Adam Wiggins on Heroku’s Pivot, Building a “Washing Machine” for Web Developers, and Joining Salesforce.com

5/24/11Follow @wroush

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delivered as a service. “They started out with CRM, but expanded that out through customization, and the far end of that is just programming—a full programming environment delivered as a service,” he says.

Salesforce.com has “walked down this path in a few different ways,” including building its own Web application platform, Force.com, he notes. But it may be precisely because Force.com has met with limited enthusiasm and adoption among developers that Salesforce.com was attracted to Heroku.

“They are really good with business and enterprise, but they are not necessarily as knowledgeable about how to engage developers,” Wiggins says. “Whereas we have focused 100 percent on developers from day one, and we have the opposite problem, which is that developers aren’t the ones who send you money in the end. You can see why there’s a natural partnership here.”

So far, Salesforce has allowed Heroku to operate with total autonomy. It was part of the understanding, Wiggins says, that Heroku would be allowed to finish building the next major version of its platform, which is due within a few months, before the two organizations start looking for ways to integrate and build on what Heroku has learned. “We have provided the model, but I think now we can expand it out with new types of applications, new audiences, new programming languages, new everything,” Wiggins says. “Sort of the same way Apple came out with the iPod, and they scaled that out to all sorts of endeavors, and now there is this whole Apple way of doing things. I really like that opportunity, in terms of making a big impact in the world.”

And what about Wiggins’s original dreams of being a rock-star video game developer? Actually, he’s never quite given those up—and the situation in the video game development world has now come full circle. With a friend named Miranda Collins, Wiggins developed a Tetris-like iPhone puzzle game called Tetryon; their company, Boomslang Games, sold 10,000 copies before pulling the game from the iTunes App Store. “It was just a hobby, but the fact that two people can, in their spare time, make a production-quality game that 10,000 people want to buy—that was not true five years ago,” Wiggins says.

Don’t expect to see Wiggins leave Salesforce.com to become a full-time mobile game developer anytime soon. But don’t expect him to stay forever, either. “I like a lot of freedom to execute and make choices without having to get a lot of buy-in from people,” he says. “It should be the case in a large organization [that you need buy-in], but it makes it harder to be the lone wolf. So it seems inevitable that I will want to go back. But on the other hand, I am so deeply invested in this mission—and I think we have a lot more to do.”

Wade Roush is Chief Correspondent and Editor At Large at Xconomy. You can subscribe to his Google Group or e-mail him at wroush@xconomy.com. Follow @wroush

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