The Salesforce Community has reached a major milestone—3 million installs via the Salesforce AppExchange. While that’s an impressive number, what gets Bracket Labs (and hopefully TaskRay users) excited is what that number means:
- 3 million times a company has added new solutions as simply as adding an app to a phone.
- 3 million opportunities for businesses to provide cutting-edge applications to their teams, while maintaining Enterprise-class reliability and security.
- 3 million small but critical steps towards accelerating, streamlining, and improving the way that millions of people around the world get their jobs done.
Hitting 3 million installs is more than the latest step in the explosive growth of the #1 business app marketplace, it’s continued proof of an ongoing revolution in business computing. My co-founder Eric has written a few times in The New AppExchange & Why It’s a Big Deal as well as Enterprise Apps Take the Spotlight about the fact that we founded Bracket Labs because we were so passionate about the opportunity that revolution presented. So for us, the 3 million install mark also stands as a proof point that we really are surfing a big wave of change.
I thought it might be interesting to look back at how Bracket Labs was built and how it wouldn’t have been possible without the Salesforce1 platform, the AppExchange marketplace, and the huge paradigm shift that’s happening in enterprise IT. It feels funny to think about our small startup actually being one of the pioneers in the AppExchange, but after five years, nearly 800 customers, and a pace of triple digit annual growth, I guess we are.
With the benefit of hindsight, there are three key areas where building our business on the AppExchange was not just strategically smart, but fundamentally critical to building a viable business.
1. Business model development
The first hurdle every entrepreneur faces is developing a business model that actually works. It’s got to be repeatable, sustainable, defensible. This is pretty hard to get right, partially because there are so many variables in a business model. It’s sort of like trying to juggle 9 random objects and get them all into the air at the same time. The beauty of building a business model based on the Salesforce1 platform is it reduces the number of variables. In our case, the customer segments were already defined (Salesforce customers), the distribution channels were already built (the AppExchange), and the revenue model was not only well understood it was pioneered by Salesforce (subscription software). This reduction in variables meant that we could put more focus on innovating in the areas that have proven to be the key differentiators in our business model: product design, customer experience, and operational efficiency.
2. Product development
There’s a reason that the majority of enterprise software businesses are venture backed. The list of product functionality necessary to satisfy enterprise requirements is long, complicated, and exacting and it takes a while to get it right. To make it harder, a large percentage of that functionality isn’t fun to build - no developer is excited about creating yet another forgotten password recovery flow. But by building TaskRay and our other apps “native” to the Salesforce1 platform we’re able to leverage all of the enterprise-class functionality, security and infrastructure that Salesforce is already using with their own customers. Similar to our business model development, this meant that we could focus on building unique product features that delivered value to our customers and skip building the “table stakes” functionality because it was already done. It also meant that we brought our apps to market much faster than average. Our first app went from napkin sketch to paying customer in less than six months.
“Nobody ever got fired for buying IBM.” This concept has been expressed so often as to become cliché, but the underlying sentiment is as true as it ever was. Simply stated, it’s pretty difficult for a small bootstrapped startup to sell software to a large Fortune 500 company. Even with a perfect solution and price, the questions about a small company with limited capital being capable of delivering enterprise-class reliability and security will make even the most adventurous CIO gunshy. And who could blame her? She’s not just buying a project management tool, she’s trusting that the tool will satisfy the larger information control requirements of her company. Being native to the Salesforce1 platform simplifies the conversation because we use the same service infrastructure they’ve already vetted on their way to becoming Salesforce customers. The AppExchange introduced a new model for CIO (or B2B) app shopping - one that opens the door to small & large customers alike, and dramatically reduces the average time from shelf to sale.
Eric and I remember celebrating the one millionth install - a big day for us. It’s hard to believe we are already celebrating the third. But there is no clearer sign of success than the explosion of AppExchange installs and for us the paralleled growth of our app, TaskRay.