Dreamforce 2014: When Keith Block Officially Became Salesforce.com's $20B Man
Oh what a difference a few months makes. Or not. Way back in April, light years ago as tech horse races go, Keith Block made the bold claim that Salesforce would overtake SAP as leader of the Enterprise software world. Many scoffed. A few believed. In a Monday Dreamforce keynote Block once again threw down the gauntlet. He set the goal at $20B to make that a reality.
Lunatic ramblings of a man possessed? Or a measured prediction from perhaps the most accomplished practitioner of enterprise software warfare to ever come down the pipe? We think the latter. Here’s why.
It takes a village. Not to borrow too heavily from one of this year’s keynote speakers, but Ms. Clinton likely has it right. Any massive undertaking takes a village. And Block has a huge and growing village in his AppExchange partners doing some compelling things in new spaces. At the keynote several CEO’s including Docusign’s Keith Krach and Human Capital Management provider Lumesse’s Thomas Volk shared applications that move Salesforce into new niches and markets. Block’s village is diverse and powerful with growth numbers shared in the keynotes---over 40% growth, a tripling in the number of Salesforce users who are augmenting the core platform with five or more partner applications---showing that it is gaining momentum. One might call it escape velocity.
Gravity is not your friend unless you’re going up. Think about this. Every do-it-yourselfer knows the perils of gravity. You can safely go up the ladder quicker than you can come down. Gravity tends to overtake control if you come down too fast. SAP has to come down market to defend and the risk is in trying to move too quickly and getting out of control. Salesforce gets to move up to attack in a space that Block knows well. And they have the advantage of that escape velocity they seem to be reaching with partners. Gravity is their friend.
Plenty of room for growth. Even in the market that Salesforce dominates, CRM, less than half of companies currently run in the cloud. Salesforce1 is unquestionably the absolute best platform to get the others there and frankly we don’t see a lot getting in their way. It represents another billion or more dollars on their way to their ultimate goal, a healthy little kicker.
He has the full support of the man he will likely replace. Gossip fences are a southern tradition. It’s that fence between houses where neighbors gather to yack. The gossip fences surrounding Salesforce are busy places these days. Lots of yacking. The roster of political players speaking at this year’s Dreamforce, election season on the horizon, and Benioff’s penchant for doing really big (and good) things away from the office have me thinking that the mantle might slowly be shifting to Block.And why not? The happiest man in the Bay Area when Block came on the market was Benioff. And why shouldn’t Marc look beyond Salesforce to applying his considerable force-of-will, vision and feel for a better future to changing the world we live in? Whether he does it as a philanthropist or public servant doesn’t really matter. What matters is that he gets into a position to really do it full time. There is zero risk to his legacy. Salesforce will always be Benioff’s company whether he sits at the top or on the outside. It is his company in perpetuity. Salesforce IS Marc Benioff.
So we don’t think that a $20B target is lunacy. Just the opposite. With the market's appetite for Marketing Technology coupled with the way the world is going, Salesforce’s momentum in the cloud is the engine. The partner ecosystem and its rapid expansion is the rocket fuel. Benioff and Block seem to be on the same page, and with Keith’s practiced enterprise hand on the operational controls, that number may actually get here sooner than we think.
One thing is certain. Although there will be a lot of bombast and bluster that surfaces, you don’t want to bet against a formula that includes market leadership, momentum and moxie.
Salesforce has all three.