Salesforce.com Snaps Up Assistly in Race to Dominate Customer Service Technology

9/21/11Follow @wroush

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Assistly’s tools for monitoring conversations on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media channels will be integrated, if at all, with these existing CRM tools. Research firm Gartner has called Salesforce.com one of the leaders in social CRM, but has also criticized the firm for failing to combine all of the technologies it has acquired into a coherent offering. “The exuberance in buying companies isn’t being matched by a road map and vision for Social CRM as a suite of functionality,” Gartner analysts wrote in their 2011 “Magic Quadrant for Social CRM” report.

Salesforce said during an investor conference call this afternoon that it plans to retain “essentially all” of Assistly’s employees.

Assistly CEO Bard and co-founders Gary Benitt (who is chief operating officer), Brad Birnbaum (chief technology officer), and Jeremy Suriel (chief architect) have made something of a specialty of building software startups—including two customer-support startups—and flipping them to larger acquirers. The foursome founded eShare Technology in 1996 and sold it to Melita in 1999. They started eAssist Global Solutions in 1999 and sold it to Talisma in 2004. They founded Flash-widgets startup Goowy Media in 2004 and sold it to AOL in 2008. But Assistly marks their quickest exit yet—just 24 months from founding to acquisition.

It’s clear that Bard and his colleagues have been looking at Salesforce as a partner and potential buyer for some time. “I think there are a handful of potential acquirers and Salesforce.com is certainly one of that handful,” Bard told me in a May 2011 interview. “They are arguably the leading SaaS B2B platform on the planet, and they are hugely progressive in how they think about providing services to businesses. Our technology is very complementary to what Salesforce does. They have gone a bit more up-market, and they have this pretty significant area where we can come in and drive lots of value.”

Wade Roush is a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @wroush

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