Salesforce invests $40 million in text-marketing startup Community

Salesforce tower
  • Salesforce is investing $40 million in a text-marketing startup called Community.
  • Community, which started as a tool for celebrities to message fans, is now pitching to businesses.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Salesforce is investing $40 million in the text-marketing startup, Community, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The new funding, which comes through the company’s investment division, Salesforce Ventures, brings Community’s total amount raised to around $90 million.

Community first launched in 2019, raising tens of millions of dollars from investors like Ashton Kutcher to build an app where celebrities and influencers could send texts directly to their fans. Early users included Paul McCartney, Jake Paul, Ellen Degeneres, and Jennifer Lopez. In January, the company told Insider that it had begun targeting business customers in addition to celebrities.

“We’ve started moving into small businesses, streetwear brands, big brands, and we have over 6,000 leaders using our platform,” Josh Rosenheck, the company’s co-founder and chief product officer, said.

Community customers can use its platform to send out mass texts, one-to-one messages to followers, or custom texts to a select group of customers based on their location or demographic info. Users who opt into receiving messages can also text back.

Joshua Weissman, a YouTube star who began using Community last year while it was still invite-only, told Insider that the app had proven to be an effective way to keep in touch with his fans.

“I’ve only been promoting it a little bit, and I’ve got around 10,000 people on my text platform,” Weissman said. “I sent out a text message and it went out to 9,900 [people]. It had a 98% open rate.”

“I would compare it to Mailchimp, but the text version,” Weissman added. “It’s very similar in that fashion, but it’s run through an app on your phone.”

Interest in text marketing has been on the rise this year as media brands, digital creators, and advertisers look for new ways to reach audiences outside of email. Email platform Mailchimp acquired the text-marketing startup Chatitive in January.

“Over time, everyone’s going to want to have a more real connection with the things that they care about,” Rosenheck told Insider. “We wanted that to become adopted and understood as a new social paradigm, like, ‘Oh wow, I can actually have a personal engaging relationship with people I love like the sports teams, the brands, the businesses that I love.'”

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Ford paves the way as the first automaker to allow 86,000 employees to work from home permanently

Ford logo
Ford’s new policy will be introduced in July.

  • Ford has become the first auto company to announce employees can work from home in the long-term.
  • The company will explore flexible arrangements from July, depending on individual responsibilities.
  • A survey showed 95% of employees wanted a hybrid form of working and felt more productive at home.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Ford has become the first automobile company to shift towards remote working on a permanent basis, according to CNBC, with around 86,000 employees being allowed to work at least partially from home.

The policy is aimed at office workers rather than factory workers, who number around 100,000 and have largely returned to work.

Hybrid work plans and remote working will depend on individual and managerial responsibilities.

“The nature of the work we do really is going to be a guiding element,” chief people and employee experiences officer Kiersten Robinson told CNBC. “If there’s one thing we’ve learned over the last 12 months, it is that a lot of our assumptions around work and what employees need has shifted.”

Ford’s new policy will be introduced in July when most employees are expected to make at least a partial return to the office after more than a year.

“The nature of work drives whether or not you can adopt this model. There are certain jobs that are place-dependent – you need to be in the physical space to do the job,” chairman and chief executive of Ford Land, David Dubensky, told The Washington Post.

“Having the flexibility to choose how you work is pretty powerful,” Dubensky added. “It’s up to the employee to have dialogue and discussion with their people leader to determine what works best.”

Remote work coronavirus
95% of Ford employees wanted a hybrid form of working.

According to a survey conducted at Ford in June 2020, 95% of employees wanted a hybrid form of working and a number of them felt more productive at home.

The move from Ford comes after major companies including Google, Spotify, and Salesforce all announced that they were offering their employees the option to work from home permanently.

A survey conducted in January by the National Association for Business Economics suggested just one in 10 companies expected employees to return to the office after the pandemic.

“These companies are all looking at each other,” associate professor at Michigan State University’s School of Human Resources and Labor Relations, Angela Hall, told The Detroit News. “And especially someone like Ford, who is a large, respected employer – people are going to model that behavior.”

The Washington Post also reported that General Motors and Toyota were looking at flexible options for a return to the office, although they are both yet to announce new policies.

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Salesforce reportedly scrapped plans for additional office space in San Francisco following its decision that most employees will only come into the office a few days per week

Salesforce tower
  • Salesforce is said to be canceling a lease for new office space in San Francisco.
  • Salesforce had inked a deal in 2018 for 325,000 square feet in a new building near Salesforce Tower.
  • The company said last month that most employees will work in the office one to three days a week.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Salesforce has reportedly dropped plans to lease 325,000 square feet of office space in San Francisco.

The cloud computing giant, which is headquartered in the tallest tower in San Francisco and is the city’s largest employer, had previously signed a deal in 2018 for additional office space in the new Transbay Tower development, an unbuilt tower about a block away.

The company planned to house 1,500 workers at the new tower, a portion of the 10,000 employees it has spread throughout its urban campus.

But according to the San Francisco Business Times’ Laura Waxmann and San Francisco Chronicle’s Roland Li, the lease is “is no longer in hand.”

A spokesperson for Salesforce did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

Read more: Salesforce’s AI ethics chief shares 3 ways to use tech when planning a safe return to the office

The decision follows Salesforce’s announcement last month that it would adopt three new ways of working going forward. The new guidelines, which Salesforce is calling “Work From Anywhere,” offer employees options for how they’ll work in the future: flex, fully remote, and office-based.

Salesforce said most of its employees worldwide would have a flex schedule, which means they’ll report to the office between one and three days each week for tasks that are more challenging to do over video calls, such as team collaboration, customer meetings, and presentations.

The company has shared few details about what this will mean for its physical office spaces – in a blog post announcing the change, Brent Hyder, the president and chief people office of Salesforce, shared only that the offices would be redesigned as “community hubs” with collaboration and breakout spaces instead of rows of desks.

Salesforce’s decision follows two other major San Francisco-based tech companies scaling back their physical office space. In August, Pinterest scrapped plans to build a massive, 490,000-square-foot-office in San Francisco’s South of Market neighborhood, paying a $89.5 million fee to cancel the project. And in September, Twitter said it would sublease more than 100,000 square feet of space at its San Francisco headquarters after telling employees they could work from home forever.

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How Salesforce COO and star exec Bret Taylor has steered the cloud giant through a tumultuous year to help companies adapt to an ‘all-digital, work-anywhere economy’

Bret Taylor Salesforce
Bret Taylor, Salesforce COO

Salesforce chief operating officer Bret Taylor played a key role in the firm’s $27.7 billion deal to buy Slack, putting the exec in the spotlight near the end of a tumultuous year in which he’s leaned on his experience and expertise to help guide the firm. 

Taylor acted as the main Lisson to Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield, and Salesforce CEO Benioff publicly praised him on an analyst call following the announcement:

“I couldn’t be more excited about what Bret and Stewart put together,” he said. 

Taylor has risen rapidly through the ranks at Salesforce since he joined the company four years ago via the acquisition of his collaboration tool Quip and is widely believed to be the next in line to Benioff thanks to his prominence and vision within the company. 

For example, he leaned on his experience as an entrepreneur who built a collaboration tool to extol the benefits Salesforce could gain from Slack.

“Slack is really one of the few companies in the history of software that set out to change the way people work and actually succeeded,” he said at the company’s annual investor day. “We truly believe this is the next generation of the way companies work together.”

His role at Salesforce this year earned him a spot on Business Insider’s annual list of the 10 leaders transforming enterprise tech.

Salesforce went through executive upheaval at the beginning of the year, and then needed to shift gears as the coronavirus pandemic began raging through the world.

“Every single industry overnight went digital,” Taylor told Business Insider in a July interview. As the needs of Salesforce’s customers adjusted, so did the company. 

Here’s how Taylor is leading the firm as it adjusts to what he describes as an “all-digital, work-anywhere economy”: 

Rising through the ranks at Salesforce

From the moment Taylor started working at Salesforce, he was reporting directly to Benioff, who had said it was his “dream to work more closely” with the young “rising star.” 

A year later, he made the leap to the C-Suite, becoming president and chief product officer – a role he held until December 2019 when he became the company’s chief operating officer. He now oversees global product vision, engineering, security, marketing, and communications, taking on a greater leadership role with more influence over the future of Salesforce.  

Taylor’s background is much more product-focused, rather than sales focused like Keith Block or Benioff. Before co-founding Quip, Taylor was Facebook’s chief technology officer. He gets credit for creating its “Like” button an helped lead the company through its IPO in 2012. Before that, he was at Google, where he helped found Google Maps.

“What we see with Brett is, bringing that deep product knowledge, the understanding of how dev teams work,” said Valoir analyst Rebecca Wettemann.

Quip’s office suite tools are now embedded directly into Salesforce tools like Sales and Service Cloud. Earlier this year Salesforce also took the infrastructure and technology it acquired from Quip and added built in chat features to its customer relationship management tools.

How Salesforce is pursuing its product vision during a pandemic 

Since Taylor joined Salesforce, the firm has been building its platform with the goal of offering clients a “360 degree” view of their customers across sales, service, marketing, commerce, and other customer touchpoints. The goal is to make the customers of Salesforce’s clients feel like they’re interacting with the same brand or company no matter what their needs are. 

That got even more difficult as the entire customer experience changed. 

“Across our portfolio – across sales, customer service, marketing, e-commerce – we’ve really tried to work on digital technologies that are relevant in an era where a huge percentage of your customer and employee interactions are digital,” Taylor said in July.

Part of that 360-degree approach is “speaking the language of our customers,” which has increased Salesforce’s focus on building industry specific tools, like its Health Cloud and Financial Services Cloud. 

Taylor is also behind Salesforce’s new Work.com tools to help companies and public agencies reopen their facilities safely. Thirty-five state and federal agencies are now using Salesforce’s tools for contract tracing, as are countries including Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom. The pandemic has shown businesses that it needs software to help it deal with all types of crises, and Salesforce wants to be the one to provide those important tools. 

The tools were developed because Salesforce executives asked, “How can we have a culture of action to help every community and every business reopen safely?” Taylor said. “But behind that is actually a robust platform that really will endure.”

It’s relied on partnerships with companies like Amazon, Zoom, and Workday for this initiative. 

The Slack deal is also a big part of that goal, Taylor said at the company’s investor day, because “Slack amplifies the value proposition of this entire platform.”

Over the last six months, under Taylor’s leadership, Salesforce has displayed “much faster development and time to market,” according to Valoir’s Wettemann.

Embracing remote work across the company, customers, and products

Embracing distributed and remote work didn’t come naturally to Salesforce, but it has managed to adapt, Taylor said. “We’re famous for having towers in every major city in the world,” he said in July. “We weren’t exactly a company that was oriented towards distributed work, and now we’ve proven to ourselves we can do it.” 

A few months later in November, Taylor told Business Insider that Salesforce execs are now asking themselves what practices they want to continue doing even after the pandemic ends.  

“Our answer is likely a hybrid model that optimizes for distributed and in-office work,” he said. “It’s an exciting opportunity because it opens up recruiting in a big way and gives employees a lot more flexibility if we do it right.”

On the company’s earnings call earlier this month, the company said it plans to scale back its multi-million square foot office footprint and expects to write down between $80 million and $100 million for offices it will offer for sublease during its fiscal fourth quarter.

To influence the company’s thinking and product direction, Taylor has also spent time this talking to executives who are “trailblazers” of distributed work. That’s long been part of Salesforce’s culture: Rather than just selling software, it aims to act as a partner and advisor to its customers as they undertake massive digital change, which allows it to learn from them in turn. 

“I think we’re unique in technology because we really lead with our values,” Taylor said, “and we really try to sell to not just technology leaders, but to business leaders, who aren’t necessarily looking at technology for technology’s sake, but looking at it to achieve an end.”

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