On the eve of Dreamforce, its annual customer extravaganza — last year over 130,000 people attended — Salesforce has truly grown into an enterprise cloud software force, a company born and raised in the cloud.
Salesforce.com was the first company to really get the cloud, and it was well ahead of its time when Marc Benioff left a comfortable job as an Oracle executive in 1999 to launch the company, a CRM tool in the cloud. Of course, it wasn't even called cloud computing back then. That's how far back we're talking.
Today, Benioff and his compatriots have built Salesforce to be much more than cloud-based CRM. It's a full-fledged cloud stack with coverage across sales, customer service, and marketing. You can build applications for your business on top of Salesforce. You can develop mobile apps — and many businesses have been created on top of the Salesforce juggernaut, acting as a tree of life for additional cloud businesses.
Just recently when the company delivered its long-overdue overhaul of its core CRM product, it announced it was releasing special versions geared for specific industry verticals such as healthcare, finance, and retail. The company keeps developing new products and if it can't build them, it buys them.
Over the years, the company has filled in various pieces with its checkbook. Some of the bigger ones were Heroku in 2010, Radian6 in 2011, Buddy Media in 2012, ExactTarget in 2013, and RelateIQ in 2014, along with a host of smaller deals.
In addition, it makes regular investments in Cloud companies like Box, Hubspot, Apttus, and many others, whether built on top of Salesforce or completely separate from the company.
When rumors were flying last May that Salesforce was for sale, there was speculation that Benioff was looking for $70 billion — and that he had even rejected an offer from rival Microsoft for a whopping $55 billion. It's not clear if any of these numbers were based in reality, but one thing is clear. Salesforce has clearly grown from a small irritant into an industry giant.
In August, the company reported another healthy quarter with earnings of $0.19 per share and revenue of $1.63 billion. That was after $1.5 billion in revenue the previous quarter. That projects to over $6 billion in revenue over four quarters, not too shabby for a little rogue cloud company.
This week the company gets to show off in grand fashion and as the granddaddy of cloud software, it deserves some credit for getting the ball rolling and convincing enterprise customers that you could put valuable data like your customer information on somebody else's servers without an abject disaster happening.
We are 16 years down the road, and some people still don't get that, but I gather Marc Benioff and the parade of speakers from Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella to YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki to Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins and a host of others will be delivering a constant reminder.
Image courtesy of Salesforce.com