Charlie Rose Talks to's Marc Benioff

The founder and CEO of discusses his 13-year war on software, the acceleration of technology, and how to build generosity into a company's DNA

How do you describe Salesforce to people who don’t understand it?
Well, Salesforce is a company that really pioneered the cloud. It’s kind of Amazon or EBay or Google, but this is using those exact same technologies to run your business. And businesses up to this point really have had to buy their own software and build their own data centers and hook it all up themselves. Our message is very simple: Hey, if you can buy a book on Amazon, if you can do an auction on EBay, if you can do a search on Google, you can run your business the same way. You just go right in.

You’ve been on the warpath against software for how long?
Well, that’s certainly been our pitch now for 13 years. Software: It’s got the line through it. What we’re trying to do is to make the case that we can dramatically lower the cost of business. And the way to dramatically lower the cost of business is by dramatically lowering the cost of IT. And all we do is follow around all these smart young guys, Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, Larry Page, Sergey Brinn. And whatever they do, we’re kind of copying it, but for business. We’re not the inventors. We’re not the creators of social networking. But when we see something like social networking, we go, “Well, this is great.” Twitter? Wow. Facebook? A billion people know how to use this app, and they didn’t have to read a manual.

Weren’t you just named Most Innovative Company of the Year?
What we try to do is constantly recreate ourselves. I consider myself a student of Steve Jobs. I worked for him in 1984 at Apple. I was in the Macintosh division writing assembly language code.

So you write code. You just don’t like software.
I like software, but I really want software to be delivered differently, you know. I want it to be expressed in a different way. And I think that idea is very powerful. The thing that’s interesting is if you don’t introduce an idea like that in our industry, then the industry never changes. And that’s what happens to so many of these tech examples. That’s Microsoft, right? It’s like the same thing keeps going, and then all of a sudden, you know, gee, that’s like a really old shoe. I need a new shoe.

Which is why there’s been a changing of the guard. Talk about the next wave of talent.
I think that we have a great new visionary with Mark Zuckerberg. We have a great set of entrepreneurs, Larry and Sergey, who still have a lot in them in their 30s, and we have Jeff Bezos recreating himself. You’re going to see new competitors and new entrepreneurs. The most exciting thing that’s happening in our industry is the youth. There are all these young entrepreneurs coming up. Oh, let’s add another one: Jack Dorsey with Twitter. … And [LinkedIn’s ] Reid Hoffman. Reid holds a huge part of the vision for social. As our industry matures, these kinds of fathers of the industry emerge. Steve Jobs was the father of the PC.

And tablet computing.
I’m going to do this seminar on Wednesday—10,000 people here in New York. I’ll say to them, “How many of you now have an iPad?” Half the hands will go up. And this thing’s only been around for 18 months. Things are going faster now than ever before. There’s a level of speed we’re not used to. There’s also a level of openness and transparency that we’re not used to. That’s what the Occupy movement is all about. Organizations and governments who don’t move to that speed and with that transparency will rapidly become obsolete.

You now seem more concerned with philanthropy than your own wealth. Do you still use your 1-1-1 rule?
Oh, yeah. When we started the company, we took 1 percent of our equity and 1 percent of our profit and 1 percent of all our employees’ time, and we put it into a 501(c)(3) public charity. At the time, it was very easy because we had no profit, we had no time, we had no equity. But then, it turned out that our company is worth, you know, tens of billions of dollars. We run 10,000 nonprofits for free; we do not charge them for our services. We do not charge universities for our services. We will deliver hundreds of thousands of hours of community service. Google copied our 1-1-1 model, and others have, too. That’s been probably our most successful part of our business, far more than our business success—our ability to inspire others to do philanthropy. It’s been a huge missing part of Silicon Valley.


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