By Brenon Daly
Almost two months ago, we noted that several sources had indicated that salesforce.com (NYSE:CRM) may have reached outside its own walls for a little help in getting its Chatter product out the door. (Salesforce.com showed off Chatter, an enterprise collaboration product, at its Dreamforce conference in November, although it is not yet available.) The official company line at the time was that Chatter was developed in-house, which is consistent for acquisition-averse salesforce.com. The vendor has done just six deals – all of them tiny – in the decade that it has been in business.
In recent days, it has surfaced that salesforce.com did indeed acquire a startup. A visit to the homepage of GroupSwim indicates that the company ‘is now part of salesforce.com.’ We have followed GroupSwim since mid-2008, with my colleague Kathleen Reidy initially writing that the startup’s pairing of semantic analysis with content sharing/collaboration appeared to be a promising approach in a rather crowded market. When we last visited with GroupSwim a year ago, the 15-employee firm claimed 30 customers. It was still living off angel money.
In contrast to the rather meager financial situation at GroupSwim, salesforce.com is closing in on an all-time price for its shares. (Current market capitalization: $8.6bn, which works out to a triple-digit P/E ratio on a trailing basis.) And the on-demand giant just priced $500m in a convertible note offering that will bring its total holdings of cash and marketable securities to $1.5bn. With such a rich treasury, salesforce.com could likely buy hundreds more startups like GroupSwim. Or maybe it’s thinking of something bigger?