Salesforce has agreed to buy business data visualization company Tableau Software in an all-stock deal worth $15.7 billion dollars, as it seeks to stand on equal ground with SaaS rivals such as Oracle and Microsoft.
It is the enterprise software maker’s largest deal to date and ranks as one of the top 5 software deals, as well as the largest for an application software company, per the PitchBook platform. It comes just a week after Google announced its acquisition of Looker, another business intelligence software company, for $2.6 billion.
While Salesforce is known for being an acquisitive company, its purchase of Tableau is a somewhat unusual one for the company to make. Before this transaction, Salesforce’s largest acquisition to date was its $6.5 billion cash and stock deal for MuleSoft. Making an eleven-digit acquisition for Tableau shows that Salesforce is willing to put down big money to compete with bigger players such as Oracle, Microsoft and Google, but it isn’t necessarily a departure from what the company has been willing to pay for in the past.
In fact, the amounts that Salesforce has been willing to pay for companies have been increasing. Each of its five largest deals has taken place after its next largest deal, meaning that the company has been making increasingly larger bets with more and more success. While the acquisition of Tableau may seem like an offensive move by Salesforce to compete with its bigger rivals, PitchBook Analyst Paul Condra sees it as a more defensive move.
“If Salesforce really wanted cutting-edge data tech they could have looked at some interesting VC-backed companies like Snowflake or YellowBrick. Instead they went with a larger, scaled legacy provider, which to me suggests they are after the big installed customer base Tableau has, and that is very different from trying to have the best technology. In other words, it is a much more defensive than offensive move.”
In other words, Salesforce may not be making the move because it wants Tableau’s tech, but instead to consolidate Tableau’s customers that under its own brand. Salesforce’s other large acquisitions also suggest the company is looking to build a one-stop shop for customers in the digital space.
We took a look at Salesforce’s previous highest-value acquisitions to show just how the company is building out its offerings:
MuleSoft — $6.5B, 2018
Salesforce made what is now its second-largest bet on expanding deeper into the cloud. In May 2018, Salesforce closed a $6.5 billion cash and share deal for MuleSoft, a developer of an application-integration platform that connects organization’s legacy software to modern infrastructures. The company recognized that as digital infrastructure aged, old software was getting more difficult to modify or connect with newer software. Mulesoft allows these legacy systems to live in the modern digital infrastructure through APIs.
Salesforce Commerce Cloud (fka Demandware) — $2.85B, 2016
In 2016, Salesforce joined the B2C market with its acquisition of Demandware, now known as Salesforce Commerce Cloud. With the eCommerce industry capturing an estimated $500 billion-plus and growing, and players like Amazon and Walmart pushing more consumers to prefer a web-based retailing experience, an acquisition of a platform for eCommerce customers made sense in building out Salesforce’s offerings.
ExactTarget — $2.57B, 2013
The last of its billion-dollar acquisitions, ExactTarget was just as large a departure deal value-wise as Tableau is today. Salesforce put $2.5 billion down for the on-demand email marketing software developer as it was still trying to grab a handle on the entire sales process. By getting its hands into software marketing, Salesforce was able to not only grab the post-sale analytics but the pre-sale analytics, too.
Buddy Media — $800M, 2012
Salesforce, bought Buddy Media, a social media marketing platform, in 2012. The acquisition was in line with its acquisition of ExactTarget but came at a time when social media were starting to take off, with Facebook launching its massive IPO that year.
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