Marc Benioff, Founder, Chairman, and CEO of Salesforce, participates in a panel discussion at the 2015 Fortune Global Forum in San Francisco, California November 3, 2015.
Elijah Nouvelage — Reuters
By Heather Clancy
August 25, 2016

Almost two years ago (to the day), Salesforce plunked down $392 million for RelateIQ, a specialist in software that automates sales tasks—like picking the best time to call a sales prospect or filling out call reports—using artificial intelligence.

Since that time, the business software giant has snapped up at least a half-dozen other startups specializing in machine learning, predictive analytics, and other AI technologies. The latest one was just one week ago: BeyondCore, a specialist in statistical analysis.

It turns out that Salesforce (crm) is cobbling all of these technologies together as part of project dubbed Salesforce Einstein, which will be detailed during the company’s upcoming Dreamforce conference in late September, according to an article published this week by Forbes.

The grand scheme is to endow Salesforce’s core applications for sales management, marketing automation, and commerce with AI software that “learns” from the data it is collecting to spot trends or identify areas that might require attention from managers.

“We are going to catch our competitors by surprise,” Salesforce co-founder and CEO Marc Benioff told Forbes.

Exactly how he’s going to do that is a mystery because we still don’t know exactly what Einstein will do or when it will be available.

Most of the software that Salesforce has acquired is focused on using data generated by sales teams and gleaned from sources such as electronic calendars or email. Aside from RelateIQ, one of its biggest deals was in April 2016, when it paid $32.8 million for machine learning specialist MetaMind.

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It’s tough to find a software company—from Facebook (fb) to Google (googl) to IBM (ibm)—that isn’t spending big bucks on artificial intelligence software. The applications are seemingly endless (or at least the story line goes), covering everything from medical breakthroughs to virtual assistants that orchestrate your professional and personal life. It’s only natural that Salesforce would want a piece of the action.


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