Salesforce Heads North
In June 2019 Salesforce announced that it would be purchasing Tableau in a deal worth over $15.7 billion. This deal will allow San Francisco based Salesforce to expand its presence in Seattle creating a second headquarters in Seattle, home of Tableau, like what Seattle-based Amazon did with its HQ2 competition last year. I was in the Seattle area on vacation as the news broke and was able to read local newspapers on this deal from the local perspective which went beyond the financial terms of the agreement.
This deal represents the second largest acquisition in the history of the state of Washington and shows the power of the technology sector in the Pacific Northwest and willingness of companies to expand beyond Silicon Valley (Romano, Seattle Times). With a presence of 1,000 employees already in Seattle, Salesforce is familiar with the business climate in Washington. Moving forward this acquisition is not an outlier and additional companies in the cloud computing space will look to expand their operations and establish additional offices beyond their initial headquarters.
This trend poses the opportunity for companies to benefit from the strengths of different metropolitan areas while also increasing the expectations the residents of these cities have of these companies to become stewards of the community and provide jobs to locals. This deal will change the entire landscape and power dynamics in the CRM and Business Intelligence world. This deal seems to represent a move by Salesforce to invest in research and development through the purchase of Tableau which may signal slowing internal innovation (Moorehead, Forbes). This deal comes after Salesforce paid $300 million to integrate the companies non-profit arm, Salesforce.org, into the companies for-profit side (Salesforce Press Release). This deal will have a substantial impact to the overall company and could create anywhere from $150 to $200 million this Fiscal Year depending on when the deal closes. These strategic changes show how Salesforce is moving beyond CRM and taking the potentially risky decision of incorporating its non-profit wing into its for-profit business. Although Salesforce has been on the leading edge of philanthropic causes with rising housing prices and inequality in the San Francisco Bay area and Seattle areas Salesforce will be held accountable and pushed to create more equitable growth as their operations expand.
Seattle is a city that has long struggled with homelessness and affordable housing. While the city is the thirteenth largest city it has the third largest homeless population. Driving through Seattle and talking with locals on my recent trip to the city I heard and saw homeless camps and the stories of how homelessness and affordability is an issue impacting suburbs across the Seattle area with camps in view of I-5.
While Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff has led his company to be a leader of philanthropic efforts and combating homelessness, he is entering a new arena in Seattle (Romano, Seattle Times). Long a leader in giving back Salesforce pledges 1% of profits, products, and employee time to philanthropic efforts. Marc and Lynne Benioff have signed the Giving Pledge and are leading advocates in the San Francisco area working to combat homelessness. Lynne Benioff cofounded a program in 2011 to provide shelters for families around San Francisco. Tableau also has taken on a philanthropic approach as well and pledged $100 million in grants and technology to global health and equality organizations (Romano, Seattle Times).
This merger has just occurred, but challenges persist moving forward. Benioff says that Tableau will operate independent of Salesforce and affirmed that this is a merger of two equals. This is rarely the case in mergers as power dynamics and even the slightest of differences can cause division between leaders in the merged companies. Time will tell how this deal will be remembered but one thing is certain which is that this will not be the last big software deal of the year.
Image from: Romano, Benjamin. “Why Salesforce is shelling out $15.7 billion in stock for Seattle’s Tableau, in one of the NW’s largest acquisitions?” Seattle Times. https://www.seattletimes.com/business/technology/salesforce-buying-seattle-based-tableau-for-15-7-billion-in-stock-one-of-the-northwests-largest-acquisitions/.
Moorehead, Patrick. “Salesforce.com’s Tableau Acquisition: Admitting Organic Innovation Failure?” Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/patrickmoorhead/2019/06/18/salesforces-tableau-acquisition-admitting-organic-innovation-failure/.
Salesforce Press Releases. “Salesforce and Salesforce.org Combine to Drive Greater Philanthropic Impact and Success for Social Good Organizations.” https://investor.salesforce.com/press-releases/press-release-details/2019/Salesforce-and-Salesforceorg-Combine-to-Drive-Greater-Philanthropic-Impact-and-Success-for-Social-Good-Organizations/default.aspx.