Featured Business Leader: Marc Benioff

Featured Business Leader: Marc Benioff


There are great business leaders and innovators across engineering and technology – some who revolutionise the way we utilise technology or manage our business. Marc Benioff and his company, Salesforce.com, have done exactly that.

Born and raised in San Francisco, California, Marc was interested in technology and applications from a young age – while still in high school, he was creating and selling software and Atari games. Video game publisher Epyx published several of Marc’s creations, and by 16 he was earning royalties of over $1,500 – more than enough to pay for his college tuition.

The passion for software and technology continued, and Marc Benioff completed a Bachelor of Science, majoring in Business Administration whilst studying at the University of Southern California. During his time studying, he was lucky enough to earn an internship as a programmer in the Macintosh division of Apple Computer – allowing him the opportunity to work under revolutionary technology entrepreneur Steve Jobs, a man who proved to be an inspiration to him.

At the completion of his degree, Marc Benioff joined Oracle Corporation in a customer service role, before rising through the ranks of sales, marketing and product development positions before being promoted to Vice President at the age of 26 – becoming the youngest senior executive at the company.

After 13 years with Oracle, Marc Benioff elected to leave in order to build his own business. In March 1999, in a rented apartment in San Francisco, Salesforce.com was born. Described as “the end of software”, Salesforce.com is a global cloud computing company which primarily provides businesses with a customer relationship management product, or CRM.

The idea grew steadily and, by 2004, Salesforce.com was being floated on the New York Stock Exchange as a public company. Salesforce.com was the first look at the power of ‘the cloud’ – that is, storing and accessing data and programs over the Internet, instead of through your computer’s hard drive. Now, it’s seen as a time saver, a space saver, and a great opportunity to enable employees to work flexibly from any location.

The original offering from Salesforce.com, the CRM, is still its most successful and widespread product – but the company has since diversified to offer cloud-based solutions for managing B2B sales, support desk operations, digital marketing and community services.

While the company continues to revolutionise cloud-based technology, Marc Benioff has also worked hard to instil a strong culture of philanthropy in his business. In 2000, he established the Salesforce Foundation and created the “1-1-1 model” – where the company contributes one percent of product, one percent of equity and one percent of employee hours back to the community it serves. This model has since been adopted by several other companies.

In addition to building a philanthropic culture within his company, Marc Benioff has personally aided many different causes. Most notably he is a large-scale donor to programs that are design to advance healthcare for children through the UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital – a facility which was renamed in his honour in 2010.

Marc firmly believes that the future of business lies in cloud technology, and Salesforce.com is poised to continue making the most of the current boom in Software-as-a-Service needs.

What is your opinion on Marc Benioff’s rise, and the strengths of Salesforce.com? What is your opinion on their company culture? What kind of future do you see for cloud computing?

This article was written by Simone Ball on behalf of the Australian Institute of Business. All opinions are that of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of AIB. The following sources have been used to prepare this article: WikipediaSalesforceBloombergBusiness InsiderEndeavor and TechAmerica Foundation.

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