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Tech startup makes big inroads with Salesforce

Brian Hartz

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West Tavares, Robert Jones and John Dionne are former Vology employees who teamed up to launch CloudFirst Labs. Photo courtesy of CloudFirst Labs.

A Tampa-based tech startup has landed three of its apps on Salesforce AppExchange, a platform that offers a range of products and services that extend the capabilities of the hugely popular Salesforce platform. 

The company, CloudFirst Labs, spun off from Vology in January 2018. The founding partners — President John Dionne, Chief Technology Officer Robert Jones and Senior Salesforce Developer Wes Tavares — are all former Vology employees who pooled their resources to launch CloudFirst Labs, with no outside investment. They are also the firm’s sole full-time staff members. 

“We all worked together at Vology and that’s where we kind of cut our teeth,” Dionne said. “We were the technology guys inside of Vology and we did a lot of app development.” 

As a manager of IT and cloud services, Vology has close ties to Salesforce, which, with more than $17 billion in gross revenue last year, has become the world’s top customer relationship management (CRM) platform. In December, it acquired Slack, a popular workplace messaging service, for $27.7 billion, marking the culmination of a five-year run that saw it acquire 27 companies. 

In addition to developing apps, CloudFirst Labs has also become a Salesforce consulting partner. “We are able to offer a full spectrum of service offerings for Salesforce customers,” Dionne said. That should bode well for the company, because Salesforce’s platform is rapidly expanding to include specialized CRM clouds for industries like health care and financial services. 

“The ecosystem of Salesforce is huge — they have 150,000-plus customers,” Dionne said. “There’s a whole economy based on Salesforce partners.”

CloudFirst Labs’ apps, Dionne explained, basically make Salesforce’s platform better able to handle certain core functions. For example, one of them improves the assignment of roles to contacts. Another is a sales commission tool that connects to third-party financial software running within the Salesforce ecosystem. The third is what Dionne describes as a “lightweight” quoting tool for quickly generating sales quotes for customers. It’s more fully featured than Salesforce’s own “out of the box” quoting tool, he explained, but not as complex and difficult to use as others on the market, which can be “overkill” for certain customers. 

“We pride ourselves in our applications that are very fluid and very easy to use,” Dionne said. “They’re very intuitive — users who purchase the tools on the AppExchange can install and configure them themselves. There’s not a lot of setup.” 

Despite the big win with Salesforce, Dionne said CloudFirst Labs has taken a slow and steady approach to growth. He described the company as “treading water” financially — not yet profitable but headed in the right direction. 

“We’re still driving the same cars we drove three years ago,” he said, “but then again, we’re not eating ramen every day. We’re able to gainfully employ the three of us and put a few dollars into marketing.” 

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