Marc Benioff Says, ‘There Would Be No Salesforce.com Without Steve Jobs’

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Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff spoke of his relationship with Apple founder Steve Jobs at TechCrunch Disrupt SF this morning  (on the same day that executives from Apple were introducing new iPhones in neighboring Cupertino) offering some timely advice as to what Apple needs to do next, now that Steve Jobs is gone. He complained that today’s Apple is trying to look like Steve and act like Steve, when really, “they need to find themselves and be who they are,” says Benioff. “Respect the past, but as Steve would say, project the future.”

Moderator Mike Arrington actually allowed Benioff to speak for some time without interruption as the Salesforce CEO recalled his early days when Jobs served as a mentor, guru and inspiration. “There would be no Salesforce.com without Steve Jobs,” Benioff said. “Many things we created in our company he was the inspiration for, and guided us to,” he added, lamenting that Apple, meanwhile, doesn’t seem to say “thank you” enough for what Steve Jobs had built.

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In front of a crowd of tech entrepreneurs who these days often seem to be more “inspired” by the potential to make millions than help the world, while posturing in a way that they think reflects Steve Jobs’ style — critical and, sometimes, arrogant — Benioff said that they’re taking away the wrong message from what they think they know about the former Apple CEO. Steve Jobs was a “spiritual man,” said Benioff, and that’s an aspect to his personality that hasn’t been properly captured by the books and now the movies that are being made in the wake of his passing.

Steve Jobs was “mindful and conscious of everything he did,” said Benioff, and he thought we needed to work on “actualizing ourselves.” He spoke of Jobs’ spiritual journeys to India, for example, as a way to connect with those deeper inspirations. “He had this incredible realization [in India] that his intuition was his greatest gift, and he needed to look at world from inside out.” But Arrington also pointed out that some of Jobs’ inspiration came from psychedelic drugs, too.

When asked if he also followed Jobs’ example when it came to drugs, and specifically LSD, Benioff recalled that he’d had early success (for example, working in the Macintosh division as a teenager), and as a result he needed to “straighten myself out a little bit,” but he said he accomplished that through meditation, not drugs.

“My path is not through psychedelics or LSD,” he said. “I’ve never done LSD or any psychedelics or any recreational drugs, actually. It’s just not my path.”

While building Salesforce, Benioff went to Jobs for advice, and relayed one great story of how a particular meeting ran — a meeting that later served as inspiration for building the Salesforce platform, in fact. He asked Jobs what he should do next, and Jobs said three key things. One, Salesforce needed to be 10 times larger in the next 24 months or it’s over, he said. It needed to get a huge client, and it needed an application ecosystem. “What’s an application ecosystem, Steve?” Benioff asked at the time, recalling that Jobs’ enigmatic answer was something along the lines of “I don’t know, but you’d better figure it out.”

Benioff also recalled the details of another bit of Steve Jobs trivia, talking about how his company, after deciding to launch a platform for apps, realized that a great name for that would be “app store.” They had gone out and registered the Appstore.com domain name. Then, in 2008, while attending an Apple event where Jobs introduced the “most important thing Apple had ever done” (the App Store, that is), Benioff described hearing the news not as a shock, but as a spiritual moment. “He had the ability to see the future,” said Benioff.

He later spoke to Jobs, offering him the gift of the name Appstore.com and the App Store trademark as a thank you for all the advice and mentorship he had received over the years. Jobs, smiling, said at the time, “Oh, we’ll never make much money on that App Store thing.”

Concluding his memories of what entrepreneurs should take away from Steve Jobs’ life and leadership was to “find that greatness, be mindful, and project the future,” said Benioff. “That’s what he did and you can do it, too.”

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