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Marc Benioff on the Impact of Entrepreneurs Under 30

In this video from the “Revolutions in Progress” session at Techonomy 2011 in Tucson, Ariz., salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff discusses what he sees as an emerging model for business. Entrepreneurs under 30 are revolutionizing the way that companies do business, he says, from embracing and developing new technologies to doing away with the old bureaucratic structure. These new 20-something CEOs will change the way we do business, says Benioff. Also appearing in this video: Scott Cook, Founder and Chairman of Intuit, and Gary Hamel, Director of Management Lab.

Benioff: How many people in the room are under 30 years old, raise your hands.

Cook: They’re both over there.

Benioff: How many are there?

Hamel: Four.

Benioff: Three?

Cook: Three.

Benioff: Not enough. How many are under 40 years old, raise your hands.  We can count them: one, two, three, four—

Audience Member: About 20.

Benioff: About 20?  Not enough. You know, you want a revolution and progress, you want the case for optimism, go see all the kids that Ron Conway and Paul Graham are nurturing in their angel funds and in Y Combinator, and the youth, and this next generation of technology is coming up from the bottom up. I know you’ve got a few of those people who are on the agenda, but it is just phenomenal. One of the amazing things I’ve done recently was, two weeks ago Ron Conway had a one day summit for about 300 CEOs, and I’m 47, I am sure I was by far way older than anybody in that audience. They were all in their—between 20 and 30 years old, they were all CEOs, they were all starting their companies, they were all building their technology on the cloud.  They had multitenant systems. They were mobile. They were HTML5. They were, you know, social. They’re the gurus, who are some of the people speaking here, you know.  The Mark Zuckerbergs, the Jack Dorseys, the David Sacks, the Jeremy Stoppelmans, and the rest of the PayPal mafia. And the reality is that is shaking our industry at its core, and these new companies that are coming up faster than ever, less funding—to your point—than ever, right? They require—like, for us at salesforce, you know, no one in venture capital will give us any money. We got some money from Gigi [Levy] over there and private was the vast majority of our funding, and we were turned down by the institutional venture capitalists, and today it wouldn’t have mattered.

Cook: So were we. Same.

Benioff: Today there’s all these great alternatives, and you need less money than ever before.  So I think it’s the youth. If there is a case for optimism, you have to get back to the youth, the new ideas, the ability to challenge the status quo, the fundamental levels of empowerment that are made possible. The youth are standing on, of course, the technology that has come since the US government invested in it, with DARPA and Nitrid and all the great funding of the internet, all the great investment that came out of fundamentally the military, and then came up, and then got unleashed into these big companies, who in some cases sat on it, monopolized it, and now, you know, completely broken it into a whole new level of energy that we can now take and transform the whole world. And I think that’s what you’re going to see and I hope we get that more in the conference. I think that if you grab some of these kids and you talk to them about what’s coming, you know, the kids who are born in the ’80s, right?

Hamel: Or in the ’90s.

Benioff: Their view of—these are the ones who grew—they don’t know what AOL was.  They don’t know what dial-up was. They never heard that weird sound coming out of a modem. And you can hear by the chuckles how many people here do. You know, we’re on the other end of this. But there is a whole new generation of kids coming up that they’re going up to TVs trying to change the channel by going like this. You know, everyone’s heard that story. And it’s only a generation or so until they come in and they are running these companies. And when they’re running these companies, they’re not going to be running them like the guys who are running them now, the men and woman who are running them now. They’re going to be running them the way empowered, tech-savvy executives are. And it’s going to be as exactly as he has prophesized. Again, the end of bureaucracy, and this new age of, what do you call it in your book? What is the title of your book?

Hamel: What Matters Now.

Benioff: What matters—it’s what matters now.

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