Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff must be in a giving mood. His company has just announced an application process and deadlines for $5m in grants to small businesses throughout the USA and globally to help firms with cashflow during the COVID-19 economic fallout.
He can afford to be generous. Earlier this year his company awarded him a $2.3m performance-related bonus.
Nonetheless, the Salesforce grants are designed to support SMEs as they work to replenish materials, pay salaries, or adapt their business model to overcome these challenging times. As anyone in business knows, good companies can go to the wall, not through a lack of customers or sales, but simply because they run out of cash.
The COVID-19 global crisis has hit small businesses especially hard, Salesforce said. "They are the heart of our communities and we care deeply about the challenges they are facing in this crisis."
To support them, the grants (worth $10,000 each) don't need to be repaid, but applications must reach meet certain criteria.
Firstly, to succeed, a company must have between two and 50 employees; it must have been in business for two full years as of March 2020; and it should have annual revenue between $250,000 and $2m.
Salesforce said it will open US applications in two phases, based on location, and provides a handy map to help businesses pinpoint said location and apply. Companies in any region not listed as "open" can come back on 24 April. Details on international applications are yet to emerge.
Now, The Register is not one to look a gift horse in the mouth. Saleforce's offer is a thing and other global software companies are not doing the same.
The grants on offer are partly to compensate for the closure of the Small Business Administration's $350bn paycheck protection programme, which ran out of money in mid-April, just weeks after it had opened. It may be set for more funds soon.
Yet we can't help but wonder how much help a $10,000 grant will help a business that is really struggling. After all, companies in leisure, travel and retail may have had revenue streams completely severed and still have debt, rent and staff to pay.
The promised grants would compensate for just 15 days of revenue for a firm at the lower end of the scale. It might be enough time to secure a loan or ensure an invoice is paid, but with lockdowns expected for another month, who knows?
At the top end of the range, $10,000 is just two days of revenue.
Still, Saleforce.com's initiative is to be commended, as are other efforts from IT firms trying to stymie the COVID-19 crisis.
IBM is granting free access to its patent portfolio to organisations developing technologies to help diagnose, prevent, contain or treat coronaviruses, including the one that causes COVID-19. Big Blue said it would apply to 80,000 patents and include IBM AI patents in Watson technology, as well as US patents in the general area of biological viruses. ®
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