Seesmic has shifted its strategy for the second time in its four-year history, this time to focus on making mobile apps for the enterprise. Will the third iteration of Seesmic finally bring the company success?
Seesmic has gone through its fair share of changes since its 2007 launch. The company was founded by French entrepreneur Loic Le Meur as a “social video sharing” website that allowed people to post short video messages to each other. The service, despite being quite buzzed about in tech circles, failed to take off in earnest. So in 2009, Seesmic turned away from video to focus on building mobile apps for social networking. Since then, Seesmic has been best known for its Twitter client, which allows people to post messages to Twitter from their mobile phones.
But last year, Seesmic was forced to change its business model once again after Twitter announced it would be rolling out its own native mobile apps. So now Seesmic is downshifting in the consumer app space altogether to make apps aimed at businesses. As part of this new strategy, on Tuesday Seesmic is set to roll out a new Android app for accessing Salesforce’s customer relationship management (CRM) software on a mobile device. The company plans to debut iOS versions of the app in the coming weeks.
“It’s a new direction,” Seesmic CEO Loic Le Meur told me in an interview Monday. He acknowledged that the company’s switch to a new business model could be a bit bumpy. “Enterprise is a higher maintenance market, and I am expecting it to be more challenging in terms of distribution. With social apps for consumers, you can go viral pretty easily.”
But Le Meur was also very quick to point out the silver lining. “The good news is, anytime you talk to a company that has 1,000 salespeople who want to use your app, the next thing they ask is how much it costs. Enterprise doesn’t like free; the fact that an app is free doesn’t reassure them, it scares them.” Seesmic is launching its Salesforce CRM Android app in free trial mode this week, but expects to eventually charge around $10 per month for it.
Switching from being dependent on one powerful platform provider (Twitter) to another (Salesforce) might seem dangerously ill-advised, especially after Seesmic was burned by Twitter’s notorious ecosystem disruption. But it makes a bit more sense when you take into account that in February Salesforce became an investor in Seesmic.
Though the enterprise market is certainly much different from the consumer space, Seesmic does have a solid benefactor on hand to help advise on its strategy — and it wouldn’t be surprising if Salesforce is on the short list of potential M&A buyers Seesmic is now hoping to attract with its latest makeover. Time will tell if the third time will finally be the charm.