Salesforce.com announced on April 21 that it had entered into an agreement to acquire Jigsaw, a company that uses crowdsourcing to build and maintain an online database of business contacts. The deal is expected to close in the second quarter of fiscal year 2011, with Salesforce.com reportedly paying around $142 million.
Salesforce.com said it intends to combine its cloud-based CRM applications and platform with Jigsaw's own cloud model for data acquisition and structuring, giving Salesforce.com an entry into the $3 billion market for cloud-based business-to-business data services. At the same time, the acquisition will open up new opportunities for Salesforce.com's third-party developers, who theoretically will be able to build applications that use Jigsaw's business-contact data, and will allow for partnerships between Salesforce.com and data-trafficking companies such as LexisNexis.
"With Jigsaw, we'll make it as easy as Wikipedia to source data, as easy as iTunes to buy data and as easy as Facebook to stay updated as the data changes," Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce.com, said in an April 21 statement.
Jigsaw relies on its members submitting information such as title, company and e-mail address; in turn, companies and professionals can purchase that contact data through Jigsaw. The Website also offers its members "points" in exchange for keeping contact data up-to-date.
Over the past few weeks, Salesforce.com has been aggressively updating its offerings. On April 8, the company announced a new round of private beta testing for Salesforce Chatter, an enterprise social collaboration platform. Available sometime in 2010 and included in all paid editions of Salesforce CRM and Force.com, Salesforce Chatter looks and operates very much like Facebook, with employees being able to leave messages for each other and notices about cases and service-level agreements.
During Chatter's unveiling in New York, Benioff suggested that cloud-based enterprise applications would do well to take a philosophical page from more consumer-oriented startups such as Facebook, and imbue their offerings with a certain degree of easy-to-use consumer functionality. Facebook, along with YouTube and similar offerings, constituted in Benioff's view the forefront of what he termed, "Cloud 2," the next paradigm in cloud-based computing.
"I know more about strangers on Facebook than I do about my own employees," Benioff joked to an audience of media, analysts and assorted corporate guests. "But that shows there are exciting new models we can learn from."
Part of the appeal of Facebook and its ilk, Benioff continued, is their ability to embrace the "new mobile Internet revolution," combining social networking and real-time collaboration functionality with smartphone mobility.
Also on April 8, Salesforce.com launched AppExchange 2, the next generation of its online enterprise-application storefront, which will feature a "ChatterExchange" with Chatter-enabled social enterprise applications built by third-party developers.