Salesforce.com co-founder and CEO Marc Benioff has lived a charmed life and he’s currently on a roll.
His company turned 15 years old this year, and is on pace to have record breaking sales of about $US5.5 billion, the first cloud computing company to hit the $US5 billion mark.
Benioff has spent much of the year in Europe to expand his company. He’s also signed a record-breaking real estate lease in his home town of San Francisco to build two towers and other office buildings for more expansion there.
Benioff’s fortunes have risen with his company. Although he was a millionaire by age 25 working for Larry Ellison at Oracle, he’s now one of San Francisco’s richest people, with a net worth of about $US3.3 billion, according to Forbes.
On Tuesday, Benioff appeared on stage at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference, as he does every year, and talked about the state of his company, his industry and what matters most to him (hint: his philanthropy).
Here are some of the surprising details he revealed about himself.
1. When he travels, he mostly stays in Airbnb rentals. This, even though he can afford the most luxurious hotels.
2. He had to pay extra to get his name on the building of the Benioff Children’s Hospital. He’s donated about $US250 million to date to build the new hospital.
“I didn’t really want to [put my name on it] but they made a good case (and it’s actually worked out) that we would inspire others,” he told TechCrunch’s Mike Arrington. That did work out. The new facility actually includes the Barbara Bass Bakar Cancer Hospital, and the Betty Irene Moore Women’s Hospital (wife of Intel founder Gordon Moore), too.
3. Bill Gates is contributing to his Children’s Hospital. With the Gates Foundation, the hospital is building a pre-term birth center at the Benioff Children’s Hospital.
4. Those free concerts that Benioff throws as part Salesforce’s huge annual customer conference in San Francisco are actually fundraisers for the hospital, via sponsorships. He expects to raise $US6-$8 million a year for the concert from this year’s Bruno Mars concert.
5. Benioff thinks San Francisco is in a “gold rush” right now that will crash. That’s why he’s pushing other tech CEOs to donate more to charity. When this “boom is done, which inevitably happens,” he says, he wants to be able to look back and said that the tech industry used the time well to improve schools, hospitals, shelters, “the safety net.”
5. He’s about to announce another “huge” donation to San Francisco schools on Friday. Salesforce has already donated nearly $US8 million to local schools to buy tech, including a $US5 million grant earlier this year, reports the San Francisco Business Journal.
6. Benioff is surprised at how San Francisco has become the Valley’s tech hub. “We never thought that San Francisco would be the heart and soul of the tech community. It used to be down in Sunnyvale and Cupertino,” he says.
Salesforce is one big reason. It’s the largest tech employer in the city, with 5,000 employees (out of over 13,000) in San Francisco proper with thousands more to come to fill its new tower office buildings.
7. He’s not a Democrat. Although he’s known for supporting President Obama’s elections, Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats. But he says, “I’m not a Democrat and I’m not a Republican. I’m an American. If I like someone I’ll give them money, but I’m not particularly close to anyone.”
8. He thinks Tim Cook is doing a great job with Apple. “I told my mum to buy Apple stock,” he says. Benioff had a very close friendship with Steve Jobs, who he credits for mentoring him when Salesforce.com was young.
9. He was not satisfied being a 25-year-old millionaire at Oracle. He says he had a spiritual awakening during a trip to India. “When I came to Oracle, I was 21 years old. When I was 25, I was the youngest VP. I was very successful. I had what I thought I wanted. My million-a-year salary, my social life, my condo. But there was something more that I wanted.”
He and another tech exec took a trip to India where they spent an evening with a spiritual guru who told them, “Don’t forget to do something for other people.”
And that’s what stuck with him. Benioff is famous for creating the 1-1-1 model of philanthropy in which tech companies donate their product, time and money to charity from the start.
He’s also created SF Gives to try and push companies working in the Valley to give more to local charities.