This week is Dreamforce week in San Francisco. It’s probably an insult to call it a user event: although targeted at users of Salesforce it’s become an industry highlight, one of those where tech press will wait for the big news in the Cloud and beyond.Although by no means can we think of Salesforce as a startup, founded as it was in 1999, it’s certainly a great case study in how companies can grow by creating and shaping the market and, our favourite approach, constant innovation – after all, Forbes has named it the world’s most innovative company.Here’s some characteristics we think all entrepreneurs wanting to be the next Marc Benioff (who it seems is the next Larry Ellison) and to have the next great software business can learn from.Disruption: The first premise of Salesforce was ‘End of Software’. The idea of delivering the service without those boxes of discs and manuals. You don’t get much more disruptive than that in a business which at that time, even ran its accounting processes based on software shipment. And, here’s a lesson for all startups, that premise has continued to drive them forward.Market creation and ownership: Although most businesses now have a CRM system, when Salesforce started this wasn’t the norm. And it’s a rare company that doesn’t at least have Salesforce on the longlist when implementing CRM for the first time, or updating their systems. As they moved forward they didn’t just take market share, they extended the concept of CRM into Sales Force Automation, so that they owned a particular type of CRM. For most startups trying to establish a market share is the first major obstacle: understanding how to turn that first share into a unique market gives you a positioning that is unassailable.Technology leadership: It may seem that technology leadership is stating the obvious in a successful company, but the transition from SaaS to platform provider through Force.com showed innovation and leadership. If fortune favours the brave then the approach of opening up the platform to apps developers – before apps had that ubiquitous consumer touch and feel, was the perfect way to extend business, technology reach and potential while building up an even more loyal community. As well as giving your customers more reason to stay with you as their potential solution grew, with more options.Service: For most users Salesforce is synonymous with service. And service that’s delivered in the same ‘end of software’ way. Making extensive use of technologies, from training webinars, to hugely successful videos. Anyone who’s ever signed up for even a trial knows that the delivery of the first point of contact is lightning quick. A very obvious and frequently-cited lesson, but most customers will choose service over product features anytime, so always get yours right.There are many other elements to the Salesforce success story: smart acquisition of complementary products and services that integrate smoothly rather than seeming to be driven by competitive greed; pioneers in the pricing model that now epitomises web 2.0 but started in that SaaS sphere, strong ethical credentials and making the most of social, including its own social tools. OK I’m an unabashed Salesforce fan, but I think there’s a huge amount to be learnt from this business. As software businesses increasingly become subjects of acquisition, witness HP and Autonomy, one of the UK’s great successes, it’s interesting to watch a business that set itself out to change things, continuing to do just that.And if you’re an investor looking for the next great software business, why not submit a brief now?