Ford shutters company building an app for plumbers, electricians and other trades

Ford has shut down VIIZR, a software-as-a-service company that along with Salesforce built an app to help tradespeople like plumbers, locksmiths and electricians to schedule field appointments, send invoices and manage customers, TechCrunch has learned. About 40 people who worked at VIIZR were laid off.

VIIZR, which was announced in December 2021, was a separate company majority owned by Ford with Salesforce as a minority investor. Its aim, at the time, was to build one of the many digital tools that would catapult the automaker's commercial vehicle and service business Ford Pro to about $45 billion in revenue by 2025.

VIIZR is no longer part of that plan.

Ford spokesperson Catherine Hargett confirmed that the automaker ended its investment in VIIZR and discontinued the product November 1 due to lack of customer demand and prioritizing its telematics, fleet management and charging productivity software where demand is strong and growing.

Ford Pro is well on its way to hitting $45 billion in revenue — a target that CEO Jim Farley noted during an event in January 2022 that highlighted VIIZR and Salesforce's involvement. Ford Pro generated $42.7 billion in revenue in the first nine months of 2023, a 22% gain from the same period of time last year, according to the company's latest earnings. Ford Pro software subscriptions, which includes services that helps a business manage fleets, charging its electric vehicles, data analytics and telematics, reached 476,000 in the third quarter, up nearly 50% year over year.

While Ford Pro's business is booming, the software-as-service app was met with more competition and limited demand.

When VIIZR first launched, however, Farley and Salesforce chair and co-CEO Marc Benioff touted its potential at a January 2022 event in Napa, California that TechCrunch attended. VIIZR used Salesforce's field service product, which provides software designed for mobile workforces, to build its app. Ford, citing market research from Salesforce and Gartner, noted that the market for field service management was estimated at $3 billion annually in the U.S and was expected to double in the next six years as changes to consumer behavior brought on by COVID would drive high demand for trades.

The premise was that tradespeople, many of whom might be driving Ford transit vans or trucks, already used their vehicles as their mobile office. So why not capitalize on selling them digital tools like an app that makes their job easier so, as Farley put it at the time, "they don't have to run their business from sticky notes."

"One of the big customer sets for these trucks is these professional drivers; they can be first responders, contractors, electricians, plumbers — and a lot of these folks work right in their truck," Benioff told TechCrunch on the sidelines of the 2022 event. "You'll see they've reconfigured the truck, so that it has a desk and you don't even have to leave the truck. So that idea that we could then provide applications for those professionals to achieve greater levels of productivity made a lot of sense and then it gets integrated more right into vehicle services as well."

The marketplace for apps like the one VIIZR was developing became crowded and rapidly evolved in the two years since the company launched, according to Hargett, who noted application was related to job scheduling and automating back office administrative tasks and not directly tied to vehicles or managing commercial vehicles, which is Ford Pro's focus.

While VIIZR has been discontinued, Salesforce is still providing enterprise software to Ford Pro.