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Salesforce.com appoints CEO, wins $17 million

The Internet start-up founded by former Oracle executive Marc Benioff that allows sales teams to share information online securely, names John Dillon its chief executive officer and wins $17 million in funding.

Salesforce.com, a new Internet start-up founded by former Oracle executive Marc Benioff, today said it has named John Dillon its chief executive officer and that it has won $17 million in funding.

Before joining the privately held San Francisco-based start-up, Dillon served as chief executive of software company Hyperion Solutions. The company said that earlier in his career Dillon also held sales and technical positions at database software giant Oracle and computer services firm EDS.

Salesforce.com, founded in March, also received a total of $17 million in funding, part of which came from a group of investors that now sits on the company's board. Investors in the company include: Oracle chief executive Larry Ellison; CNET (publisher of News.com) chief executive Halsey Minor; Magdalena Yesil, a partner at U.S. Venture Partners; WR Hambrecht chief executive William Hambrecht; IDG chief executive Patrick McGovern; John Friendenrich, a partner at Bay Partners; KLA/Tencor founder Bob Anderson; and Geneva Group founder Igor Sill.

Through the Web site service, companies and their sales teams can log on to access, manage and share sales information such as sales leads, marketing reports, forecasts and contacts in a secure online environment. The company said this service eliminates the need to buy expensive enterprise software, hardware or networks.

Salesforce.com is venturing into a newer form of customer relationship management (CRM), or software that automates a company's marketing, sales and call center needs. The fast-growing CRM market is expected to reach $16.8 billion by 2003, according to market research firm AMR Research. In the past, front-office market leader Siebel Systems has been known to boast about its leadership role in sales force automation software.

Other companies, such as Siebel rivals Oracle and SAP, also have taken steps into the front-office market by developing CRM products of their own.

The company's first service, called Salesforce.com, is accessible from any Web browser and can be personalized to suit the user's needs. The company said it's targeting start-ups and mid-sized companies as well as smaller divisions of larger organizations that want a system for their sales force but can't afford enterprise software or aren't equipped with an IT staff that can manage the network or upgrade the software on their own.

The new service, which costs $50 per user, per month, is currently available to select partners through the company's pilot program, and will be made generally available in the first quarter of 2000, the company said in a statement.