Software entrepreneur Marc Benioff fondly remembers his barnstorming days with Oracle a decade ago, when he helped sell and market the database giant's products across key markets in the Asia Pacific. 'It was a different era, when technology companies first built their businesses in the United States and Canada, moved on to Europe and then pushed into Asia,' said Mr Benioff, who left Oracle more than six years ago to establish software-as-services provider salesforce.com. The industry had changed a lot since the 1990s, when the internet started to make an impact, and so had the global market situation for information technology products and services, said Mr Benioff, who is also salesforce.com chairman and chief executive. He said IT start-ups in the US would do well to consider developing business in Asia first, and in China in particular. He said salesforce.com could have done just that if the company had started two years ago. 'China represents our industry's most dynamic market in the world,' he said. San Francisco-based salesforce.com - the world's leading supplier of customer relationship management (CRM) applications over the internet and on demand - gained more than 20 large and small to medium-sized firms as customers in the mainland, Taiwan and Hong Kong during a company presentation last week. 'In Greater China, on-demand is already in demand,' said Mr Benioff, relishing the company's growing customer adoption rate against CRM pioneer Siebel, German software giant SAP, Oracle and various local applications providers. Mr Benioff is regarded as the leader of a movement he has termed 'the end of software', which argues that on-demand applications 'can democratise CRM by delivering immediate benefits to companies of all sizes at reduced risks and costs'. New York-listed salesforce.com is one of the world's fastest-growing software firms, with more than 13,900 corporate customers and 227,000 subscribers. But Mr Benioff remained non-committal as to when a strategic investment in the mainland would be made as the company continued to reach a growing number of prospective customers through word of mouth and the steady growth of broadband internet connections throughout China. Kenneth Juster, salesforce.com executive vice-president for legal affairs and corporate development, said the company was still investigating a move to China. So far, the company's Asia-Pacific offices include Japan, Australia, Hong Kong and Singapore. Customers in the region include Hutchison Telecom, Travelex, Datacraft and Vodafone. Efforts by traditional packaged CRM suppliers, including local technology firms, to pursue a software-as-services delivery of their products may convince Mr Benioff to quickly follow his own advice. Amy Konary, program director for software pricing, licensing and delivery at research firm International Data Corp (IDC), said: 'Traditional software firms are increasingly responding to market pressures and potential opportunities with offerings designed to compete with on-demand alternatives.' IDC estimated the Asia-Pacific CRM solutions market, excluding Japan, would grow from US$1.6 billion in 2003 to US$3.8 billion in 2008.