SM: You announced this million dollar challenge for SaaS startups developing on Salesforce.com’s Force.com platform. What are you seeing in response to that?
BJ: We have a great relationship with Salesforce.com, and as you know their big initiative now is their Force.com platform – the ability for a developer to use the SalesForce infrastructure to write and deploy an application without reinventing that data center and development tool infrastructure that SalesForce has already developed and scaled.
This is a new way to build a company. It is riding on someone else’s platform and relying on them to deliver it over the web to customers. We think it is very exciting and it is a bit uncharted territory but it very much fits into our focus area of technology enabled services because most of these applications are service applications because they are hosted at SalesForce.com.
We are now taking registrations for the million dollar challenge where we will evaluate the contestants and award a $1M investment to the best Force.com application which will be announced at DreamForce next November. This was announced in mid-January, and we have approximately 50 applicants to far who have registered. We are busy sorting through those, and we are getting more each day.
SM: Does that force companies that build on the Force.com platform to an exit into SalesForce.com?
BJ: I don’t think we know the answer to that yet.
SM: I can’t see Oracle buying something built on the SalesForce.com platform.
BJ: As the platform evolves, we will see if it is a truly open platform that a competitor to SalesForce would feel comfortable buying. There are clearly some different camps on what the right platforms ought to be, but we regularly see companies being bought that are built on the .NET platform and there is a fundamental reliance on Microsoft in that case. Microsoft has to provide support to application developers who are developing on the .Net platform. If they withheld support, no one would use the platform.
SalesForce will face that same exact issue – either they will have an open platform and reinforce the confidence of developers to work on it, or if they withhold support from competitive companies then their platform won’t succeed to the same extent.
SM: This has been a very good discussion. Thanks for taking the time.
BJ: It has been a pleasure.