Salesforce Attracts Lightning Devs With Trailhead Conference, VC Fund

The CRM giant announces a $50 million venture fund and incubator at its Trailhead developer conference.

Salesforce Trailhead

Aiming to grow developer interest in the Lightning platform of tools and technologies that power its Salesforce1 Platform, Salesforce is hosting its TrailheaDX developer conference in San Francisco June 7-8. Salesforce Chairman and CEO Marc Benioff, Salesforce co-founder Parker Harris and Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak all are scheduled to present keynotes at the two-day event, which also features more than 50 hands-on developer sessions.

Trailhead is an online training program designed to make gaining expertise in Lightning and other Salesforce programs more accessible. It includes an online badge certification via testing. At the conference, Salesforce is expected to announce Trailhead Superbadges, a new level of skills-based credentials that are earned by solving real-world business challenges in a test setting. Superbadges in Lightning Experience, Apex, Reports & Dashboards and Security can be earned now, with more to follow, according to the company.

These so-called micro-credentials are designed to show potential and current employers a person’s Salesforce skills.

"I travel and talk to a lot of CIOs and IT departments, and they seldom say they don't have technology, but what I do hear them say is that they don't have the people and technology training they need, which is so critical to how you grow a company," Brian Goldfarb, senior vice president of the Salesforce App Cloud, told eWEEK. "Earning a Superbadge, which is a robust collection of credentials for your resume, you can really demonstrate to an employer the skills you've gained using Trailhead."

While Trailhead is far from the first effort to make programming easier, Goldfarb thinks the online accessibility and visual tools can be a game changer. "We're seeking to solve a fundamental problem," he said. “What if anyone could be a developer? What if we could completely rethink how people learn and there'd be a renaissance where anyone has the ability to build an app and be successful?”

Key Enhancements to Lightning

The timing of the conference also falls at a key milestone in Salesforce's history. The company has released an updated version of its cloud-based CRM platform every four months for the past 17 years, and this summer marks the 50th release.

While there are more than 200 enhancements in the latest version, Goldfarb said three are of particular importance:

-- Lightning Locker Service, which lets components run in secure containers so developers don't have to spend as much time on security features. "A lot of the hard work to help secure the app is taken care of behind the scenes with Locker, and that accelerates the dev's time to market and trust in the app," Goldfarb said.

-- Lightning Inspector, an extension of Google Chrome developer tools so developers can use the popular dev tools to debut and profile their Lightning apps for faster performance.

-- Lightning CLI, designed to make it easier to find issues with code using the command line and publish issues for others in the Lightning developer community to see.

"Lightning app builder pulls all of this together, letting developers do everything visually without code and with access to the AppExchange, where they can access hundreds of prebuilt components," Goldfarb said.

Funding the Future

A new $50 million Lightning Fund also is slated to be announced at TrailheaDX. The fund is being run by Salesforce Ventures, the company's corporate investment group that has invested in more than 150 enterprise cloud startups in 14 countries. Salesforce said it's looking to invest in "trailblazing entrepreneurs who are building transformative Lightning apps and components that extend the power of Salesforce for customers."

Bessemer Venture Partners, Cloud Apps Capital Partners, Emergence Capital and Lightspeed Venture Partners will partner with Salesforce Ventures to identify opportunities to invest jointly in these innovative startups.

The news comes just a week after Microsoft announced its first venture fund, Microsoft Ventures, for early stage startups.

Salesforce also announced a related investment in startups—the Salesforce Incubator for Enterprise Cloud Startups, an offshoot of Salesforce for Startups, a global program that helps startups with access to technology, resources and expertise. The San Francisco-based incubator is looking for early stage companies seeking to leverage Salesforce Lightning with innovative solutions to customers. The incubator is still in a formative stage and not expected to open until the end of 2016, according to the company.

David Needle

David Needle

Based in Silicon Valley, veteran technology reporter David Needle covers mobile, bi g data, and social media among other topics. He was formerly News Editor at Infoworld, Editor of Computer Currents...