The fabulous life of tech billionaire Marc Benioff
The past few months have been spectacular for billionaire Marc Benioff and his 16-year-old company, Salesforce.
Benioff has long been known as one of the most flamboyant, philanthropic, larger-than-life personalities in the tech industry.
Things have been really going his way lately. His company is currently on fire. And he’s begun to use his clout as a vehicle for social change far beyond the tech sphere.
He helped invent a $106 billion market
Marc Benioff is regarded as a visionary. He helped create a whole new category of tech called “software-as-a-service.”
That’s a form of cloud computing where companies rent their software over the Internet, instead of installing it on their own computers.
Businesses are expected to spend $106 billion on SaaS in 2016, according to a Goldman Sachs study.
He kept his dream alive by force of will
Marc Benioff is considered a marketing genius, too.
The concept he helped invent, software-as-a-service (SaaS), almost died at birth. Shortly after Salesforce.com launched, the Internet bubble burst, and the idea was declared a loser.
By force of will, and plenty of gorilla marketing tactics, Benioff made this market happen. Today every major software company is chasing him, including huge companies like Oracle, Microsoft and SAP.
He’s about to lead Salesforce to a major milestone
Marc Benioff is breaking records with the growth of his company.
Salesforce ended its last fiscal year with $5.37 billion in revenue. Over $5 billion in revenue is a big milestone for a 100% cloud-computing company.
His company’s stock is soaring
Even though Salesforce is 16-years old, and the Big Kahuna in its market, its fast growth rate is making investors love it.
Several good earnings reports and sunny growth prospects have made the stock leap from one all-time to another, with shares in the company currently trading near historic highs of over $73.
Microsoft wanted to buy his company for $55 billion
Microsoft and Salesforce used to be arch enemies, with Benioff nary a nice thing to say about former Microsoft CEO, Steve Ballmer.
But under Satya Nadella, the two companies have become closer partners and friends.
Microsoft even made a play to buy Salesforce, offering $55 billion and a top executive slot for Benioff, according to media reports. But, because Salesforce is on fire,Benioff wanted $70 billion, reports said, and the negotiations fell through.
He’s a self-made billionaire
He’s worth about $3.8 billion, according to Forbes.
Most of that wealth comes from the company he founded, Salesforce.com, where he is CEO.
And because the stock is doing so well, he’s up by about $1 billion from about a year ago.
He’s been taking advantage of the high price to exercise options and sell chunks of stock to use for charity and invest in other ways.
He was a millionaire at age 25
Benioff is a former executive of his largest competitor today: Oracle.
He was the youngest executives ever at Oracle. He ran sales and marketing during Oracle’s early days, from 1986-1999.
He was making $1 million a year at Oracle by age 25.
“When I came to Oracle, I was 21 years old. When I was 25, I was the youngest VP. I was very successful. I had what I thought I wanted. My million-a-year salary, my social life, my condo,” he said.
Benioff is the cousin of ‘Game of Thrones’ creator David Benioff
Benioff was born in San Francisco, the fourth-generation born there.
He came from a well-to-do family. Marc’s father, Russel built a chain of apparel stores in San Francisco.
Benioff is also the cousin of David Benioff, creator of the “Game of Thrones” TV series on HBO, and son of former Goldman Sachs CEO Stephen Friedman.
Marc and David had the same great grandfather, Isaac.
He was a child prodigy software developer
In 1979, at age 15, he founded his first company, Liberty Software, which wrote Atari video games.
He still gets sentimental for those days.
In 2012 he tweeted: “I miss my Trs-80, Atari, Amiga, and Commodore 64. :). Thankful to have lived through all of this!”
His first job was working for Steve Jobs at Apple inventing the Mac
Thanks to his Atari company, Benioff got hired as a teenager by Apple. He worked for Steve Jobs writing software for the Macintosh division. He was there in 1984 during the famous introduction of theMacintosh.
And he was forever inspired by, and friends with, Jobs.
Jobs was his adviser. “There would be no Salesforce.com without Steve Jobs,” Benioff said at TechCrunch Disrupt last year. “Many things we created in our company he was the inspiration for, and guided us to.”
The two also shared the same spiritual ideals. Jobs famously trekked to India where he reportedly indulged in mediation and psychedelics drugs. Benioff never did drugs, but did turn to meditation to “straighten myself out a little bit,” he says.
He owns a 5-acre estate in Hawaii
Benioff famously built a huge compound on the island of Hawaii, the state’s largest island. It has six bedrooms, seven full and two half bathrooms, and 9,821 square feet of interior space, according to Honolulu Magazine.
He reportedly bought the land for $12.5 million in 2000 and spent years designing it, even launching his own construction company to build it, reported the Wall Street Journal back in 2006.
He loves Hawaii so much, he used to wear Hawaiian shirts to work.
He signs his emails and annual report “aloha,” and named his golden retriever “Koa” after a type of Hawaiian tree. Koa has a job title at Salesforce, too: the CLO (chief love officer).
He owns a place on Billionaire’s Row
He has owned plenty of other real estate, especially various homes in San Francisco.
He’s said to have a place in the historic Presidio neighborhood, and own a $28 million mansion in San Francisco’s Billionaire Row, a cluster of 10 uber-expensive homes in the Pacific Heights area.
The Wall Street Journal once showed off the Benioff’s 15,858-square-foot house bought for $27 million in 2005, too.
His friends include everyone from Deepak Chopra to Stevie Wonder
Benioff is a new-age guy who loves yoga and meditation. But he also lives the life of a rock star.
He’s been known to hang with: Deepak Chopra, MC Hammer, Richard Branson, David Bowie, Uma Thurman, Colin Powell, Billy Graham, the Dalai Lama, Chris Rock and Zen monks in Kyoto.
When he threw a fund-raiser for President Obama at his San Francisco home, his friend Steve Wonder wrote a special song and sang it at the party, USA Today reported at the time.
His workout buddy is fellow tech billionaire Michael Dell
Benioff is also friends with other tech billionaires like Michael Dell, CEO of Dell Computer, and he was a friend of Steve Jobs, too.
Dell and Benioff are wrist-computer workout buddies, and if Benioff misses too many workouts, Dell will call him and ask about it.
They recently challenged each other to apublic Fitbit contest to raise money for charity.
Benioff is a bona-fide gadget geek. He tends to wear not one but two wrist-worn fitness trackers, and loves talking about his Internet-connected toothbrush.
He’s got a complicated friendship with Larry Ellison
Benioff joined Oracle in his early 20s working for CEO Larry Ellison. The idea for Salesforce.com famously came during a meeting with Ellison. Ellison invested $2 million as an angel and sat on the board for a while.
But the two had an epic fallout when their companies began to compete.
The most famous episode was when Ellison kicked Benioff out of the keynote spot at Oracle’s conference. Benioff gave his keynote anyway, at a nearby hotel.
They have recently reconciled, thanks to a multimillion business deal.
But Oracle still thinks of Salesforce as a major competitor, and Benioff doesn’t hang out with Ellison in Hawaii, he once said. (Ellison owns most of the island of Lanai.)
He’s a huge philanthropist, especially in his home town of San Francisco
As a San Francisco native, Benioff chose San Francisco as the headquarters for Salesforce and grew it to be the largest tech employer in that city.
And he’s a big advocate for giving back. He’s donated about $250 million to build a new Children’s Hospital with University of California San Francisco.
He also gives to the local schools and he launched SF Gives, an organization that encourages tech companies to give to Bay Area charities.
He throws fabulous parties for charity, too
In addition to giving money to the children’s hospital, Benioff hosts fabulous private concerts and parties to raise money for it.
And this fund-raising has helped get other tech moguls, such as Bill Gates, to contribute.
With the Gates Foundation, the hospital is building a pre-term birth center at the Benioff Children’s Hospital.
He created a new approach to philanthropy
Benioff came up with an idea that has generated millions of dollars for charitable causes from hundreds of tech companies. It’s called the 1-1-1 model.
Startups vow to donate 1% of their equity, 1% of their products and 1% of their employees’ time to charity.
As these startups grow, the charitable giving grows, too. Companies from Google to Box have adopted it.
His company’s philanthropy arm, the Salesforce.com Foundation, has about a $20 million annual budget.
Benioff is using his clout to challenge social injustice
A few months ago, Benioff successfully spearheaded the effort to get Indiana to fix a law that critics said discriminated against gay people.
He spoke out on TV against the law, canceled events, even helped one employee move out of the state. After that happened in Indiana, other states, like Arkansas thought twice about passing similar laws.
Next up: Benioff has been speaking out about pay inequity for women and publicly vowed to end it at his company.
He throws fabulous parties
Benioff loves music. Years ago, before Salesforce.com’s IPO, he famously rented out the S.F. Giants’ stadium and threw a $250,000 party featuring the B-52s.
His love of big parties continues. Dreamforce, the company’s annual conference, is part business meeting part music festival.
It aways includes a huge free concert and has a constant string of bands who play on the street in front of the Moscone conference center.
The conference and party has grown so big, this year, he hired a cruise ship to provide extra hotel space.
He walks on coals and bungee jumps with Tony Robbins
Benioff loves facing down his fear with adventures like walking across hot coals with Tony Robbins.
In 2012, he invited his friend Robbins to Dreamforce to do a motivational seminar complete with coals.
Earlier that year, Benioff vacationed at a Fiji hotel owned by Robbins where a group of 20 people jumped off a bridge at midnight, plunging 60 feet into a rushing river, Benioff told attendees of TechCrunch Disrupt.
He dines with presidents in the U.S. and Europe
Benioff famously supported President Obama, hosting fund raising dinners for the President at his house.
But he says he’s not a Democrat, “I’m not a Democrat and I’m not a Republican. I’m an American. If I like someone I’ll give them money, but I’m not particularly close to anyone.”
When Salesforce opened offices in France, Benioff was invited to dine with President Francois Hollande, too.
He’s told this story of attending Steve Jobs funeral …
The last gift Steve Jobs ever gave him was a book. Jobs gave it to all the family and friends who attended his memorial, a service that Jobs planned himself.
As everyone left, they were handed a box and inside was a famous book about spiritual growth by Yogananda called the “Autobiography of a Yogi.”
Benioff said that Jobs’ final message was clear: “Look inside yourself and realize yourself.”
He’s also a big-time angel investor
Benioff is an active angel investor who has backed a dozen or more companies.
A few of them include Zuora, Path, Clinkle, Urban Compass, Blackjet and many others.
He also recently backed HomeSwipe, whose trio of founders includes a 17-year-old coding genius, much like Benioff was himself.
Benioff answered the e-mail introduction asking for backing within 7 minutes, with a simple promise, “I’m in. Aloha, Marc.”