Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff finds a way to take a jab at Oracle during a Berkeley graduation speech

Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff at Dreamforce 2013Robert Galbraith/ReutersSalesforce CEO Marc Benioff

Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff and Oracle chairman Larry Ellison have taken their back-and-forth war of words up a notch recently, with each slamming the other’s company during their quarterly earnings calls.

Benioff mocked Oracle’s cloud product “Fusion” as an underperforming “Confusion” in February, while Ellison didn’t even wait until the call to start to trash-talk Salesforce’s cloud business in March.

And on Saturday, Benioff took another potshot from a new venue: a college campus.

During his commencement speech at UC Berkeley, Benioff talked about his first full-time job at Oracle, and how the company grew tenfold within three years of his joining the company. But after 13 years at Oracle, Benioff says he wasn’t feeling fulfilled anymore.

“After 13 years, I wanted to start my own company. I felt strongly in my heart that there must be more to the values of business than what I was experiencing at Oracle,” Benioff said.

“I came to the realisation that companies can do much, much more than just build and sell products,” he added.

So in 1999, Benioff left Oracle and started a company called Salesforce. As the story goes, Benioff made three commitments when he started his own company.

The first one was to build a truly “cloud” product, where you didn’t need to buy and install a physical product to use the software. Secondly, he wanted to build a subscription business, where companies would pay on a monthly-basis, as opposed to paying a huge, one-time upfront fee. The last one was to build a philanthropic culture where the company would give 1% of equity, 1% of employee time, and 1% of profit to build Salesforce Foundation.

At the time, all three ideas were rather unconventional. Taking software to the “cloud” and getting paid monthly was unheard of, and a company-wide philanthropic effort was not considered a priority in the corporate world. To his credit, Benioff was an early pioneer in carrying out these initiatives, and has been one of the most vocal proponents of giving back to the society.

Despite all this, however, a lot of the Berkeley students in attendance seemed clueless about who Benioff was, according to the San Jose Mercury News. So towards the end of the speech, Benioff took it as a chance to recruit talented Berkeley students to his company: “You can email me at [email protected] or tweet me @benioff.”

You can watch the full commencement speech below (Benioff’s talk starts at around 1:47:00):

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