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Is Salesforce.com Hitting a Ceiling?

Posted on Wednesday, Jul 18th 2007

Recently, Salesforce.com (Nasdaq: CRM), a hot company by any standard, lost a key executive to another company that is dramatically less hot or even interesting. Rene Bonvanie, whom Salesforce.com had recently hired to head up its super-critical AppExchange program, left for Serena Software.

Chances are, you have not heard of Serena Software, while you have most certainly heard of Salesforce.com. Let me enlighten you. Serena Software offers Application LifeCycle Management (ALM) products, and was bought in November 2005 by Private Equity firm Silverlake Partners. While Salesforce.com has created maximum excitement, Serena is a sleepy company, albeit with over 15,000 customers.

So why does a star executive like Bonvanie leave Salesforce.com for Serena?

In the answer to this question lies some of the challenges hot companies like Google and Salesforce.com (and to some extent Apple) are facing. There is a general anxiety that the upside is finished. Salesforce stock has fluctuated in the $40-$50 band
over the last 6 months. Google and Apple are still showing very good gains.

In contrast, Serena software is probably getting ready to go public again, and will most likely offer an obvious upside to its new EVP of Worldwide Marketing, one that Salesforce.com presumably could not match.

It does send out a negative signal to the market, for a really excellent company like Salesforce.com to lose a key executive. I wonder how they intend to address this going forward!

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Rene maybe left Salesforce.com after he realized that the AppExchange is a bad strategy, since software can’t be sold as books and CDs are!

Online CRM Guide Wednesday, July 18, 2007 at 9:42 AM PT

AppExchange is a brilliant strategy, in my opinion.

Sramana Mitra Wednesday, July 18, 2007 at 11:44 AM PT

[…] with Rene Bonvanie earlier this week, who confirmed my hypothesis that for a high level executive, Salesforce.com is no longer a great financial opportunity. But the reason he really wanted to meet with me is to tell me why Serena is anything but […]

Serene Serena Wants to Kick up a Storm - Sramana Mitra on Strategy Wednesday, August 1, 2007 at 6:46 AM PT