Salesforce: The Fulfillment of Marc Benioff’s Childhood Dreams
From a one-of-a-kind kid, to one of the most influential CEOs of today.
What does it take?
Unique and hard-working habits that lead to groundbreaking achievements?
A great mentor, that will later turn into his biggest frenemy?
Brave, creative and innovative ideas?
Or even more?
The story that follows the creation of the proclaimed world's best workplace -
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The world would've been such a boring place if it weren't for creative, original, and brave innovators. But when a 15-year old falls into this category, it makes things a lot more interesting! Marc Benioff, Salesforce’s founder was a one-of-a-kind kid, set for great success from a young age!
His unique, hard-working habits made him a vice-president at the age of 26. His dynamic spirit combined with his spiritual beliefs were the cornerstone of Salesforce, a company that would soon become one of the best places to work for in the world.
However, creating a Fortune 500 company wasn't a walk in the park. Marc didn't become one of the most influential CEOs of today without making a few frenemies down the road - one of which was his previous mentor!
Building The Entrepreneurial Mindset From A Young Age
Marc was a loud, brilliant, and ferocious kid: the type of child you just know will turn out to be successful! Maybe it had something to do with his birthplace: San Francisco Bay Area, the place-to-be for every innovator and entrepreneur. He got his first job when he was 12, repairing antennas in his neighborhood. His second job as a jewelry cleaner wasn’t fun at all, but it gave him the opportunity to work across the street from the Radio Shack store.
For a kid in the late 70s, that meant only one thing - access to computers!
Marc really had a thing about technology, especially PCs. He was so adamant to develop his programming skills during his high school years, that at the age of 15, he wrote his first piece of software - Liberty Software. With it, he created games like The Nightmare, Escape from Vulcan’s Isle, King Arthur’s Heir, and Crypt of the Undead. By the age of 16, he was already making $1500 a month - money that would pay for his college days.
Even though he studied business administration at the University of Southern California and did his internship in Apple, his college professors had different plans for him. They persuaded Marc to get a real job in the sales department at Oracle, the most popular cloud infrastructure platform at that time. So, in 1986, Marc became the rookie of the year. The following year, he was announced as a vice-president at the age of 26. At the time, he was the youngest person to attain such a role in Oracle’s history.
He had a great mentor to look up to - Oracle's founder, Larry Ellison. So, after 13 life-changing years spent at Oracle, Marc asked for vacation time. While wandering through the gorgeous Hawaiian beaches, he got an idea about developing a cloud-based solution and customer relationship management (CRM) software, all made for different company's departments. For the late 90s, this was quite the innovation!
The seed for developing Salesforce was planted, but it took a while until it bloomed!
Marc And Larry, A Dynamic Bromance
The relationship between Larry and Marc became ground-zero for building Salesforce, as mutual respect and transparency were paramount to them.
So in 1999, when Marc returned from vacation with his million-dollar idea, Larry was the first one to know about it. He even allowed Marc to work during the day in Oracle and dedicate his time to Salesforce during the night. Salesforce's first team was made of Oracle employees, all of which were approved by Larry. He was even the first investor in Salesforce and gave Marc $2 million in funding! The investment positioned Larry at the Salesforce’s board of directors.
All this would have made launching Salesforce far too easy - if it wasn't for Larry's big appetite! Marc discovered that Oracle was working with potential Salesforce competitors. He tried to convince Larry to stop the collaboration, which failed and pushed Larry even further - he fired Marc, keeping his shares in Salesforce and his chair in the board of directors.
Some friend, huh?
This was the moment the rivalry was born - a rivalry that would last for ages! Sometimes it was personal, but most of the time it was businesswise. Both Larry and Marc rant about each other's companies, the poor services they provide, and the lack of technological innovations. Although somewhat catastrophic, this rivalry didn’t affect Salesforce’s success. In fact, the publicity put Salesforce in the spotlight!
How Salesforce Modified The IT Industry
The official launch of the company happened on January 1st, 1999, but Salesforce wasn't available for users until November 1999. The first version of the product was pretty basic - transfer all your PC data to a cloud base platform, providing additional security.
Considering these were the late 90s, it was difficult for Marc's team to find customers that would find this service trustworthy. That's why Marc prepared a different strategy - word of mouth and personally approaching any connections he had in the IT industry. It turned out to be quite a success - they loved Salesforce's cloud-based solution!
Marc used all his creativity to promote Salesforce as well - he even created a fake protest of the Siebel annual conference in 2000 that became so popular, it got news coverage! This small PR move brought Salesforce its first hundred buying customers!
In 2004, Salesforce had its first public offering on the New York Stock Exchange which ended with a whopping 56% gain - the best tech IPO that year! Next, Salesforce raised $110 million from investment bankers, and since that moment, it was clear they were meant to do big things.
The company brought the term 'software-as-a-service' into the world, both explaining its services but also the potential power of the Internet over data management. In 2012, Salesforce declared a trademark of the term 'social enterprise' - a company that primarily has social purposes. This was all due to Marc’s vision about the company's culture which differentiated Salesforce from all the other IT companies.
Salesforce - World's Best Workplace Three Years In A Row
During their 20 years of existence, Salesforce was able to modify and adapt most of its products. What started as a cloud-based only platform, now it offers many versatile products such as Commerce Cloud, Sales Cloud, Service Cloud, Data Cloud, Marketing Cloud, Community Cloud, Analytics Cloud, App Cloud, and IoT.
Today, more than 150,000 companies of all sizes use Salesforce products to grow and of course - increase their sales!
The company and its mission definitely changed the user's perception of cloud-based solutions, but that's only one aspect of Salesforce popularity. Philanthropy is the second one and it's pretty high on Marc's priority list. During his trip to Hawaii, Marc didn't spend all his time thinking about how to make money - he also thought about ways to make employees happy and satisfied. That’s how he discovered Buddhism and a lot of Salesforce's working culture is based on these beliefs. Working spaces for meditation, yearly volunteering projects for every employee - these are just some of the benefits Salesforce offers to its employees - but it doesn't end there! Marc is the creator of the 1-1-1 model of integrated corporate philanthropy, by which companies contribute 1% of the product, 1% of equity, and 1% of employee hours back to the community!
He's a firm believer in the idea that companies don’t exist outside of their communities, but rather within them! The model has proven to be more than welcomed by Salesforce employees and that's why this company has been declared the world's best working space three years in a row!
With his cheerful personality, open-minded, and strategic thinking, Marc Benioff created something bigger than just a company - he founded a working community eager to create a better life for everyone - and it all started from a child's daydream, imagined while repairing antennas in the 70s!