The force is strong as rumours gather pace


It doesn’t take much to set tongues wagging in the tech world, but last week’s sudden surge in Salesforce share prices, up 12{20156fe61baea400d2663eb990f17abdabeb6ef183a2129287a793abd8ac1d8a} in a day, set the rumour mill alight.

In what would be the largest ever technology deal, speculation that the cloud giant is potentially open for offers shook the tech world, with the financial and IT press buzzing at the prospect.

At $50 billion, buying the SaaS CRM leaders won’t come cheap, which meant the longlist for potential suitors was anything but – no surprises to see the likes of Oracle, IBM, Microsoft and SAP on there as the main contenders, although the top bods at some of the giants were quick to distance themselves from the rumours.

The news caps a remarkable rise for Marc Benioff’s company, which has dramatically scaled the heights since its foundation in 1999 to become one the most influential businesses in the world. The epitome of the modern tech success story, many would argue that Benioff and his cloud evangelists have been the single biggest driver of taking business technology into the cloud and making it social and mobile.

Innovative, revolutionary and often outspoken, Benioff and Salesforce have pulled no punches as they stormed to the top of the CRM world. From the early days of criticising traditional tech solutions and beating the drum to take businesses into the cloud, to seemingly delighting in aiming some hefty blows at Larry Ellison and Oracle whenever possible, Benioff has been rarely out of the headlines for the past 15 years. Benioff, a former Oracle exec himself, has overseen such disruption in the market, that Forbes has named Salesforce as the most innovative company in the world on four occasions – an unprecedented feat.

Funny then, that Oracle appear to be the front runners for any potential deal, after so many public spats between two old sparring partners. Not really – in amongst all the headlines, Ellison himself was an early investor in Saleforce and the two companies have signed major strategic alliances in the past few years. More than that, despite all Salesforce and others’ criticism, there is no tech company in the world that has a larger global customer base.

What makes any deal particularly attractive of course, is not simply the platform and the customers. The ecosystems that Salesforce has developed through its platform, now a breeding ground for innovation with millions of business apps, and the many businesses who have built companies off the back of Salesforce’s technology, mean that any acquisition will lead to much more than just buying Salesforce itself, but a global network of businesses that reach into just about every industry you can imagine.

What does it mean for these businesses, thriving as “Salesforce natives”, including some of the fantastically successful clients here at Whiteoaks?

Uncertainty? Perhaps. But more than that, even greater opportunity.

The dramatic valuation for the company and its global reach suggests that were Oracle to acquire they would almost certainly retain the brand. And, with Ellison no longer driving Oracle, many have remarked that the business needs new leadership – Benioff anyone?

The result, almost certainly a dramatically increased opportunity for the Salesforce platform and all those who build off it, led by a man who knows the SaaS space better than anyone. Exciting times ahead.

A $50 billion takeover and potential power shift at an even greater tech player – an impressive feat from those early developer days in sunny San Fran. Especially when you consider, we’re talking about a company that has never posted a profit…