Chicago-based investment firm Aktion Partners led an investment round in CloudCraze, a B2B e-commerce cloud-based provider that built out its offering on the Salesforce.com platform.
How much was raised, you ask?
Good question. We don't know.
Aktion Partners is declining to give the amount because, it says, it doesn’t want to tip its hand to the company's competitors. "
There are competitors anxious about the notion that e-commerce vendors built on the Salesforce.com platform could be a viable platform for B2B e-commerce," Aktion partner and co-founder Chris Dalton told CMSWire.
He described the amount as "significant" and "sizeable."
While a particularly cynically-minded observer might conclude withholding the amount of the fundraise was part marketing and perhaps part an unwillingness to reveal an extremely small round, there is something to Dalton's comments.
A Rare Breed
For starters, B2B e-commerce is a relatively new phenomenon — certainly it is immature relative to B2C and direct sales tech platforms.
They get even more rare if you limit them to cloud-based platforms.
And as for a platform built on the Salesforce.com platform — meaning the company doesn’t even own the infrastructure — well, until a few years ago you could just about forget it.
It has only been in the last two to three years that the VC community viewed any start-up built on Salesforce.com's infrastructure as a good thing, Andrew Witherspoon, EVP at CloudCraze told CMSWire.
To be fair, until the last 18 months or so the related partner ecosystem was not as robust as it is today, he said.
"Now it is considered an obvious place to invest because of the efficiencies it delivers," he said.
Indeed, Witherspoon said that compared to his previous experience at Comergent Technologies, which has since been acquired by IBM, "in terms of the capital necessary to acquire and develop clients, CloudCraze is ten times more efficient."
That all said, it is still relatively rare to come across a Salesforce.com-supported B2B e-commerce provider, at least once with CloudCraze's robust feature set.
An Open Field
As awareness of this space grows among these companies, it is an open field for CloudCraze. Perhaps Aktion Partners' reluctance to disclose the funding amount is not so misplaced.
To give one example, CloudCraze recently added social media features to its platform.
To be sure, many B2B companies disdain social media as unnecessary and even Witherspoon admitted that his client base needed some convincing.
One company, however, is building up its community of users with the social feature, embedding purchasing capabilities within the various forums.
CloudCraze also recently got a nod from Forrester Research in its Q2 2015 Wave Evaluation of B2B Commerce Suites, named one of the sector's "Strong Performers."
In their blog about the report, co-authors Peter Sheldon and Andy Hoar called CloudCraze "a Salesforce on e-commerce steroids."
Magento, an eBay Enterprise, and NetSuite were CloudCraze's competitors in this category. Notably, neither is built on the Salesforce.com platform.
Someone Else's Cloud
As far as Aktion Partners is concerned that is a huge plus — for CloudCraze. "We are very excited about the concept that customer can have a turnkey-based e-commerce solution focused on and tightly integrated with CRM technology," Dalton said.
As far as CloudCraze's Witherspoon is concerned, Dalton is right. "That is one of the big disconnects with B2B e-commerce: the technology is still siloed among the ERP system, the e-commerce platform and the CRM data."
"Our idea from the beginning has been, lets make the e-commerce piece a non-issue, just slide it into the CRM database. Then the transaction is simple an output of the customer relationship."
All done on the cloud. On someone else's cloud.