Salesforce CEO and co-founder Marc Benioff has seen a lot in his 16 years at the helm of the cloud CRM provider, now one of the world’s biggest software companies. But nothing he’s seen has been as bad as the decline of rival SAP.
On stage at BoxDev, the developer event here in San Francisco, Benioff told Box CEO Aaron Levie that a lot of Salesforce customers actually moved from SAP’s platform to the Salesforce platform, which he described as “proper.”
“That’s because SAP has done as bad a job innovating as any company I’ve ever witnessed,” Benioff says.
Over the course of the conversation, he repeatedly referred to SAP as a “terrible company” (not a new position for him) and highlighted how Salesforce’s approach of moving fast, building smarter services, and engaging communities via philanthropy sets it apart.
As for Oracle, the big tech company where Benioff worked before founding Salesforce, he was a little more gentle, but not because his opinions were any weaker.
“You don’t think of them as sensitive people, but their feelings are easily hurt,” Benioff says. “I have to apologise whenever I hurt their feelings.”
Instead, Benioff refers to a lot of legacy tech providers as “single-digit growers,” subsiding only on the strength of their regular maintenance cycles rather than winning new customers with critical new features and functionalities.
“That’s not like my company or your company,” Benioff told Box’s Levie.
He says that cloud companies like Salesforce and Box are driving huge growth rates that are actually growing out the total market thanks to their focus on real innovations.
Where before, Salesforce and Box would sell to a CIO or IT administrator, they’re increasingly doing business with a new wave of tech-savvy CEOs who understand the “dramatically disruptive” impact that cloud computing, where applications are hosted in large, efficient data centres and accessed via the Internet, can have on their prosperity.
“We’re in the mainstream. This is the real deal,” Benioff says.
Benioff also reaffirmed his support to the fight for human rights nationwide, and thanked Indiana for changing its controversial religious freedom bill — a change in which he was instrumental. He says that a major part of doing business is working to make the world better.
“The people who live in these neighbourhoods in the Bay Area, in every city, those are our stakeholders too,” Benioff says. “We can’t do business if the environment is not healthy, and we all know the environment needs attention.”
To that end, Benioff says that elections are important, not just because of one candidate, but because of the teams they bring with them. Things like public works projects aren’t dictated by a single politician, but rather the “ecosystem” of other officials and policies that come with them.
The technology industry can’t do much to address that stuff directly. Political change is the only viable method for improving the quality of life.
“Elon Musk can build a rocket, but it’s much harder for him to build the Golden Gate Bridge,” Benioff says.
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