Salesforce.com buying contact-data vendor Jigsaw

Acquisition provides Salesforce.com and its partners with the ability to create new applications based on Jigsaw's data

Salesforce.com said Wednesday it has signed a deal to buy Jigsaw, a cloud-based vendor of business contact data, for roughly US$142 million in cash. The acquisition, which appears to be one of Salesforce.com's largest to date, is scheduled to close later this year.

The acquisition will allow Salesforce.com and its partners to create new applications that use Jigsaw's data, which is collected via a crowdsourcing model. Users contribute their own information and earn access to more records by helping to keep data accurate. The vendor also sells batches of data to companies and offers a data-cleansing service.

Jigsaw claims a community 1.2 million members, which has helped build a database that covers more than 20 million people at roughly 4 million companies, according to a statement.

Adding Jigsaw to the mix will help Salesforce.com retain customers and get a serious foothold in the business-to-business data services market, which has been estimated at $3 billion, said George Hu, executive vice president of marketing and alliances, during a conference call.

Salesforce.com plans to retain Jigsaw's senior management team, including CEO Jim Fowler. While Salesforce.com plans to flesh out integrations between its platform and Jigsaw, it will continue to sell Jigsaw data separately. Jigsaw will also remain open to other CRM (customer relationship management) products, according to Salesforce.com.

Jigsaw has competition from similar services like NetProspex. Hu maintained that Jigsaw is a superior offering, pointing to its relationships with large information providers like Hoover's.

It's not altogether surprising that Salesforce.com moved to acquire Jigsaw, just that it happened so quickly, said 451 Group analyst China Martens.

"[Jigsaw] was very aggressive, it was either this or go public," Martens said.

There are some welcome prospects presented by the combination of Salesforce.com and Jigsaw, particularly CRM applications pre-loaded with contact data groomed for a customer's particular business or geography, Martens said.

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