After the Revolution

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[Editors' Note: This package includes additional reporting by David Myron, Jessica Tsai, Christopher Musico, and Lauren McKay.]

"I started Salesforce.com in a rented apartment in 1999 with the goal of making enterprise software as easy to use as a Web site like Amazon.com." —Marc Benioff, Salesforce.com cofounder, chairman, and chief executive officer.

Marc Benioff sees Salesforce.com as more than a mere company, and himself as more than a mere c-level executive. He views his tale, as he recounts in a just-published memoir, as “the story of how Salesforce.com created a new industry, made [its] customers successful, and established itself as the market leader, all while making the world a better place.”

Now, you may quibble with his grandiloquence, or you may disagree with his long-term view of the industry, or you may even work for a competitor or rely on technology he hasn’t provided.

But one thing you can’t do is deny the truth: Benioff’s not exaggerating. Salesforce.com has become, in just its first 10 years, everything that he had always promised it would — and more — as if there were a cloud-computing version of television’s Survivor: The company has outlasted naysayers, outwitted its peers, and outplayed some of the most cunning executives in the software industry. At last count, the company had more than 63,000 accounts totaling more than 1.5 million subscribers, and was generating more than $1.2 billion in annual revenue. Against serious odds, Salesforce.com has become the leader of the market it helped create.  

Having gone from market upstart to market leader, Benioff finds himself having to raise the bar yet again — and having to select new targets from the few left standing. True to form, however, he’s already set the next major milestone: turning Salesforce.com into a $10 billion company.

It may be years before we see the company cross or even approach that threshold. For the moment, the question remains: Where will Salesforce.com find its next billion dollars?


For the rest of the November 2009 issue of CRM magazine — a look back at the first 10 years of Salesforce.com — please click here.

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