Mark Benioff sets his sights on Microsoft

San Francisco – Five years ago, Mark Benioff Negotiated to sell to Salesforce, The software company he co-founded in 1999 and has been with Microsoft ever since. If the deal had been done, it would have been largely rewarded – but, in the end, to another employee of the Tech Colossus.

With Tuesday’s news that Salesforce was buying sluggish For $ 27.7 billion, Mr. Benefit worked somewhat harder. Now he is set to compete directly against Microsoft in his own favorite field, one of the world’s most valuable companies.

Microsoft is rolling it out with Slack in an epidemic-fueled rush to enable remote collaboration via communication tools. The faster the nature of the work changes, the more valuable wins will become, and the better for the competition.

Mr. Benioff, 56, does not care. Or maybe he is in denial. 30 min interview later Slack deal announcement And Salesforce earnings, they declined all opportunities to talk about their history with Microsoft or accept its existence.

“What’s that company?” he said. “What’s it spelled?”

Microsoft is sitting on a $ 137 billion cash hoard and is a well-respected competitive trend. Thanks to the ubiquity of Microsoft Office, it gets 115 million users every day for Slack Killer, the teams chat platform. Salesforce, which specializes in sales management software, had $ 9 billion in cash this summer. Slack, for all its brand-name acquaintances, had only about 12 million users before the epidemic. It has refused to update its numbers.

Salesforce and Slack can be underdogs here, if you consider a $ 220 billion company to be an underdog. But Mr. Benioff does not have a secret weapon in him. He learned a few lessons in showmanship from his mentor, Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, on how to turn news conferences into events and become a human avatar of a company.

“You have got to give credit to Benioff. He is one of the largest software companies in the world, said Mark Mordler, a senior research analyst at Bernstein. “But it’s not going to be easy.”

Before the coronovirus epidemic forced many to stay indoors, Salesforce was San Francisco’s largest private employer, eclipsing 168-year-old Wells Fargo. Its offices were In Salesforce Tower, A lipstick-shaped type of cover that dominated the horizon and could be seen from around the bay.

Mr. Benioff, who has deep roots in the city, similarly dominates local discourse, challenging other tech heads to step up. He and his wife, Lynn Benioff, contributed $ 100 million to a new children’s hospital. In 2018, The couple bought Time magazine For $ 190 million. Forbes Mr. Benioff has total assets of $ 9.4 billion.

Mogul can become noticeably fatigued. “Can’t you find a more interesting and better looking hero?” He asked.

In the interview, Mr. Benioff could not be sidelined or left behind from what he said: “Business is the greatest platform for change… The future of our industry is a working environment from anywhere… I like to innovate Hai, I like to make things happen, I like to see things and make them happen… I like that we take care of all the stakeholders and not just the shareholders. “

The question of whether Mr. Benioff can overcome his challenge for Microsoft is likely to become a long-term attraction in Silicon Valley. Over the past two decades, Salesforce has acquired dozens of companies to expand its core products. The biggest acquisition before Slack was a visual, a data company, tableau Salesforce buys for $ 15.3 billion Last year.

Mr bennyoff even once Twitter buying perception, Back in 2016. But it proved to be a step too far, although it was a wild ride. He is a leading tweeter, much less than the chief executives. On Monday, he tweeted a photo of former President Barack Obama, with a copy of Mr. Benioff’s book “Trailblazer” on the shelf.

“Excellent taste in books,” wrote Mr. Benef.

Initial reactions to the Slack purchase, which is a cash and stock deal, ranging from wildly upbeat to cautious enthusiasm. Slack is losing money, while Salesforce’s supporting tools are weak.

“Mark has come in full circle. With Microsoft considering the sale, it is now becoming the next Microsoft, ”said Venky Ganesan, a managing director of venture capital firm Menlo Ventures which specializes in software. Mr. Ganesan, who said he only knew Mr. Benioff as a business acquaintance, saluted his ability to “envision a certain future and then do so”.

Daniel Newman, principal analyst at Futureum Research, has been a critic of Salesforce in the past, but said there was a fair chance of success in the Slack deal.

“You have a product in Slack that people love but that hasn’t been marketed well,” Mr. Newman said. “Salesforce and Benioff can accelerate this and remove unused capacity. Bulbul is an excuse, but perhaps it is actually one of those synergy moments. “

Except for Microsoft’s question.

Mr. Benioff arrived in Silicon Valley at a time when Microsoft was definitely the bad guy. His early employer, Oracle, was run by Larry Ellison, who had a long-running and often bitter feud with Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates. As Salesforce grew, it had Microsoft’s own scraps with employees and patents.

After Satya Nadella became Microsoft’s chief executive in 2014, He and Mr. Benioff met and tried to work together. Mr. Benioff unsuccessfully offered to buy Microsoft’s Dynamics software line, which was contested by Salesforce. When that idea was discovered, it offered Microsoft to sell Salesforce for $ 70 billion, about $ 22 billion over its market value. A few months later, the second attempt in a deal did not work.

Companies that became Silicon Valley perennial: “fren enemy” that competed, but also made the deal. In 2016, the two wanted to acquire the social networking site LinkedIn, offering a rich data trawl across its millions of employment histories. They Bid against each other. Microsoft with its deep pockets, Won with 26.2 billion dollar offer. Mr Benioff tweeted that it was “antichromatic”.

Microsoft declined to comment on Mr. Benioff.

Others were not so shy. Clara Jeffery, editor of Mother Jones magazine, asked in a tweet Tuesday night that Mr. Benef and Stewart butterfield, Slack’s chief executive, was going to do “for the people / communities suffering Kovid’s downfall”. (Mr. Butterfield will continue to lead Slack, which has become Salesforce’s operational unit.)

A good question, Mr. Benioff said when asked about it. He elaborated on several acts of his generosity and how they were “unprecedented for a company of our size.”

He stayed the message till the end.

“Business is the biggest platform for change, and we all can do more to improve the state of the world,” he said. “The larger Salesforce is, the higher it can be.”

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