It will be the next Steve Jobs. In five years, the name of Marc Benioff, founder of the American cloud computing giant Salesforce, will be on everyone’s lips. Entrepreneur, philanthropist, writer, media magnate (he personally bought Time), he is one of the most innovative and charismatic tech leaders on the planet.
His personal assets exceed $ 6.5 billion. As in the best Silicon Valley legends, Benioff started from scratch, in a rented apartment in San Francisco in 1999. In 20 years he has created an empire, but his is not just the story of an entrepreneur.
“I built a great company to have a positive impact on the world”
55 years old, the son of a shopkeeper (“I learned the work ethic from my father”), Benioff graduated in Business Administration from the University of California, paying for his studies. With a destiny already drawn, at 14 he creates and sells How to Juggle software for $ 75. At 15, he founded his first video game company, Liberty Software, earning $ 1,500 a month royalties. Having entered for a few months internship at Apple, he meets Steve Jobs, who becomes his mentor, and learns a lot of things.
“In that summer I discovered that an entrepreneur could encourage revolutionary ideas”
At 23, Marc Benioff began his career at Oracle, where he remained for 13 years, becoming the protege of the CEO, Larry Ellison. At 26, he is already vice president: he earns $ 300,000 a year. Then he feels the need to change. And according to Ellison, he takes a sabbatical. He goes to Hawaii, swims with dolphins for three months and studies what to do with his future. Then he goes to India, meets charismatic people and realizes that for him there is no difference between doing business and doing good.
“The gap year was the most productive and most influential period of my career,” he writes in his biography
Back in California, Benioff gets permission to work on the Salesforce idea in the morning and continues his work at Oracle in the afternoon. Ellison himself will encourage him to create his own company, despite the fact that he would become a competitor, investing $ 2 million. “But he knew that I needed the best talent and that I would be looking for them in Oracle. He asked me not to take more than three people away. Ellison was more than just a boss to me. He was a mentor and a friend. ” The relationship between the two, often involved in public feuds, is actually still made up of mutual respect and love. Salesforce, whose CRM allows companies to have a human relationship with customers, has reached the billion dollars faster than any other company.
Today, with 45,000 employees, it has exceeded 13 billion dollars. It has been listed on the NYSE since 2004 and its capitalization exceeds 125 billion dollars.
Benioff’s business model goes under the acronym 1-1-1: it is an inclusive capitalism model conceived by himself and an integral part of the Salesforce corporate charter. It provides that 1% of working hours, 1% of share capital and 1% of products are donated to non-profit associations. It means that employees have 8 working days per year (considered to all intents and purposes working days and therefore paid by the company) in which to engage in any type of voluntary activity. It means devolving part of the revenues to philanthropic activities. In 20 years, Benioff has donated 250 million to charitable activities, focusing primarily on the health of children (in San Francisco and Oakland he built children’s hospitals at UCSF, University of California) and the homeless.
“Salesforce is a unique, cutting-edge, ethical company. Capable of attracting the best talents on the planet, increasingly sensitive to these issues. And the credit goes entirely to Benioff: he knows how to see the future six months before another, has an extraordinary ability to listen and wants to promote a new capitalism, based on values ”explains Paolo Bergamo, senior vice president of Salesforce, 45, a career extraordinary in California, the only Italian on the list of the leader’s trusted advisors, a small group of 30 people that goes by the name of Benioff Strategy