The biggest things last week: Foursquare and Salesforce

Salesforce CEO gets Twitter religion

One is a huge company that’s well known inside huge enterprises. The other is a startup with five employees that hardly anyone knows.

But they both shifted the world last week in big ways. Note I didn’t put Google’s Chrome OS on this list. Why not? Because that’s largely vaporware at this moment. Next year when they show us the hardware they are planning to run it on will be when we judge whether that’s really a big thing or not. Last week, though, the big world-changers were done by Salesforce and Foursquare.

First, lots of people, including most of the Enterprise Irregulars who usually do a bang-up seemed to have missed the real news that Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce, announced this week at the TechCrunch Real-Time Crunchup: that Salesforce is going after the whole company, not just the sales people. (The picture above is of Benioff announcing its Chatter service in front of 19,000 attendees at Salesforce’s Dreamforce event last week by talking about how much Twitter and Facebook have changed his life). First, you should read the other reviews of Salesforce’s announcement of its Chatter functionality. Here’s some of the best:

1. Esteban Kolsky writes “Why Chatter Matters.”
2. ZDNet’s Dion Hinchcliffe: Salesforce Chatter: Social Operating Systems emerge on the IT stage.
3. Sameer Patel: Chitter Chatter: Salesforce ups the Enterprise 2.0 ante. (Good selection of other blog posts and videos, too).
4. Michael Krigsman: Salesforce Chatter: Something to talk about.

How are is Salesforce going to do that? By giving a version of its new Chatter product away free to other employees. Salesforce’s CEO, Marc Benioff, announced that on Friday, TechCrunch has the quote and the video.

Here’s the quote, I asked him: “Salesforce is only used by a small # of people inside corporations. Why aren’t you ripping [Salesforce's new Chatter functionality] out and make this more low cost?” Benioff answered: “We are. All Salesforce users can use this for free. We also have a low cost separate product. And we will be rolling out a free version. We are working on figuring out what that is.”

Now what is Salesforce Chatter? Simply it’s a copy of the streams we’ve gotten used to in Facebook and Twitter. But, these feeds reveal data deep from inside Salesforce.

This will be crack for employees. As Benioff said last week, why does he know more about his friends on Twitter than he does about what his VPs are working on? Chatter will answer that, but the reason why this was one of the two biggest moves of the week was because of Salesforce’s ability to change the market through aggressive pricing and because of its, um, salesforce that already is very successful in getting its service inside Enterprises. Most of the 19,000 attendees at its Dreamforce event last week came from companies with more than 1,000 employees (based on a raising of hands after Benioff asked).

Microsoft’s Sharepoint now has real competition. By the way, this move has already helped other players like Yammer, Jive, by stamping Enterprise 2.0 services with a stamp of approval (plus, those lesser-known players have their products on the market now while Salesforce won’t ship until well into next year, so they have a good window to get acquired and figure out how they will sell against Salesforce (and Sharepoint). I talked with Jive’s CEO, Dave Hersch, on Thursday and he’s excited by the new attention his firm is getting because of Benioff’s moves. That’s how you know Salesforce made a big move last week.

That brings me to Foursquare (and its VP of business development, Tristan Walker, pictured here). I predict that Benioff will copy Foursquare’s features in 2011. Why? Because now that he knows what his Vice Presidents’ are doing, he’ll want to know where they are. Foursquare has been on fire lately and was the one company everyone was listening to during the panel on geolocation.

Most people don’t know what Foursquare is yet, so let’s recap. It is four things (so far):

1. It’s a geolocation service that you use on your Smart Phone (I use it on my iPhone and on my Droid). It competes with a raft of services like Britekite, Google Latitude, Gowalla, and others.
2. It’s a game. You check in where you are and it gives you points and prizes.
3. It enhances your experience in each location. Check in at the Half Moon Bay Ritz and you’ll see tons of “tips” that people have left for you. Francine Hardaway, for instance, tells you where the best dog beach is. I tell you how to save $40 on smores. Other people tell you that Tres Amigos is the best Mexican place nearby, etc.
4. It’s an advertising platform that enables local businesses to give you offers based on where you check in. Check in at the San Francisco Apple Store, for instance, and the Marriott across the street could offer you $5 off of a cocktail to get you to cross the street and come over.

But what was their big move last week? They released an API (Google Group for discussing that API here). Today I met Tristan Walker, Foursquare’s VP of Business Development, to find out how people are already using that API.

Already companies like Layar are using the API to overlay the tips that people leave onto their augmented reality system. So, if you were at the San Francisco Apple Store and you pointed your iPhone around you’d see tips of things you should do nearby.

This might not seem like a big deal, but it is. It will be an important part of my SuperTweet idea, which will hook Tweets into interesting new experiences that will come to you.

When we checked in for lunch at It’s Italia we both saw who else was in the restaurant, and we saw tons of tips that people had left for us to do nearby. For instance, imagine we hadn’t been able to get into the restaurant (that happens a lot in Half Moon Bay). Well, Andrew A told us that Tres Amigos has the best tacos on the coast. That’s .4 miles away from where we were. Or, maybe after our lunch we’d want to get some coffee or tea. Joseph S. said that Raman Chai has the best chai in the Bay Area. These are both things I might never find using other systems.

But even better, most of the people on Foursquare I actually know, or can look up on Twitter. So, when Francine Hardaway talks about local dog beaches inside Foursquare, now I have something new to talk to her about when I see her next.

How will the world use this system via an API? I can see a ton of ways. Apps like Yelp could build in links to other experiences left by your friends. Twitter could give you more information about the eating patterns of your friends. For instance, I already know that Shannon Clark is a foodie and if he checks in at a restaurant a lot I’ll want to eat there too (the places he’s already taken me in San Francisco are amazing). We could have new “foodie” alerts based on people who like the same restaurants we like. If Shannon goes into a new restaurant you can bet I’ll ask him on Twitter what he thought.

Or, imagine following Gary Vaynerchuk through Sonoma. Wouldn’t you follow his trail when you go to Sonoma? You bet you would! He already knows which wineries have the best wines. Why would he waste his time on a winery that makes crappy wine? (His family runs a wine store in New Jersey that sells $50 million in wine a year). Gary is working on an iPhone app. Imagine he uses Foursquare’s API to pull out tips that he, and his friends, leave in Sonoma and other wine regions.

Don’t think Foursquare has big impact? BART (the Bay Area Rapid Transit system already made a deal with Foursquare). How could BART use the API? Imagine an app that says “your train has been delayed for 15 minutes, why don’t you go around the corner to XXXXXXXx coffee shop and grab yourself some coffee?” All of that would be done via the API. How would the app know you like coffee? Well, dummy, you checked in at Starbucks 15 mornings in a row!

I’ve been using Foursquare and it has brought me a ton of goodness. Did you know that I was eating lunch with Dave Winer in Sausalito? Who walked up? Myles Weissleder who runs SF New Tech (that led to this video with him and Toobla’s CEO). He walked up because he was nearby walking home and he saw me check in at one of his favorite restaurants. I’ve had TONS of serendipitous meetings like that. But even if that doesn’t happen to you, the tips that you get about where you are and how to make your experience there better is what will keep you coming back.

Foursquare is onto something and if they continue down the path they are on this week will be one we look back on and say “that was huge.” The same way we now look back at Twitter’s API and say “that is huge.”

Anyway, do you agree? Or do you think that Google’s Chrome OS or Microsoft’s Silverlight 4.0/Azure announcements were the biggest thing last week?

About Robert Scoble

As Startup Liaison for Rackspace, the Open Cloud Computing Company, I travel the world with Rocky Barbanica looking for what's happening on the bleeding edge of technology and report that here.

36 thoughts on “The biggest things last week: Foursquare and Salesforce

  1. “Already companies like Layar are using the API to overlay the tips that people leave onto their augmented reality system. ”

    -Makes me wanna come over to SF right away! I always thought this would be a great App if Layar got that kind of info added to their AR browser. So cool to see Foursquare enabling just that now. Your right Scoobie, this is bigger than Chrome OS and maybe even MS Azure ;-)

  2. Judy, sorry, Marc Benioff clearly announced a version of Chatter that would be free to non-salesforce users inside companies, and he also announced another version that would have a lower price than $50/user/month. Listen to the Techcrunch video, he's very clear on this point.

    Now, we can agree that he hasn't shipped yet and that companies like Jive (which is charging far less than $50 per seat and is out already) or SocialText are way ahead of Benioff, who won't be shipping these products until well into next year, but it's clear that Benioff won't be charging $50 a user across the board.

  3. Pat roaming is restrictive. However the 4 carriers here all have prepaid sims you can buy for as little as $1 at most convenience stores, prepaid data is also very reasonable.

  4. Chatter isn't free to all employees. It's free to Salesforce users within a company. For other employees, it's $50/user/month (I think that's the pricing I heard when I was at Dreamforce). Some companies only have their sales/marketing teams on Salesforce. In that case, Chatter may be a significant investment to make available company-wide.

  5. Social CRM refers to integrating data from outside the organization, such as support or marketing. Enterprise 2.0 suggests inward-facing collaboration.

    Large enterprises are interested in both. After all, folks inside an organization need to work together and collaborate, and social networks facilitate those activities. There's no reason to limit thinking to one or the other.

  6. Privacy is always an issue. It always will be. I like Foursquare and have it on my iPhone. What I don't much like is the game stuff. I can see the value in enhanced offers for loyalty but the Mayor thingy and all that is just a bit too tacky for a business app.
    But not to miss the point though. Benioff wants to stay sticky with his users. Sooner or later the integration 'penny' was going to drop…and now it has everyone will be on the bandwagon…isn't this merge of enterprise and the web what was always wanted and needed? B2C meets B2B.

  7. Great post
    Really enjoyed the Foursquare piece
    Imagine twitter integrating it using twitters new geolocation tool, now you would have the largest based location play on the planet.
    been saying for months that Twitter must buy it, they have to
    and of course it helps that they both have the same investors :-)

  8. Agreed that there are some serious privacy/security issues around the geolocation services. Let's hope that these companies are working PROACTIVELY on solving these, and don't wait until the first bad “Foursquare Incident” forces them to.

    I read somewhere that you can disable your home location in their database, but presumably only after it's already been tagged (will tweet them to verify). They should strongly consider offering an opt-out for people for their home locations, whether they are Foursquare users or not.

    Maybe even put up an automatic opt-out for residential locations for now, unless the owner specifically opts in.

  9. Thanks great insights on Foursquare. Johannesburg, South Africa has just been added which is very cool. Now I am thinking how this will be used during the Soccer World Cup next year :-)

    1. it wont, well maybe it will but at $15-$20 a meg, data roaming makes it all but impossible in my opinion.
      just checking in would cost you $5 plus most South African carriers make it as difficult as possible to get a prepaid cellphone sim for the visit out there.

  10. Foursquare is the biggest invasion of privacy we've seen in a long, long time. Until it gives us the ability to prevent other people from broadcasting our home address, it's not a good thing.

  11. Agreed on the point that small enterprise social computing companies have a long term problem, as the larger players move into this space.

    One of Twitter's most brilliant moves (among others) was recognizing that scale would be the only way to fend off the inevitable large company invasion into this territory. Socialtext, Jive, and other similar companies must view the Salesforce announcement as a long-term threat. We don't know where Salesforce will go, but for sure incursion into social computing is part of their plan.

    1. Large enterprises will be only interested in business process related data outside of the enterprise. For example, data that support sales, marketing, support,etc… and they will most definitely incorporate real-time information access to these type of data. And also integration of the data/analysis with backend business processes. Social networking as social will still be managed by Twitter-like services… Major impact of the Salesforce announcement will be felt by micro-blogging service providers who are targeting enterprises.

  12. I agree and I think we all agree – Chatter is big. And it makes sense. Discussions in Enterprise environment are focused around applications and data. And it makes complete sense to enable real-time conversational channels right there – within the business process.

    Will geolocation services be as big for enterprises as real-time business processes/data driven communications? For some industries and some processes its no brainier [transportation, shipping, etc…) and for others as well: imagine companies negotiating deals for their employees – hotels, air, restaurants, etc.. Work related processes will be impacted as well – imagine companies like IBM with highly distributed workforce. You travel to a certain location, check yourself in using Foursquare type of service and as a result securing meeting with the co-worker that you talked to before but never met… Or going to a client company and getting a call to meet with others at that company or getting hints from your colleagues regarding certain locations, companies, services. And of course field services space..

    I think the potentials are huge for both type of offerings. And companies like Yammer, Socialtext, etc.. better sell themselves fast or.. – it's a matter of time for other players in Enterprise space to start the introduction of similar type of products.

  13. Hmmmm…. Interesting to talk about Chatter and Foursquare in the same breath. Clearly, FourSquare is consumer-oriented, however, Chatter straddles both consumer and enterprise worlds. On the surface, it's an odd comparison, so let's dig deeper.

    The significance of Chatter is validating social computing in the enterprise, which you addressed in the comment from Jive's CEO. Those who think Chatter is a trivial Twitter clone are short-sighted in their view. Based on off-the-record discussion with senior execs in a position to know, I can assure you that what we see today in Chatter is merely the tip of the iceberg. Social computing now has the strategic backing from one of the enterprise software heavyweights. That's significant. By the way, if anyone doubts Salesforce's commitment to Chatter, look no further than the the fact it is a new “force” platform module. That's their bedrock platform.

    FourSquare is important in the consumer domain, which is different than the enterprise, at least for today. Given a sufficiently large user base, however, the company has the potential to affect consumer buying decisions, as you discuss in the post. To date, folks that use FourSquare seem to love it, but I wonder how large their user base is and what is its growth rate. It would be interesting to compare FourSquare to Twitter growth rates at similar stages in their lives.

    The Salesforce validation of social computing comes at a point where many (MANY) millions of folks use Twitter, Facebook, etc. Whether FourSquare ultimately becomes important as something like Twitter of course remains to be seen. Yes, the potential is interesting, but the realization is not there yet.

    There's no doubt Chatter is a big deal and also no question that geolocation will increasingly matter. Whether FourSquare's implementation of geolocation ultimately becomes dominant is an open question.

  14. When I checked in several times at a regional burger joint, I got an invite to a grand opening for a new store. When I became the mayor of a location, I got offered a special treat. This is just icing on the cake, since I already love this burger joint (why else would I check in so often?). It's just an easy way for businesses to reward vocal proponents – and turn them into even more vocal proponents.

    I can see FourSquare moving in a completely (so far) untapped direction – “Cyber Checkins” – where I check in when I visit TechCrunch.com, or Scobleizer.com. Perhaps I get rewards for commenting often on a blog, or being a contributor to a forums.

    FourSquare hasn't even started to tap the potential of the market they are in.

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