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Salesforce Makes Another Bet on E-Commerce

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Tom Murphy avatar

Hoping to extend its presence in e-commerce, Salesforce has invested millions of dollars in SteelBrick — the cloud software giant's second bet on the fast-growing Configure Price Quote (CPQ) market this week.

SteelBrick said today San Francisco-based Salesforce joined its $18 million Series B funding round, which was led by Shasta VenturesEmergence Capital and company managers also participated in the round.

SteelBrick CEO Godard Abel told CMSWire the investment shows that Salesforce is moving beyond its traditional customer relationship management (CRM) functions.

The Next Step

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"Salesforce has done a great job in the sales cloud in doing the firstphase of sales automation in the cloud, and CPQ is a natural next step," hesaid in an interview.

San Mateo, Calif.-based SteelBrick didn't disclose the amounts invested byeach funder, but  Abel confirmed Salesforce made a "verysignificant" investment in the millions of dollars.

A request for commentfrom Salesforce Ventures went unanswered. But in a statement, Ron Huddleston, senior vice president for parter programs at Salesforce Ventures, said "we think they have a very bright future ahead in the quickly growing CPQ space."

CPQ, also known as quote-to-cash, embraces a range of B2B sales activitiessuch as purchase specifications, bidding, pricing and contracting. It's a fieldtraditionally dominated by big vendors like SAPand Oracle, which have astronger footprint in enterprise financial systems than Salesforce.

Learning Opportunities

Competitive Space

On Monday, Salesforceled a $41 million investment round in Apttus, which makes similar tools forthe Salesforce1 platform. Apttus CMO Kamal Ahluwalia said the investmentrepresented a salvo in a platform war between Salesforce and rivalservices from SAP and Oracle.  

Abel agreed there was intense competition between the bigger companies. "Oracle bought my last company, BigMachines, which has similar functionality," he said. "SAP has an InternetPricing Configurator and we competed with that in the Big Machinesspace."

He said, however, that once customers decide that sales and marketing isgoing to be on the Salesforce platform, "we are no longer competing withSAP and Oracle."

Target Markets

Abel said Apttus and SteelBrick are the only two CPQ vendors that have buildnatively on the Salesforce1 platform and added that the companies appeal to different segments of the B2B market.

"Apttus is focused on large enterprise solutions," he said. "SteelBrickCPQ is a much better fit for the hundreds of thousands of mid-market and smallercompanies that represent Salesforce's traditional core market."

Drawing an analogy to the enterprise file sync and share market, he saidApttus is more like Box, which historically focused on businesses,while SteelBrick is morelike Dropbox, which grew with a consumer focus.

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