Marc Russell Benioff (born September 25, 1964) is an American internet entrepreneur, author and philanthropist. He is the founder, chairman and CEO of Salesforce, an enterprise cloud computing company. As of March 2016, he owns approximately $3 billion worth of Salesforce shares. Benioff started Salesforce in March 1999 in a rented San Francisco apartment and defined its mission in a marketing statement as The End of Software.
Benioff has long evangelized software as a service as the model that would replace traditional enterprise software. He is the creator of the term platform as a service and has extended Salesforces reach by allowing customers to build their own applications on the companys architecture or in the Salesforce cloud.
Benioff is a noted philanthropist. In 2000, he established the 1-1-1 model, whereby the company contributes one percent of product, one percent of equity, and one percent of employee hours back to the communities it serves globally. As of March 2016, Salesforce.org has delivered more than $115 million in grants, 1.3 million employee volunteer hours and powered 28,000 nonprofits with Salesforce technology. More than 700 companies have adopted the 1-1-1 model through the Pledge 1% movement. Benioff and his wife, Lynne, have focused their personal philanthropy on improving public education and advancing childrens health care through UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital, at the University of California, San Francisco.
As CEO of Salesforce, he has addressed social causes such equal pay for women, as well as leading efforts by business leaders to publicly oppose legislation in Indiana and Georgia that would allow discrimination against LGBT communities.
He is the author of three books, including the national best seller, Behind the Cloud.
Early life and education
Benioff was raised in a Jewish family in the San Francisco metropolitan area. He graduated from Burlingame High School in 1982. Benioff received a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from the University of Southern California in 1986, where he was a member of the Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity.
While still in high school Benioff sold his first application, How to Juggle, for $75. At 15 years old, he founded Liberty Software, creating and selling games for the Atari 8-bit computer among others.Epyx published his King Arthur’s Heir, The Nightmare, Escape from Vulcan’s Isle, and Crypt of the Undead, and by 16 Benioff was earning royalties of $1,500 a month, enough to pay for college.
Benioff expected to continue programming after college, but USC professors advised him to obtain customer-oriented work experience and Benioff joined Oracle Corporation after graduation in a customer-service role. Prior to founding Salesforce, he was at Oracle for 13 years in a variety of executive positions in sales, marketing, and product development. At 23, he was named Oracle’s Rookie of the Year and three years later he was promoted to vice president, the company’s youngest person to hold that title.
Influence and honors
Benioff has been widely recognized for his visionary leadership and pioneering innovations. In 2016, he was named one of Fortunes 50 Worlds Greatest Leaders for his commitment to equality for all and other social issues as CEO. He was also named Businessperson of the Year by Fortune readers, one of the Best CEOs in the World by Barrons, and he received The Economists Innovation Award. He served as co-chairman of the Presidents Information Technology Advisory Committee from 20032005. Benioff is also a member of the World Economic Forum Board of Trustees.
Salesforce has been named one of the Worlds Most Innovative Companies five years in a row by Forbes Magazine. Fortune Magazine named Salesforce as the Worlds Most Admired Company in the software industry four years in a row, and named the company a Best Place to Work eight years in a row.
Benioff received an honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters from the University of Southern California on May 16, 2014.
Benioff created the 1-1-1 model of integrated corporate philanthropy, by which companies contribute 1 percent of equity, 1 percent of employee hours and 1 percent of product back to the communities it serves. Parts of this 1-1-1 model have been adopted by more than 700 companies, including Google. In 2005, the members of the World Economic Forum named him as one of its Young Global Leaders. In 2007, the Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy presented Benioff with the Excellence in Corporate Philanthropy Award and in 2008 invited him to become a director of the board.
In June 2010, Marc Benioff and his wife Lynne announced a $100 million gift to UCSF Children’s Hospital with the goal of not only seeing the new hospital built but significantly advancing children’s healthcare worldwide. The Benioffs have been recognized as top philanthropists by Forbes’ America’s 50 Top Giver list in 2015 and the Chronicle of Philanthropy’s Philanthropy 50 list in 2010, 2014 and 2015.
In 2014, Marc and Lynne Benioff donated another $100 million to UCSF and Oakland Children’s Hospital (both now called Benioff Children’s Hospitals). Marc and Lynne Benioff have also donated to The Ocean Cleanup, a non-profit organization developing technologies to rid the world’s oceans of plastic.
Benioff credits Mata Amritanandamayi with inspiring his philanthropic business models, stating “But the most pivotal meeting for me was with Mata Amritanandamayi… It was she who introduced me to the idea, and possibility, of giving back to the world while pursuing my career ambitions. I realized that I didn’t have to make a choice between doing business and doing good. I could align these two values and strive to succeed at both simultaneously.”
Social activist platforms
Benioff has said that businesses are the greatest platforms for change in the world. He follows the World Economic Forum founder Klaus Schwabs multistakeholder approach to leadership, which says that leaders should serve not only their shareholders but all stakeholders, including customers, employees, partners, communities and the environment, to make the world a better place.
In March 2015, Benioff announced Salesforce would cancel all employee programs and travel in the state of Indiana after the passing of SB 101, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a controversial bill which would allow companies and individuals to deny service to LGBT individuals based on religious beliefs. As the largest tech employer in Indiana (following the 2013 acquisition of ExactTarget) Benioff led a global effort of business leaders fighting back against the legislation, ultimately leading to the Indiana State Legislature passing an amendment to the bill containing protections for LGBT customers, tenants and employees.
Benioff led a similar movement in February 2016 against Georgias HB 757, the First Amendment Defense Act. He announced that Salesforce would reduce investments in Georgia and cancel an annual conference if the bill was passed as-is. A month later, the Governor vetoed the bill.
In April 2015, Benioff announced that he would be reviewing all salaries at Salesforce to ensure men and women were being paid equally for comparable work. On the heels of the salary assessment, Benioff joined President Barack Obama in January 2016 as he celebrated the anniversary of the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and renewed his call on Congress to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act.