Marc Benioff is an American entrepreneur and philanthropist who is the founder and co-CEO of Salesforce. Born in a well-to-do family in the heart of what is Silicon Valley today, Benioff showed exceptional prowess in programming from an early age. He developed and sold his first application called How to Juggle at the age of 15. While still in high school, he founded a company called Liberty Software to create and sell video games. During this period, he was earning an amazing $1,500 each month, enough put himself through college. While at college, he held a programming internship at Apple Inc. and was instantly inspired by the company’s iconic founder, Steve Jobs.Benioff would later state that Jobs was the motivation for him to launch his company and decide upon its offerings.
After graduating from the University of Southern California, Marc went the work for Oracle and rose to become vice president at the tender age of 26. After thirteen productive years and a burning ambition to start his own company, Marc quit his position as the VP to work on Salesforce. During his tenure at Oracle, he cultivated a friendship with Larry Ellison, the founder of Oracle and the two became close. Ellison even invested $2 million from his own pocket to fund Salesforce’s initial years. But things rapidly turned sour between them as Oracle and Salesforce began competing.
Oracle was the world’s leading enterprise software company. Its customers had to purchase the software and install it on their servers. Moreover, whenever Oracle rolled out new updates, the customers had to pay for those as well. Marc Benioff’s mantra, which became the marketing punch line for Salesforce was “the end of software”. While Oracle developed and sold software, Benioff wanted to leverage cloud computing and host the software from his company’s cloud, allowing clients to use them with little more than an internet connection. This meant that Salesforce users did not have to purchase software and could use them as per requirement. This business model quickly gained attention and Salesforce grew rapidly. Organizations no longer had to purchase and install enterprise software, thus eliminating the need for expenditure on server infrastructure and dedicated administrative staff.
The pay-per-use model of software was a hit among small companies and startups with limited resources. Benioff was a major catalyst in the rise of the cloud computing industry, which is valued at over $106 billion today.
Aside from building a highly successful business and helping to create an entire industry, Marc Benioff is a dedicated philanthropist. He donated a staggering $100 million to promote children’s healthcare. He pioneered the 1-1-1 model of charity, wherein his company donates 1% each of its earnings, products and employee time. Over 700 companies have adopted this model. Marc Benioff is the prime example of a successful business being an agent of positive change.