What the Past 9 Years Have Taught Me About the Business App Marketplace & How It Needs to Change

May 2, 2017 Leyla Seka

How we’re reshaping the Salesforce AppExchange Partner Program to embrace an evolving market

When I joined Salesforce, I had no way of knowing that the AppExchange would become the world’s largest business app marketplace — back then the iPhone was only four months old and ‘apps’ were ordered in restaurants. But I was fascinated by the idea of a business ‘ecosystem,’ and the concept of an open marketplace of solutions that worked with one another and could be purchased as easily as buying books off Amazon.

Nine years later, I couldn’t be prouder of what we’ve built. The ecosystem around our platform is one of Salesforce’s biggest differentiators, and a huge part of what brings the Salesforce vision to life. We’ve always wanted to build something bigger than ourselves, extending success beyond our employees, partners, even our customers, and into our community. Our ecosystem makes that vision a reality.

It’s with that same vision (and insight from the amazing partners who have made the AppExchange what it is today) that we introduce the new Salesforce AppExchange Partner Program. With a decade under our belt, we’re reimagining the next ten years of AppExchange with the goal of empowering companies of every size and industry to build even faster, smarter, and more powerful solutions to help customers — and this is our plan.

Let’s open the doors and let everyone build apps.

With many aspects beyond revenue that make a company successful, we take factors like customer success and community engagement very seriously. So, to acknowledge companies for efforts such as taking part in trainings, events, customer reviews, and adoption of new technology, we’re introducing the AppExchange Trailblazer Score. This is a point-based system that takes into account success on multiple levels (including sales, total installs, and install growth), as well as completed activities (Trailhead modules completed, certifications gained, participation in the Pledge 1% program, etc.). This creates a holistic view across revenue as well as business, customer, and technology success — and helps open doors for incredible new businesses of any size to join the AppExchange Partner Program.

After all, it’s not about company size: if you are building something that fixes a problem for our customers, enhances the experience of using our product, and/or makes our customers happier in some way, we want to work with you. And to make sure we’re empowering businesses of every size and in every stage of growth to embrace this opportunity, we’re lowering percent net revenue (PNR) — or the baseline revenue-sharing model for ISVs in our ecosystem — from 25% to 15%. This helps us address the needs of a broader range of partners, and enables partners to invest even more revenue back into their businesses.

Let’s accelerate time-to-market.

If there’s one thing I hear constantly, it’s that our partners want to move faster. They’re looking for ways go to market faster with their apps — and on the other side of things, our customers want faster access to new and exciting apps as well. We want to help. So, we’re enhancing our infrastructure with stronger technology and tools to better support partners throughout their journey on the AppExchange.

With our new onboarding wizard, ISVs and startups can access automated guides and checklists for onboarding, and we’ve reduced the manual data entry to a few simple, click-through screens. Our new payment tools mean that partners can automate their order submission process. And with the new AppExchange Partner Program dashboard, partners can see their Trailblazer score and their progress on the onboarding checklist at a glance. All of these tools mean a smoother, less manual onboarding process for partners and faster time-to-market for exciting new apps.

Let’s make innovation even easier.

As anyone in the tech industry knows, it’s not enough to build something great then sit back and rest. The AppExchange is an open and competitive marketplace, and that means constant innovation is a must. It’s actually one of my favorite things about AppExchange: competition gives our customers choices, and the resulting innovation means those choices get better and better.

To help drive that innovation, we’re expanding the availability of Salesforce technologies that partners can use to build better apps. With access to Heroku benefits, developers, ISVs and startups now have the choice to build on Force.com or Heroku, and receive a free developer org immediately when signing up. Additionally, Salesforce DX offers an entirely new way to manage and develop Salesforce apps across the entire lifecycle, increasing levels of productivity, collaboration, and control for developers. And finally, with our new AppExchange-in-Lightning Experience, AppExchange is now surfaced directly inside a customer’s Salesforce environment.

Also to support the initiatives of this relaunch and to encourage innovation even more, our corporate investment group, Salesforce Ventures, has announced the launch of a Salesforce Platform Fund, with $100 million in new funding. Following on the heels of last year’s fully funded (and highly successful) Salesforce Lightning Fund, we’re excited to see how this further investment in leading entrepreneurs and innovators will drive the development of transformative, intelligent solutions.

In conclusion…

The market has changed: it’s no longer just about apps, but also components, bots, templates and more, and we’re giving our ecosystem the tools needed to succeed in this new environment.

After all, it’s the ecosystem around our platform that makes Salesforce something bigger than we could ever be as a standalone company (three to four times bigger, actually), and when it comes to the partners in that ecosystem — I can’t emphasize this enough — their success is our success. So we’re taking everything we’ve learned over the past decade and relaunching our program to make that success accessible to startups and new ISVs of every size and and across every industry — and to help us build an even larger and more vibrant ecosystem of partner and customer success for the next ten years.

Editor’s note: For more on Leyla’s vision for the new AppExchange Partner Program, please check out the video, Driving an Ecosystem of Innovation with the AppExchange Partner Program.

What the Past 9 Years Have Taught Me About the Business App Marketplace & How It Needs to Change was originally published in Inside the Salesforce Ecosystem on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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