc. — all of which have a space on Salesforce's platform.  All in all, the firm has invested in over 200 startups since 2009, with nearly 50 of those being acquired and eight holding initial public offerings.

Salesforce is not looking for a brand new set-up, instead focusing on firms that come to the table with clients of their own, Mr. Somorjai said. The company’s investments have ranged between $250,000 and $10 million. Salesforce takes ownership stakes under 10 percent and doesn’t seek board seats.

As for its financial returns — that is something of a mystery box, since Salesforce doesn't release them. A regulatory filing on its assets indicates it holds investments worth around $758.3 million — including $232.3 million in unrealized gains.

Salesforce’s previous three funds have all focused on mobile technology, European startups and businesses focused on the company’s software-development platform.

According to Mr. Somorjai, the company will be spending the $100 million earmarked for the new fund within two years.

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