News & Analysis

Salesforce is the latest corporate company to partner with Australia’s startup ecosystem

- March 10, 2015 3 MIN READ

Today CRM system company Salesforce announced that it will be joining forces with the Australian startup ecosystem, by partnering with not-for-profit body StartupAUS. In the announcement, Salesforce said it will help accelerate the growth of the startup ecosystem, as well as launch a new programme called Salesforce for Startups in Australia.

The new programme aims to give tech entrepreneurs the tools they need to successfully build and grow their ideas into successful ventures. The program will also provide startups infrastructure upon which they can begin to give back to the local community, based on the framework of the Salesforce Pledge 1 percent programme.

All these announcements and more will be made in conjunction with Salesforce World Tour Melbourne.

“The Australian startup economy is entering an exciting new era of innovation and tremendous growth,” said Robert Wickham, regional vice president, APAC Salesforce. “Salesforce is committed to helping accelerate the impact Australian startups are having on both the local economy and the global market.”

Salesforce joins a string of other corporates in recent months that have pledged support – financial or otherwise – to the StartupAUS organisation. 

“Salesforce and StartupAUS believe a home-grown tech sector is vital to Australia’s economic future. But getting there will require a national imperative to create the right environment, with a supportive culture that empowers new entrepreneurs and provides future generations with the tech skills needed to succeed,” said Peter Bradd, board member, StartupAUS, and entrepreneur-in-residence, Fusion Labs.

“Salesforce is one of the original tech startup success stories. We are excited to have a global leader in the space on board as a partner of StartupAUS to join us in championing Australia’s vibrant startup ecosystem. ”

Although in the announcement it says that this new partnership will mean that Australian startups will gain access to Salesforce technology and that the company will help connect startups with both local and global experts and executives, it fails to further explain what that means exactly.

From a technology standpoint, and having rolled out the Salesforce CRM across a company previously, I can certainly say that the system is in a league of its own and will help startups scale and grow. However, the technology is also extremely expensive. The company is offering a package of customer relationship management and app development tools (Salesforce1 Platform), usually worth $10,000 annually, to startups free for 12 months.

The Salesforce for Startups programme is designed to be the vehicle that will give tech entrepreneurs direct access to Salesforce 1 Platform (which is different to the CRM system) and resources needed to successfully build and grow their business. It will connect early-stage tech entrepreneurs to a community of Salesforce customers, partners, executives, subject-matter experts and other successful entrepreneurs. The three core elements to the program are:

  • Build: As part of the program, startups will have access to the Salesforce1 Platform, enabling them to quickly build any kind of app at scale.
  • Grow: Salesforce for Startups provides access to curated content and tools to help startups delight customers and grow, from customer service to sales.
  • Give Back: Startups are encouraged to integrate philanthropy into the fabric of their company from the very beginning.

It is worth noting that the Salesforce1 Platform allows entrepreneurs to ‘build apps faster’ through the use of its infrastructure. Such technology is valuable to startups, however it is unclear how much startups are really gaining here. Right now, from what I can see, startups can already join a free trial to use the platform, so unless they receive discounted or ongoing free services for a substantial period of time then this partnership could be seen as an acquisition strategy by Salesforce to get more startups using its systems rather than the helping hand it is being dressed up as.

In fairness, the partnership / sponsor dollars Salesforce is committing are important and will be put to good use by StartupAUS in helping the organisation achieve its mission to educate and facilitate a number of changes that will help startups at a national level. But I don’t think it’s helpful to the ecosystem to dress mutton up as lamb; we should approach these partnerships with a high degree of transparency.

There is nothing wrong with having mutually beneficial relationships, it is after all business. Let’s just be clear on how those relationships help each other out.