Enterprise software giant Salesforce has been on a buying spree, and in recent years, it has welcomed almost a dozen dashing founders and CEOs into its corporate sanctuary in San Francisco.
Initially focused on customer relationship management (CRM) for sales teams, Salesforce has diversified its suite of tools through its aggressive merger-and-acquisition strategy. Now, it has rebranded itself as a “CRM, cloud, and social enterprise” company, and it counts tech behemoths like Microsoft, SAP and Oracle among its competitors. With the exception of Kieden, which Salesforce picked up in 2006, all these startups were acquired in the past two years. VentureBeat interviewed the former CEOs of the following companies:
It must be disconcerting to move from a tiny startup office with flexible work hours and Ping-Pong table to a giant corporation with bureaucracy, chains of command, and thousands of employees. So the founders of Buddy Media and Rypple, among others, offered advice on maintaining startup culture post-acquisition.
Some of my favorite nuggets of wisdom? David Stein, the cofounder of Rypple (now a vice president at Salesforce) told me they maintained the fun by setting up a video game room and organized a daily push-up club (photographic evidence above). Alex Bard, the founder of Assistly (and now CEO of Salesforce’s Desk.com), said that they are maintaining their “quirky mojo” by working on a “break down the cubes” project to turn the office into a company-wide collaborative space without walls.
But it’s not all fun and games at Salesforce! The “broforce” executives have some serious advice on how to shift product focus, negotiate terms, and lay the groundwork with your parent company’s senior executives. Enjoy!
Mike Lazerow, Buddy Media
“From inception, we set out to start a company with a soul and voice of its own.
I’ve always said this: Use your head, but lead with your heart. If you bring the right people in, you are far more likely to see success. Realize that this is just a business –- take some time to laugh during the day, to turn the office into a place people enjoy coming to.” -- Mike Lazerow, CEO and Chairman, Buddy Media
Alex Bard, Desk
As a startup, we took pride in reinventing our industry and changing the rules. When we were acquired, we knew there would be some challenges to maintain our small company feel. We sat down as a group and discussed ways we could make the new space feel like “home.” Small investments, like buying outdoor games for the deck (horseshoes, croquet, etc), bringing in roving whiteboards, and removing the fluorescent lights made a huge difference to the team and have helped us keep our startup vibe. -- Alex Bard, CEO, Assistly (now CEO, Salesforce Desk)
Byron Sebastian, Heroku
"When considering acquisition, clearly define your team’s mission and values and seek likeminded senior leaders on both sides. Set everyone's expectations up front and discuss how things will change and what will remain the same – stay true to this. It will pay dividends for months and years to come." -- Byron Sebastian, CEO, Heroku (now SVP & GM, Salesforce)
David Stein, Rypple
For fun, we set up a video game room and we have a daily push up club in the middle of the office each day. On the product side, aligning it to meet Salesforce's rigorous security and stability requirements meant we had to spend some time hardening the core infrastructure of the product. In the long-term, it has resulted in a product that is secure and stable enough to support large enterprises.” -- David Stein, co-CEO, Rypple (now VP, Salesforce)
Sean Whiteley, Kieden
"When Salesforce acquired Kieden in 2006, Parker Harris (Salesforce's co-founder) asked me to deliver a presentation to the R&D management team called, "Don't Kill my Startup". He told me the focus should be on how to move quickly, maintain engineering velocity, and how to create a constant feedback conversation with your customers." -- Sean Whiteley, founder of Kieden (now SVP and GM, Do.com)
Source: © 2008 Eric Millette, All rights reserved www.ericmillette.com 415-750-9999 USA
Marcel Lebrun, Radian6
"Following an acquisition, it is important to maintain some of the values and culture of your organization, but also look at what the parent company does well and what you do well. Figure out where to merge or get in line with the parent company and what you should advocate as your strength." -- Marcel Lebrun, CEO, Radian6 (now SVP and GM, Radian6)
Amit Kulkarni, Manymoon
"You're not just selling your company, you're doubling-down on your vision.” -- Amit Kulkarni, CEO, Manymoon (Now, VP of Marketing, Do.com)
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