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Google Is Shopping for Cloud Companies. On the List: Namely and Shopify.

A plan may be shaping up to buy some cloud software companies whose customers are in the mid-market.

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Google has two engines in its push to be a formidable enterprise force: Cloud and apps. It’s searching for customers in both, trying to sign up companies for its cloud computing platform and its suite of workplace applications.

On the apps side, the search giant is also quietly exploring buying its way in.

Google has assembled an early working list of possible acquisition targets in enterprise that include a number of startups, according to sources familiar with the discussions. The list includes: Metavine, an automated app services startup that has raised $5.5 million; Shopify, a Canadian e-commerce public company with a market cap of $2.25 billion; CallidusCloud; Xactly; and Namely, a startup that handles payroll and health benefits services that raised a combined $77 million $108 million in three rounds, its latest led by Sequoia Capital.

Sources stressed the approaches have so far been preliminary in nature and haven’t reached a formal stage. Google declined to comment. Reps from Shopify, Namely and Metavine declined as well. Xactly and Callidus did not return requests for comment.

The list is full of companies that serve so-called “middle-market” businesses, which employ anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand employees. Google is aiming to reach this group to expand its cloud business, a priority for CEO Sundar Pichai. He hired Diane Greene from VMware last November, and the list marks the first serious advances on enterprise for Google in years.

And it underscores the broad edict and influence that its new enterprise SVP Diane Greene has at the company as it aims to compete with Amazon and Microsoft.

The thinking behind the potential moves is twofold, sources say.

First, Google has a noticeable gap in its base of customers for Google Apps. It does well both with small companies and large ones, but has struggled to gain the traction it wants with companies between those two bookends. Acquiring applications aimed at that market would raise the appeal of its apps offerings: Namely is a human resources and employee benefits app; Shopify is a cloud-based set of e-commerce tools; Xactly uses cloud software to track the effectiveness of a company’s sales process.

In October, Google sought to lure companies with 3,000 employees or fewer away from competing platforms like Office365 by paying them $25 per user to help them manage the transition in exchange for a one-year commitment.

Second, by acquiring some of these companies, Google would have the opportunity to move their internal systems to its cloud platform, Google Cloud. Here Google competes against Amazon Web Services and Microsoft’s Azure in the business of leasing computing resources that power applications. Google trails AWS by a wide margin, but has added some big-name customers, including Macy’s, Sony and Spotify. It also recently picked up Apple.

After starting in November, Greene, a Google board member, has accrued considerable power within the company. With her arrival, Google merged the enterprise apps and cloud divisions under her leadership. Shortly thereafter, the entire portfolio of Google’s apps — Gmail, Docs, etc. — shifted over to Greene.

The company is holding its first annual cloud developer user conference Wednesday and Thursday of next week.

Correction: We misstated the total amount of funding that Namely has raised from its investors so far.

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