David Kirkpatrick (left) and Marc Benioff
David Kirkpatrick (left) and Marc Benioff
Chairman and CEO, Salesforce
Founder and CEO, Techonomy
Kirkpatrick: Marc Benioff is our closing guest, somebody who I’ve known for a fairly long time. Long enough that he didn’t have any hesitation, somewhat like Weiner only more so, yesterday, telling me how I need to conduct the interview. Not asking me how I thought I should—but he did sort of ask me that, but then he told me. So he wanted me to put my questions away, because I know him too well to have anything written down, which is fair enough. And I was telling Marc that—
Benioff: And the one person you didn’t thank was yourself, so how about giving David a round of applause for putting together a great conference?
Kirkpatrick: Well, you know, I appreciate that, Marc, and I said in one of the things I wrote in advance of the conference that it was kind of apt to end with you, because you’ve been so supportive of Techonomy from the beginning and given me some extremely good advice on a number of occasions. And I guess maybe that’s something I wouldn’t mind, not talking about that exactly, but you have really always seemed to understand why we wanted to do Techonomy, which was to advance the collective understanding of business in particular, but government—
Benioff: I didn’t really understand until you told me backstage why we do this.
Kirkpatrick: Oh you did too! But anyway—that is why we do this. I mean, we’re not a tech conference. We’re trying to be a conference, as we like to say, about how tech is changing everything else. And the reason we feel that’s needed, is because we don’t think leaders generally get what they could be doing.
Benioff: Did you choose the name Techonomy because the name Brainstorm was already taken?
Kirkpatrick: Now you’re sounding like you’re Michael Fertik yesterday. Actually Michael Fertik in his humorous thing on stage thanked me for having him at “Fortune Brainstorm” yesterday.
Benioff: I wasn’t going to wear a costume.
Kirkpatrick: No actually, the reason the name Techonomy came up was I’d owned the url for like 12 years, because I just knew it was going to be useful for something. And it ended up encapsulating what I would want a conference to be about, because that is what it’s about. The integration of technology and the economy. Which is exactly what I want you to talk about, because that is the thing we feel is still not sufficiently understood. I mean, not to talk much more myself, but yesterday I was forced to say, at one point, interviewing somebody—I think it was Weiner—that I’m tired of being onstage with people who are saying that our education system is not training people for the jobs that exist, but the jobs that will be. So there you have a whole sector of the leadership of society that is completely not getting what’s going on. I think there are a surprisingly large number of business leaders who are in the same boat. Another panel here during this conference had a member who said that they were recently talking to a leader of a multi-billion-dollar national healthcare provider who was asking him, “What is this cloud computing thing?” So—
Benioff: What is cloud computing?
Kirkpatrick: Well you’re probably able to describe that one. I mean, but do you worry about this issue of leaders not getting it? You’ve spent a lot of time talking to leaders. What do you think? Do they get what’s happening? Are we moving fast enough?
Benioff: Is that your number one issue? That you think that leaders don’t get it?
Kirkpatrick: It’s one of my top issues, because I think—well I also think you can define leaders broadly—but I think leaders don’t get it, and particularly in the United States. And I think even at an international competition level, we are falling behind because in a number of other countries, most notably China, the leaders get it way better than they do here. Do you agree with that?
Benioff: Not really.
Kirkpatrick: Okay, well why not? Do you think leaders get it here? You think we’re taking advantage of tech to the degree we need to?
Benioff: I think it’s relative. I think that, you know, this conference is a great example where there’s a lot of things that are happening. And, you know, even in my own business, I love this venue, because we have done a lot of our own management meetings here in this room, actually. And I also just attended a really amazing conference here on the oceans, as well. But when I was—when I conduct my own conferences here, I always say to people, “There’s no ‘S’ under here. You know, there’s just chest hair.” So my point is: I think we sometimes expect people to be more than they can be. There’s no Superman and we have a lot of really hard issues there’s a lot of hard issues. So—where do you want me to look?
Kirkpatrick: I just want the camera to be able to see.
Benioff: Oh okay, I was just—
Kirkpatrick: You can look at me—
Benioff: I think there’s a lot of really hard issues. I just mentioned one of them, the oceans. The oceans are like a really tough, it’s a really difficult set of issues, in regards to over-fishing or acidification of the ocean. Or you can go on to other environmental issues, the CO2 or you go into education, or like we just heard jobs or, I mean, it’s like whoa, it’s like really—
Kirkpatrick: And your point about leadership is what?
Kirkpatrick: Your point about leadership is?
Benioff: That these are really hard issues, and that things are accelerating, things are going faster than ever before. And I think in many cases we expect more from people than they’re able to deliver.
Kirkpatrick: But don’t you think we should? I mean don’t you think we should always be pushing them? I mean, what’s wrong with that?
Benioff: I think pushing them is great, as long as you’re also realistic in terms of what people are able to do. And one of the things that I’ve found is that I think we’re too quick to get angry.
Kirkpatrick: I’m not angry.
Benioff: What’s that?
Kirkpatrick: I just—I didn’t say I was angry. I just, I’m just impatient. Am I—are we too quick to get impatient?
Benioff: Aren’t those two things somewhat related?
Kirkpatrick: Okay, who’s getting angry—okay let’s forget about me, but who’s getting angry too fast, then?
Benioff: I think that—
Kirkpatrick: I mean the people in San Francisco? Is that who you’re talking about?
Benioff: I look back and I look at everything that’s going on right now, and I think we need a more compassionate world, more love and more focus on happiness. More focus on taking care of each other, taking care of our environment. And as we run our businesses, taking care of our employees, taking care of our partners. I wrote a book more than a decade ago called, “Compassionate Capitalism.” A more compassionate capitalism, I think capitalism tends to be very much an efficiency game and we see that more and more today, where we see companies really striving to make their capitalism more efficient than ever before. Those things, I think, are the things that are really breaking down.
Benioff: I think we need more awareness and more focus on these bigger issues.
Kirkpatrick: And how do we get that?
Benioff: Dialogue. I think discussion is probably the most important thing that we can achieve—
Kirkpatrick: Right. So where are you disagreeing with me here? I don’t quite see it.
Benioff: I wasn’t disagreeing with you—
Kirkpatrick: Well, I mean, because the way you started out disagreeing with me that I’m impatient with leaders, I mean, I agree with everything you said—
Benioff: Oh I wasn’t disagreeing, I was just pointing it out.
Kirkpatrick: Well because I certainly agree with what you’ve said, and I think unfortunately—I mean, Jaron Lanier gave a quite extraordinary talk this morning about, you know, power laws and bell curves and income and wealth and power distribution. And there’s no question that we don’t yet have the formula or the understanding about how to take advantage of the tools that are in front of us, whether they’re technological or even moral, in order to more fully bring the population of the United States and the world into society, really. I mean, we have vast disparities that are grotesquely unfair. Right?
Kirkpatrick: So yes we should be more compassionate. The way—I mean, I just—everybody does what they can. So here at Techonomy we think, you know, “Okay one little thing that could be a lot better is the understanding of technology as a lever for progress.” And when the manager, the CEO of a major healthcare company doesn’t even know what cloud computing is, forget about whether they use Salesforce, that’s not what I’m talking—but that’s scary to me!
Benioff: You said, “One little thing that can make things better.” You know, one thing I was impressed with as I was sitting in the audience, is that you’re talking about how you’re doing these drives with Ford, outside, and you’re also making contributions to the Code.org.
Kirkpatrick: Yeah, we’re very proud of that.
Benioff: Well I think that that’s really important. You know, when we started Salesforce 15 years ago, I wanted—
Kirkpatrick: Ford is making the contribution, but we picked Code.org, we’re very happy about that.
Benioff: That’s great. Three things that were important to me. One was to do a new technology model, which was cloud computing. One was a new business model for software, which was subscription services. And one was a new philanthropic model. And that was, you know, the first day of Salesforce, which was March 8th, 1999, we took 1 percent of our equity, 1 percent of our profits, and 1 percent of all our employees’ time, and put it into a 501(c)(3) public charity. Because our intention from the beginning was, “Yes, we’re going to have innovation. Yes, we’re going to ride the technology curve,” which is kind of a lot of the discussion that’s here. We all know, technology’s getting lower cost and easier to use. It’s a continuum, it’s not stopping, it’s accelerating. That’s the nature of technology. But we want to couple that with compassion and create a better company. It was very easy then, because we had no employees. We had no products, we had no equity. So—
Kirkpatrick: I was around. I remember that, actually.
Benioff: You were there. You were there.
Kirkpatrick: Yeah, we were hanging out at the time.
Benioff: We were hanging out. But today, now 15 years later, I can say, “Okay, we’ve been able to give almost a million hours of community of service through our company. We’re able to run more than 20,000 non-profits and NGOs for free. And we’re able to give almost $100 million in grants, that came through that model, that came through that intention.” And I think that it’s more important than ever that as we look to create companies, create initiatives, conferences, everything that we’re doing, that we’re coupling that kind of awareness into what we’re doing. And I thought the speaker two speakers ago said, “Well, there was this big payout for the WhatsApp, you know, acquisition.” Part of it is, yes, there’s a bit payout, but where is that money going? Is it just going into somebody’s private trust or reserve or trans-generational trust? Or is it actually going to make the world better? I think those are the questions that are more important.
Kirkpatrick: Well it’s undeniable—
Benioff: I don’t think that acquisitions are going to stop, nor do I think they should. And I don’t think one acquisition in particular needs to necessarily be held out. I think it’s more about, “Okay, you’re given this incredible resource, or this incredible amount of wealth. What are you going to do with it? How are you going to make the world better?” Okay, you can see all the issues that are going on in this conference. How are you going to take these things on?
Kirkpatrick: I love you’re asking those questions. It’s undeniable that the way you structured the company with that philanthropic piece to it, has been extraordinarily influential. Even Google has openly said that the creation of Google.org was inspired by what you did. And there’s plenty of other companies that have done it.
But I have a question for you: at this point, you’re now so big and successful, is 1 percent enough? Should it be more?
Benioff: I don’t think 1 percent is ever enough. But I think it’s important to do something, you know? I think the most important thing is actually not the 1 percent. Looking back at the 15 years, the most important thing is, on the first day of employment of every person at Salesforce, is that in the morning we kind of bring them and say, “Here’s your cube, here’s the kitchen, here’s all these things.” And then in the afternoon they actually go and do something for other people.
Kirkpatrick: So you’re making a statement that’s literal and symbolic which I like—
Benioff: That they go, “Okay, well, you go and you actually take action.” That is like, you are here, you’re going to go take a drive in the car and you’re going to do something—
Kirkpatrick: It is. I mean, this is a question, though, that I really—this 1 percent thing is fantastic. But, you know, it’s interesting, because I was just at Dreamforce, your Woodstock of business. Which is an extraordinary thing. I mean, what did you have 130,000 people there?
Benioff: We had 150,000 people physically registered attending, and 9 million also attended online.
Kirkpatrick: Not that many companies do that—or no—I don’t think any other company has 150,000 people at their corporate event, so congratulations on that.
Benioff: Thank you.
Kirkpatrick: But the thing that, among many things about it that impressed me, and even surprised me, despite how well I know you, is that I heard you speak several times, and I think every time you got on stage, you talked about philanthropy and giving back for so long before you talked about business, that people were like, “When’s he going to talk about business?” So—which I think is fantastic—but it was more than 1 percent of the time. I’m wondering, maybe you should leave Salesforce and go into—you know, just totally do the Gates Foundation thing.
Benioff: But that’s the whole point. Thank you for bringing that up. The whole point is that that’s exactly what we don’t need. We don’t need disintermediation. We need integration—
Kirkpatrick: Meaning what? What do you mean? What does that mean?
Benioff: That is, too long is it we’re waiting for—you know, what Bill Gates has done is amazing, and truly a role model for me. But while he was at Microsoft, he did not have that same philanthropic focus. You know that.
Kirkpatrick: He sure didn’t. That’s for sure. No, in fact—
Benioff: You’re a documentarian of his tenure at Microsoft, and you wrote, I think, maybe the last article that covered his tenure.
Kirkpatrick: One of the last. I mean, I wrote about him a lot, there’s no doubt about that, yeah.
Benioff: Right. And the pursuit and focus and vision that he had for the world and making it better that he had today, is not something that he had while he was in business.
Kirkpatrick: Well he certainly didn’t articulate it very much yeah—
Benioff: But what if he had? What if he had told all of those amazing people at Microsoft that this was important to him, and that they needed to do this and also create a great company?
Kirkpatrick: I don’t know.
Benioff: And see, I think it’s “and” and not “or.”
Kirkpatrick: I don’t know if they would have been the monopoly success they were if he did that, but.
Benioff: Okay, you know what? That, I think, is a belief that needs to change. And I think that is actually—you’re getting to—that gets to the core of the issue, see.
See that’s the core of the issue, which is the two things that you—
Kirkpatrick: I’m not saying I thought it was great that they were a monopoly success—
Benioff: No, no, no. The two things—
Kirkpatrick: —although, I thought they made a lot of positive change in the world by having their product on every desk and in every home. That changed the world.
Benioff: Okay, but that’s the whole point, isn’t it?
Kirkpatrick: But it was a positive social vision that was at the outset of Microsoft that they actually executed brilliantly well. Which was empowering people all over the world with technology in a way that individuals had never before been. Which is extraordinary thing, right?
Benioff: No. That whole point is: that is no longer enough. And also, now, let’s put those three things together that you just said. One, you implied that I should leave Salesforce so that I—
Kirkpatrick: No, I was asking you—
Benioff: —I could make a bigger impact.
Kirkpatrick: Well I just wonder—
Benioff: Two, you said—[LAUGHTER] No, that was the first thing you said. Two, you said, “Oh it’s a good thing that Bill Gates didn’t work on social issues while he was at Microsoft or he would not have had as great success”. And three—
Kirkpatrick: That is not exactly what I said. [LAUGHTER]
Benioff: No, that is what you said. No, that is what you said—
Kirkpatrick: It’s close enough—okay—
Benioff: That is what you said. No, that’s what you implied.
Kirkpatrick: I said he probably wouldn’t have had the same monopoly success—
Benioff: All right, this is what you implied.
Kirkpatrick: —if he had talked about it—I’m not even sure what it would have meant for Bill Gates to do that, but go ahead. Keep going.
Benioff: You know what? But that is what needs to change. These ideas and these mindsets and these beliefs you have in your own head, okay?
Kirkpatrick: Presumably you’re talking the universal you, I hope, you know. But right, okay.
Benioff: No, no. I’m just talking in the specific. I’m talking right here.
[LAUGHTER & APPLAUSE]
Kirkpatrick: Okay, so what do you want me to do differently, then? If this is a therapy session here, what is it that I need that I need to take out of here, and learn onstage, in front of all these people and the livestream?
Benioff: First of all, you don’t need to do anything. You can just relax.
Kirkpatrick: I’m, I’m great. Look, I’m loving this, actually. This is–
Benioff: But what I want to just point out, no, I just want to point—
Kirkpatrick: I wish more interviews were like this, because I don’t have to do any work at all.
Benioff: But I just want to point out some of these kind of presuppositions, you know, around success, okay? I want to give you an insight I had recently, though. It’s kind of amazing. That was, I had this amazing meditation teacher come to meditate with 20 COs at my house. And his name is Thich Nhat Hanh. He’s an amazing guy. He actually was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by Martin Luther King in 1965. Amazing.
Kirkpatrick: Yeah, he’s an amazing guy. I know about him, yeah.
Benioff: So he came and you know—
Kirkpatrick: He’s a Vietnamese Buddhist monk, right? Yeah.
Benioff: Yeah. And you know, actually, several of the speakers that you had at the conference were there and you know, it was a great program, and he meditated with everybody, and then he did a walk through the Presidio in San Francisco. And also, on this same trip, he went to Facebook and like did a similar program there. He went to Google and did a similar program there. Then, something amazing—and I thought it was great and whatever, you know, it was really powerful—
Kirkpatrick: Sounds pretty cool.
Benioff: Really cool. And everybody felt better, you know, afterwards. It was kind of this big whoosh, “Whoa, we’re so relieved.” And you know, everybody’s so relaxed and feeling great. So anyway, what’s interesting was December 24th—
Kirkpatrick: Go back and reap undue profits is—okay, go.
Benioff: —and that was not his message, but December 24th—
Kirkpatrick: But that’s what they did. I’m just saying.
Benioff: —December 24th, I’m just randomly on Twitter. Like it’s just, dut, dut, dut, and I you know, all of a sudden, and I follow him, and then up on the Twitter stream is this like, “Well here’s this video that I just made.” “Well I wonder it is.” And so I click on the video, and it starts this whole discussion about his trip to San Francisco. And he’s talking about his trip to San Francisco, and he goes, “Yeah,” and I’m paraphrasing, but you can find this on his stream. He goes, “Yeah,” and as I say, you’ll see this is not exactly how he said it. He goes, “Yeah, I went to San Francisco, and it was kind of surreal, because all these folks wanted me to come and teach them mindfulness. And so I went to Facebook and I went to Google and I ran these big programs, and I met with this group of COs. And they all want me to teach them mindfulness, and we had these great programs and really helped them let go of a lot of their suffering. And what I don’t understand is, in each one of these things, I’m telling them the most important thing is to be happiness, you know, be happy and achieve happiness. And use mindfulness to achieve happiness.” And he goes, “But what’s interesting was, when I went to Facebook, they said their number one goal at Facebook—and even the most enlightened people in the room—their number one goal at Facebook is to be number one. That’s what they want to be. Number one mobile, number one in messenger, number one in social.” And they have the Facebook, you know mindfulness program, so they brought him into that. And then he went to Google, and they go, “Well we’re going to be number one. You know, we’re number one in search and we’re number one in mobile.” Then they have like the “Search Within” program and so he goes and does and does the program there. And then he comes to us, and we’re like, “Yeah, we’re here. You know, we want to be—you know we all have our companies and we’re so excited.” And so he goes, “But they need to decide. They need to decide, what’s more important to them? Do they want to be number one? Or do they want to be happy?” And I thought that was really interesting. And then he goes, “Do they want to be successful? Or do they want to be happy?” And his point was that in these three different venues, he’s meeting with groups—and this is kind of what he says—that are using mindfulness to achieve number one, or to achieve success, but not necessarily to achieve happiness. And what he’s trying to do is redirect their consciousness around being happy and enjoying their life, you know, helping other people—
Kirkpatrick: Are these things mutually exclusive? I mean, I don’t know? I’m not even sure. I mean, I’m thinking, as you’re telling me this—
Benioff: And so what he says is this, he says, “You know, people then say, ‘Are these things mutually exclusive?’” But—and this is exactly what he says, you can check the video—he says, “You have to decide what’s important. What’s more important? Happiness or success?” What’s more important?
Kirkpatrick: So they are mutually exclusive in his opinion?
Benioff: No, you have to prioritize. If everything is important in life, nothing’s important. So what’s more important to you? To be happy, or to be successful? To be number one or to be successful?
Kirkpatrick: Well, well, well, what about you, when you started Salesforce—
Benioff: To make the world better?
Kirkpatrick: —and you have Siebel over here, and you were like building the, you know, software X. Wasn’t that doing exactly what he’s saying you had to make a choice about?
Benioff: Those were my 30s, David!
Kirkpatrick: So basically, you’re saying you’ve changed very concretely.
Benioff: I wish I had changed. I wish I have changed. I’m just telling you what he said.
Kirkpatrick: I mean I don’t know the answer to any of this but I will say, it’s really interesting—
Benioff: Neither do I.
Kirkpatrick: Because I also—
Benioff: But I think it is part of the solution, actually.
Kirkpatrick: Let me at least ask a question! [LAUGHTER] So, you know, you had another session at your house with Eckhart Tolle which—
Benioff: I did.
Kirkpatrick: —also had a bunch of senior tech leaders that I happened to have attended, which I thought was kind of exciting and interesting. I wish I’d been at the Thich Nhat Hanh one, but I mean, why do you do that? I think you’re probably already telling us, but tell me a little more. What is it you’re trying to achieve by bringing all these tech leaders together with people like Eckhart Tolle or Thich Nhat Hanh. That takes a lot of work on your part, and I admire it, and I’d just like you to talk about why.
Benioff: Well I want to create a great company, okay? That’s one of my goals. And I think to create a great company today and to achieve—
Benioff: —true success, okay? Which is a success that is more than a monetary success, more than just a material success. But a success where you have made the world better, you know? That you’re—when we’re all gone, what we’re going to look back at is, you know, how did we make the world better? And these companies are amazing vehicles to do that. And these technologies are as well. But the question is, is that our intention? And are we dialed in on that? Because certainly we can really have a big—
Kirkpatrick: Ah. Okay, I’m starting to understand what you’re saying.
Kirkpatrick: So you’re not saying that Salesforce products don’t make the world better, but you’re saying that having the more mindful intentionality of a more spiritual dimension is likely, or more likely, to lead you to products that are beneficial to the world. Is that what you’re saying, in effect?
Benioff: No. What I’m saying is, it’s important to have the intention that you’re going to do more than make money. You’re going to have the intention of more than being just having a physical success—
Kirkpatrick: That isn’t a very shocking notion.
Benioff: —that you’re going to—Well, but let’s take a step back—
Kirkpatrick: I mean we’re all very multifaceted human beings with huge sets of motivations and ideas and hopes and dreams, you know. We’re trying to do a million different things at any given moment in time, right? I mean—and you are—one of the things about you that I’ve always been struck by—I don’t even know how it fits into this, although it’s probably just why you’re open to this—you’re a very generous person. I mean that’s why you invite me to these things. And, you know, all your friends know how generous you are. You’re very wealthy but you share what you have with people quite a lot.
Benioff: The only reason I do that, by the way, is to make myself happy. Because the only—the way—
Kirkpatrick: Well that makes sense to me. Why else would you do it, for God’s sake?
Benioff: —the only way you get happiness is through giving and through generosity.
Kirkpatrick: That’s fair enough.
Benioff: It’s very selfish.
Kirkpatrick: Yeah, fine. Okay, cool. That’s good. I still have a little trouble understanding why you wanted to beat Siebel so badly, though, in the context of this, given what you’re saying. Or is that really just the past, and therefore an irrelevant question?
Benioff: I think it’s just a tactic to a much greater strategy. And—
Kirkpatrick: Okay, what’s the future strategy, then? If I might just cut you right off.
Benioff: Well, I think the most important thing today, for me, is having the conversation that we’re having, which is to—you know, I meet with so many entrepreneurs. On the drive down, I’m on the phone with a lot of entrepreneurs, talking to them—and this conference is also a great example—and I want to inspire them to build more than just a company. Build more than just a product. I can’t tell you how many people I’ll go to breakfast with and they feel that their societal contribution is their product, okay? And the product is important. But there’s something more. And if you really do want to create change in the world and you really want to, you know, see some impact, then the only way you’re going to get this change is to change the consciousness. And our employees are important to do that, our customers are important to do that, our partners are important to do that. Salesforce does make the world a little better, in that we run over 20,000 NGOs for free. I can tell you a lot of those NGOs are doing a lot of really important work in the world. So maybe in that way, maybe Salesforce is making the world a little bit better.
Kirkpatrick: But you wouldn’t assert, even, that with just your other products being sold to giant corporations you are making the world better any sense that matters to you in this way. You’re not even asserting that.
Kirkpatrick: That’s interesting.
Benioff: I don’t. I’m sure that there’s probably arguments that you can make that, but I think that world is better when one person is helping another person. And that makes, really, the world better. And insofar that we can accelerate that or help that or facilitate that, whether it’s, you know—then, yes it’s important.
Kirkpatrick: I like that you’re—I mean I think it’s fascinating—
Benioff: I’m not saying—
Kirkpatrick: —that you put such a priority on this. You know what it makes me regret? Yesterday I did have Jeff Weiner on the stage, and he has a lot of very similar views. And he talks a lot about compassion.
Benioff: He was at the Thich Nhat Hanh program.
Kirkpatrick: And I had it on my list to talk to him about his passion about compassion, so to speak. And we just didn’t get to it, because there was not enough time and there were so many things to discuss. And it’s interesting, there are other leaders who articulate something quite similar. I’d like to get the audience in on this since it is our Techonomy mindset—
Benioff: And to that point, before we move on that, and at Dreamforce, we’re bringing the—we want to bring that into the conversation.
Benioff: Dreamforce is about innovation, it’s about fun, it’s about giving back. But also, we have—you know, that’s one of the reasons we brought Eckhart Tolle this year to Dreamforce, or Arianna Huffington, or even Neil Young. Is because—
Kirkpatrick: Well Neil Young is a good guy. Do your customers sometimes say, do you think they get it? I guess that’s my question.
Benioff: They get it. They 100 percent get it.
Kirkpatrick: All right, okay.
Benioff: And that’s, I think—
Kirkpatrick: Now let’s hear from—if they get it, that’s all—Quick answers are good.
Benioff: And by the way, I think that people get it, today. I think that people realize just doing the same old thing isn’t really going to get them, or get this world, to where we want it to get to.
Kirkpatrick: Well I could not agree with you more about that.
Benioff: And we need to try some new things.
Kirkpatrick: I absolutely think that is a wonderful thing to say. Let’s hear some questions or comments from the audience. Who has—who’s shocked or dismayed or befuddled? Get the mike over here.
Handley: Hi, my name’s Derek. I helped Richard Branson co-found something called the B Team, which is a collection of about 16 business leaders like yourself who are coming together to accelerate that vision that business really needs to be a driving force for social and environmental progress. And this is my first Techonomy. I am from a digital background, but I was getting more and more disappointed that this concept was not being incorporated into this discussion for the last two days. I think it’s a real risk for this conference itself, because there is a revolution going on that Marc is speaking to that enlightened leaders from all around the world are really understanding that the point of capitalism has got to be beyond just profit. And that there are so many serious problems in the world that a lot of the discussion that we’ve had in the last couple of days kind of doesn’t get to at the end, which is kind of what you’re referring to. I really encourage you to really rethink the role of Techonomy in—
Kirkpatrick: Were you at the Grand Challenges session yesterday? You felt that about that session?
Handley: Ah, that was probably the only session that touched it, but it also bifurcated it.
Kirkpatrick: What about the African entrepreneurs? I mean, we actually do think about this.
Handley: I think it’s lacking.
Kirkpatrick: But we are trying to be a—we’re a business conference, we’ve got to get—
Benioff: You don’t have to be defensive. You can just listen.
Kirkpatrick: I mean I’m amazed that you didn’t feel—no I mean the Grand Challenges session—
Handley: Yeah, I think it’s—I think it’s—
Benioff: It’s just customer feedback! That’s all it is. Just accept it. [LAUGHTER] Jesus. Relax.
Handley: The Grand Challenge session was about philanthropy, it wasn’t about—
Kirkpatrick: We had Larry Brilliant up here, man.
Benioff: Just relax! Having Larry Brilliant does not make your conference spiritual. He’s a great guy, okay—
Kirkpatrick: I’m not saying the conference is spiritual.
Handley: My question is to Marc—
Kirkpatrick: We did not have Thich Nhat Hanh, that’s true.
Handley: —which is, apart from doing this and speaking about this, how can you accelerate this thought in the West Coast, in the Valley, because it really is a vacuum of the type of thinking that you’ve been saying. Which is illustrated by how complicated this discussion was.
Benioff: You know, David mentioned we just finished Dreamforce, and it was our biggest and most exciting Dreamforce ever. David actually came and moderated a panel. And we did have more than 150,000 people register to attend, which exceeded our expectation. And more than 9 million also attended online. And it just consumed all of the resources of the company to achieve this success. We do a lot of unusual things at Dreamforce, but this year, one of the things we did was we really worked to be a little more overt in our philanthropy. And on each day of the four-day conference, we dedicated one day to a major topic. Today is Veterans’ Day, a very important day here in the United States to recognize our Veterans. One day at Dreamforce was decided for veterans, for getting veterans jobs, for supporting our veterans. For remembering the service that our veterans have made to our country and to really think about those 2 million individuals who have made an unbelievable commitment, especially in Iraq and Afghanistan over the last decade, and focusing on that. One day was focused on K-12 education and the transformation that we’re all trying to make in our schools.
Kirkpatrick: A lot of time in your Keynote was devoted to that.
Benioff: One day was also dedicated to environmental issues. We also, one day was dedicated to hunger and we raised money for 3 million meals. And in each of those days, we also asked attendees to take a physical action around one of these issues. Whether it was putting together materials for our preterm birth program at our Oakland children’s hospital, whether it was going with our veterans to Moffett Field, whether it was doing something with our kids. And I think that that’s really important. I think taking action is really, is something that we have to show people that they have to do. People want to create change in today’s world, and if you can provide them the vehicle to do that, they’re going to make that happen. It also changes the energy and the construct and the feeling at the conference. Now to his point, he said, “What do we have to do differently?” We’re a lot more overt on our philanthropic topics. Also, one of the things where I’ve kind of changed my rap a little bit, where I might not be as overt with some of these topics as I would be—if you go back and watch some of David and I’s interviews over the past 15 years, starting with Pam Alexander’s hotel room at the Hotel de Paris in August of 1999, I can just say that—
Alexander: You’ve got to tell more than that.
Kirkpatrick: That was in Monaco, yeah. That’s where Marc and I first met, yeah.
Benioff: That’s all that I can say. We’ll reveal more at the next Techonomy. But—
Kirkpatrick: That was fun.
Benioff: But I feel like now, for me, maybe because I just turned 50, that I need to like be a little bit more focused on this, and a little bit less about—I’m not going to jump in as much on the “the world is going cloud, the world is going social, the world is going mobile” connected products. I can do that whole discussion probably, you know, in depth. If I don’t take this 15 or 20 minutes to really focus on this issue, or to kind of deal with those three or four presuppositions that you kind of really set up so well, then I’m not going to be able to get my point across.
Kirkpatrick: The thing that I don’t understand, and we do have to end soon, unfortunately. And I’m curious what the guy in the second row thinks about this too. When I hear what Jaron Lanier said this morning about finding even technological and algorithmic ways to even out the distribution of wealth in the world, that, to me, has a profoundly fundamental spiritual dimension in itself, which you seem to be denying. And that’s the part that I don’t get. You know, he was talking about how—
Benioff: I didn’t deny that.
Kirkpatrick: —the original vision of the—
Benioff: That isn’t what I said at all.
Kirkpatrick: —digital connectivity was—no, I’m just—let me just finish. He was talking about the original Ted Nelson’s vision of a connected Internet, a connected—it wasn’t an Internet then—a connected society, included a notion of micropayments where everyone, somehow was compensated for the contribution to the collective good, the collective knowledge base, etcetera. And he was bemoaning the loss of that, and hypothesizing that it might be possible to get back to that. Now when I hear somebody like this guy say it hasn’t been in this conference, to me, that is this. I don’t see why it’s not the same thing. Although I do think it’s very valuable and we love having you here talking about it specifically.
Benioff: I don’t recommend getting angry at your customers. [LAUGHTER]
Kirkpatrick: I’m just, I’m just saying—but I’m really asking the question to you, and it really—I still am not entirely certain why you still feel you need to lead salesforce.com, now that you’re worth all these billions of dollars. There’s plenty of ways, if the point is to convey a message, it isn’t necessary to lead the company. I think that it has virtues and you’re using it in clever ways and useful ways. But there are plenty of other ways to convey a message. And I would be—I don’t fault Bill Gates in the—who does? Who could fault Bill Gates? I don’t even fault Mark Zuckerberg. He’s—
Benioff: It’s not conveying the message. That’s not the point of running salesforce.com. It’s that salesforce.com is a company that is actually trying to create social change as well as creating technological change. Those two things are coupled. There’s no separation of those things from our mission. There never has been from the first moment that we started the company.
Kirkpatrick: There’s plenty of companies that don’t think of it that way but are still creating tremendous social change, though. I mean you can’t deny that—
Benioff: Sure of course.
Kirkpatrick: —even Microsoft. Even Microsoft, perhaps at the peak of its monopoly, I would argue.
Kirkpatrick: So that’s my opinion, whatever. I think it’s great that we had this kind of conversation to end the conference, though. Because it is symbolic of the kind of conference we want this to be. We want it to be an open dialogue about what really matters. And even though I don’t understand all of the things you’re talking about up here, and I certainly didn’t anticipate the conversation would go this way, I’d far rather have this conversation than some “Hear about how Salesforce is going to beat Tom Siebel,” 10 years ago. You know, this is way more important. And I really think you’re a fantastic thinker and—
Benioff: Thank you. I think you’re a fantastic thinker—
Kirkpatrick: —and a good friend—
Benioff: —and a good friend, too—
Kirkpatrick: —and the fact that you came is meaningful to me too, because I know you’re a busy guy and it’s not a huge—you know, there’s not 150,000 people here. So I want to—I guess we’ve got to wrap, because time’s up. Unless someone—
Benioff: David, congratulations on a great conference, thanks for inviting me.
Kirkpatrick: Thank you. Thank you, Marc. Okay, well, like I said, not the way I would have thought it would end. But I think it’s actually a beautiful way for it to end.