Salesforce.com to buy Halifax startup GoInstant
UPDATED 9:12 p.m. Monday
Just two years after its launch, local startup darling GoInstant has been acquired by American cloud computing giant Salesforce.com.
The acquisition is rumoured to be in the neighbourhood of $70 million, but in the wake of what’s likely a life-changing deal, co-founders Jevon MacDonald, Gavin Uhma, Dave Kim and Kirk MacPhee kept their cards close to their chests.
“It’s exciting. It’s been a long go, but it’s all exciting,” Uhma, the company’s chief technology officer, said just minutes after the much-anticipated announcement was made official Monday evening.
“We weren’t looking for it at all. Salesforce contacted us and started the discussion. ... The ability to stay in Halifax was a big deal for us from the start.”
The local firm will retain its name and Halifax base but will continue operations as a Salesforce company.
GoInstant, featured in the second edition of Herald Magazine in May, lets people in different locations surf and share the web together. The technology allows users to type, click, browse and scroll simultaneously using little more than a GoInstant account and a supported web browser.
Users' personal screens and browser windows are private except for the GoInstant browser window, making the technology especially useful in sales and customer support applications.
GoInstant chief executive officer MacDonald was an entrepreneur-in-residence at Innovacorp, the Nova Scotia government’s business support agency, from July 2010 through June 2011 before GoInstant was introduced to investors at the global epicentre of high-tech venture capital — Silicon Valley.
In September 2011, GoInstant secured $1.7 million in financing from top-tier investors who backed social media giants such as Facebook, Twitter and Groupon.
The province, through Innovacorp, got in on the first round of financing as well, investing $100,000.
Patrick Keefe, Innovacorp’s vice-president of investment, said the acquisition is a shot in the arm for the Nova Scotia information technology community at large.
“The bigger picture is that it’s a wonderful development for the (information technology) ecosystem in Nova Scotia,” Keefe said.
“It shows that we can build world-class companies here. It establishes some momentum for other companies and other prospective entrepreneurs and provides a fantastic example of what can be done in Nova Scotia with our talent and resources.”
Although the deal is not a silver bullet for the fledgling industry, Keefe said there will be long-term positive impacts.
“What you see happening is enormous wealth-generation locally. You see the creation of angel investors. You see an example being set for the rest of the community and confidence building for the community.
“This team will go on and grow inside of Salesforce and I think, in time, you’ll see spin-outs of these people creating new companies. It’s an important development here, and I think we’ll all benefit from it in the coming years.”
Uhma confirmed GoInstant now has an aggressive hiring strategy in the coming months.
The firm, which has offices in the Freemason’s Building on Barrington Street, has a dozen employees on the payroll and expects to add 10 to 15 more positions in the short-term.
Milan Vrekic, a fellow software developer and entrepreneur, agreed that the deal is a boon for the region and direct proof of the value in investing in innovation and technology.
“This is exactly what we needed,” the TitanFile CEO said.
“No other industry can show returns this quickly. And the best part is that GoInstant team is dedicated to staying in Nova Scotia. This means that the money will be put into the local ecosystem. I hope this will show that we need to work on becoming more of a brain (centre) of Canada rather than the muscle we have traditionally been.”
Salesforce has been snapping up customer-service technology regularly. The Salesforce “service cloud” is one of the California firm’s main products. It helps customers manage call centres and customer interactions online, all part of its strategy to help businesses leverage social and mobile technologies and connect with their customers.
As a Salesforce company, GoInstant will have access to a new league of customers. Of its 100,000-plus customers, those listed online include Burberry, Comcast, NBCUniversal, GE Capital, Wells Fargo and Bausch + Lomb.
The acquisition isn’t the first time Salesforce has made its presence known in Atlantic Canada. Last year, it acquired the Fredericton social-media monitoring business Radian6 Technologies Inc. in a $276-million deal.