Salesforce to open incubation centers

With the first of such facilities worldwide to be ready within a year, CEO Marc Benioff says move is aimed at driving software development on AppExchange.

SINGAPORE--To drive entrepreneurship on the software-as-a-service (SaaS) model, Salesforce.com will set up AppExchange "incubators" for software developers in yet-unspecified locations around the world by next year, says CEO Marc Benioff.

He told ZDNet Asia in an interview Wednesday that the company is currently planning to evaluate these support facilities, which will provide developers with office space, training, as well as the technology infrastructure to help them develop applications for the AppExchange platform.

Launched in February in Asia, AppExchange is an online marketplace that allows developers and Salesforce.com customers and partners to distribute and access applications via Salesforce's computing platform. There are more than 250 applications currently available on the AppExchange, including those from Adobe Systems and Business Objects.

"We're evaluating a number of geographic locations for AppExchange incubators including San Francisco, Tokyo, Singapore and Bangalore. We've not made a final determination on the location of those incubators but we'll have [details ready] over the next year," Benioff said.

During a presentation to more than 1,000 attendees in a packed conference hall, the CEO said Salesforce now had a mission to "tap into the entrepreneurial mindset" of developers in Singapore and the Asia-Pacific region.

When asked why entrepreneurship is important, Benioff pointed out that there are not many Asian entrepreneurs behind highly successful companies. "Asia and India have traditionally been used [as locations] for outsourcing, offshoring, call centers or contact centers. But with this new model, you can develop [software] as a service--the entrepreneur can be here," he said.

For instance, developers can create the application in Singapore and then host it to the directory on AppExchange, where customers can "organically find" the application and choose to run it inside their companies, he explained.

Benioff, who founded the software company in 1999, added that Salesforce.com plans to open its first incubator facility within the next 12 months.

He also told ZDNet Asia that the incubators will be chosen according to the volume of customers and developers in their respective locales, the sophistication of technology infrastructure and the level of interest shown by the local government to develop the incubator.

This announcement follows other planned investments that Salesforce has already unveiled. Benioff had told news wire Reuters earlier this week that the company plans to increase its sales and marketing staff numbers significantly in Asia, including Japan, and other markets across Western Europe.

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