Salesforce World Tour Toronto Brings $100 Million Canadian Venture Fund

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If you have spent any time in tech, you will know that no one throws a conference quite like Salesforce.

The cloud computing behemoth brought their World Tour to Toronto and managed to fill both the Beanfield Centre and the Enercare Centre—a tall feat for any company. The day-long festivities brought over 8,000 registered attendees to take in keynotes, breakout sessions and a pitch competition, along with a few cuddly Salesforce mascots for good measure, all combining to create the largest cloud-computing conference in Canada’s history.

Again, it’s hard to understate Salesforce’s conference game. Their annual Dreamforce held in San Francisco brought over 175,000 attendees last year—that’s one-fifth of the entire city’s population. Lenny Kravitz and Alicia Keys performed, and speakers like Michelle Obama and Ashton Kutcher dove deep into discussions around diversity and equal rights.

With all of that said, the Toronto World Tour was the Canadian little brother, and if you’re in the Salesforce world, there’s a good chance it lived up to the much-anticipated hype.

A Grand Entrance

World Tour Toronto kicked off a keynote address from Salesforce president and CFO Mark Hawkins. His address began with mentioning the fourth industrial revolution: intelligence. Steam, electricity and computing were the prior revolutions, and Hawkins set the tone for what this World Tour is all about: giving Salesforce users more information to make smarter decisions with the insights they have.

“That revolution is happening now,” said Hawkins. “It’s not happening someday—it’s happening today. It’s all about intelligence and it’s going to be the biggest and most disruptive factor and it’s going to create incredible opportunities.”

“Connected experiences are the expectations now for every business. B2B, B2C, everywhere in this new fourth industrial revolution, people are connecting with their customers in a whole new way—and that’s where we come in,” said Hawkins.

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Beyond the advent of new ways to incorporate intelligent learning and features, Hawkins’ address focused a lot on what those in the Salesforce world already know: the importance of trust and family within the platform. Using the internal Salesforce mantra of “’Ohana’ (the Hawaiian term for family—Lilo & Stitch fans might recognize it) liberally, Hawkins ironed out the four values Salesforce lives and breaths: trust, customer success, innovation, and equality. The salesforce exec pointed out that Toronto is the most culturally diverse city in the world as well, an appealing stat for a company that places a massive emphasis on diversity.

Right in line with the aspect of a Salesforce “Ohana,” Hawkins began to explain three core platforms Salesforce has out right now: Trailhead, Einstein and Lightning. Three guests representing large Salesforce partners then hit the stage to talk a bit about how each platform works for them, including discussions from TELUS, Adidas, and WeWork.

Canadian Trailblazers

Canada’s minister of innovation Navdeep Bains graced Hawkin’s keynote address as well, trading ideas with him as to why the country is the perfect spot for growth and innovation.

Building off that notion, Salesforce used their World Tour stop to unveil the first step in their planned $2 billion investment into Canada over the next five years: a $100 million USD Canada Trailblazer Fund supported by Salesforce Ventures, the cloud computing giant’s corporate investment arm.

“Canada is recognized as an excellent place to start and build globally competitive technology companies,” said Bains. “Corporate initiatives such as Salesforce Ventures’ new Canada Trailblazer Fund provide valuable support to technology entrepreneurs throughout their start-and-scale journey. I congratulate Salesforce on the launch of this important new fund, and look forward to future successes as they make progress toward their goal of investing $2 billion in Canadian businesses in the next five years.”

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Bains and Hawkins discussing Canadian innovation at World Tour Toronto.

Four companies were announced as part of the inaugural Trailblazers fund. Tier1CRM, a Toronto-based provider of cloud-based CRM solutions for the capital markets industry; Tulip Retail, a Toronto-based mobile application provider focused on empowering workers in retail stores; OSF Commerce, a Quebec digital cloud transformation specialist; and Traction Guest, a Burnaby developer of cloud-based visitor management systems (VMS).

“Most investments in this fund will be Series A or Series B with smaller cheque sizes, but we’re not scared to write much larger investments as well,” explains Matt Garratt, a managing partner at Salesforce ventures. “These four companies give us a good sense of how we think about investing and what we’re looking at. We think about if this is going to be strategic for our customers and is this something we can integrate into our products. We also look at what the strategic fit may be.”

Traction Guest and their CEO Keith Metcalfe were on hand at the World Tour demoing their VMS. The company has grown exponentially since growing independently from Traction On Demand, a separate company that has integrated with Salesforce for 20 years.

“Vancouver and Canada, in general, have this certain thing about them from an innovation standpoint,” says Metcalfe. “That is proliferating itself out, whether it be [Salesforce CEO] Benioff spending time with our Prime Minister or other ways. That’s the validation, and I don’t suspect it’s going to stop.”

Exploring the Platform

The rest of the World Tour featured dozens of sessions on the various Salesforce platforms and products held throughout differently themed lodges focused on marketing, financial services, commerce cloud and Salesforce Org.

From a session on how “Visitor Data Matters and Belongs in Salesforce” led by Traction Guest’s Metcalfe to several sessions explaining how Salesforce’s AI platform Einstein can do everything including making email smarter and transforming retail, there were sessions to suit every kind of existing or new customer.

There were case studies to investigate as well, looking at the interesting ways Salesforce can change the face of a company or organization. A discussion on building better governments for the future brought stories of how the platform helped legacy organizations easily shift channels, integrating with older systems but offering much more informed feedback to new and existing clients. It was even noted that in legacy organizations facing mass retirements over the next five years, new workers with Salesforce experience can help replace employees with legacy skills on older systems, creating a more integrated environment.

The Toronto World Tour stop concluded with Salesforce’s Dreampitch competition, which saw three companies duke it out in front of a thousand people to compete for $100,000 USD. FunnelCake from Kitchener ended up taking home the win for their approach to bridging the marketing and sales gap.

This was Toronto’s second Salesforce World Tour. and the whirlwind continues in London on May 17.

Techvibes is the official Media Partner of the Salesforce World Tour Toronto / Dreampitch Competition.

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