Salesforce to target 20-30 cloud partners with new $50 million Salesforce Ventures fund

A pair of announcements creates both a new fund to stimulate Salesforce cloud consultant partners, and a new programmatic initiative to work with this group and provide further assistance like MDF funding.

Neeracha Taychakhoonavudh, Salesforce’s Senior Vice President, Partner and Industry Innovation

Salesforce has launched two related initiatives designed to strengthen their channel of integrators and consultants. First, a new $50 million fund from their Salesforce Ventures investment group – The SI [system integrator] Trailblazer Fund – has been established to accelerate their growth. Secondly, Salesforce has also launched a new SI Trailblazer Alliance Initiative, which provides additional programmatic support for these SI and consultant partners.

“Salesforce Ventures started in 2009, has become more active as we saw the Salesforce ecosystem growing, and the funding process was formalized in 2014,” said Matt Garratt, Vice President, Salesforce Ventures and Corporate Development. “It is 100 per cent focused on strategic investments, on building up that ecosystem of partners, The SI Trailblazer Fund is an extension of that, which supports the recent doubling down on our Platform initiative.” That $100 million Platform Fund was launched only a month ago, and itself followed up on the $50 million Lightning Fund from last June, which quickly spent its allotted funds.

“We have invested in consulting firms before, but we think that this one will really pick up the pace,” said Neeracha Taychakhoonavudh, Salesforce’s Senior Vice President, Partner and Industry Innovation. “We are growing at 27 per cent year over year, and on track to hit $10 billion in revenues. Salesforce’s pace of growth has not let up. We anticipate that customer demand only increasing. We believe we will need 10x the number of skilled investments in our sales forces, so with this we are getting ahead of that to fund partners.”

Taychakhoonavudh also stressed the importance of the complementary SI Trailblazer Alliance Initiative, which is targeted at SI Trailblazer portfolio companies.

“This is about more than just the Fund – although the Fund is an amazing tool,” she said. “The program that goes along with it provides concierge resources that will help with marketing and sales. It provides go-to-market assistance, including some MDF funding.

The SI Trailblazer Alliance Initiative also provides mentoring assistance from tenured partners.

“The mentoring is an important element of the consulting assistance to better deliver implementations,”  Taychakhoonavudh said.

The Initiative is also designed to bring new consulting partners into the Salesforce Partner Program and ramp up quickly, by providing guided interactive training through Salesforce’s Trailhead online learning platform, priority access to boot camps and workshops, and a Partner Onboarding Specialist.

Three partners receiving support from the SI Trailblazer Fund were announced at the launch: 7Summits, a Milwaukee-based online community consulting partner focused on the social community space and the Salesforce Community Cloud; Arxxus, an Australian professional services provider; and Overland Park KS-based ATG, which provides quote-to-cash advisory and implementation services.

Matt Garratt, Vice President, Salesforce Ventures and Corporate Development

“The size and development stage of the companies receiving support through the fund will vary,” Garratt said. “As we launch new products, which will not have as many consulting partners around them, we might go a little earlier with some of those.”  By the same token, partners in underrepresented geos are also more likely to be selected.

“We will be looking to the Fund to recruit new partners around specific product areas, so while ideally all would already be Salesforce partners, that may not be the case,” Taychakhoonavudh added.

Garratt also explained how the partner funding through the Trailblazer fund will work.

“When we invest in ISVs, we are typically a minority investor, and we focus on strategic alignment,” he said. “While we care about financial returns, we are more focused on strategic benefits. Here, on the SI side with this program, we are often the only investor, but we are still focused on the strategic alignment. The SIs also don’t require the same amount of capital as ISVs, so the infusion of capital we provide gives them significant benefits, like being able to expand into new clouds, and hire new people.”

Because support of these companies is not capital-intensive, Garratt also said that Salesforce expects to be able to support a significant number of partners with the available capital beyond the three receiving funding now.

“I think the focus will be on between 20 and 30 partners over the next few years,” he said.