Lifetime of Achievement: Marc Benioff

A cloud computing pioneer and prolific philanthropist, Marc Benioff co-founded Salesforce in 1999 and has been its CEO and Chair since 2001

As Chair, Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder of Salesforce, Marc Benioff is a pioneer of cloud computing.

Founded in 1999 with a clear vision to be ‘A World-Class Internet Company for Sales Force Automation’, Salesforce is now a Fortune 500 company with 72,000 employees. It enables companies of every size and industry to digitally transform around their customers by harnessing the power of automation, AI, and real-time data to make every customer experience more personal, valuable and memorable.

The company has been recognised as the Most Innovative Company by Forbes, a Best Place to Work by Fortune, and the 10th Most Admired Company in the World by Fortune.

Today, under Benioff's leadership, Salesforce is the #1 provider of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software globally.

Philanthropy and the 1-1-1 model

Central to Salesforce’s identity is the mission to have a positive impact on the world. On day one, Benioff created the 1-1-1 model of philanthropy, which leverages the resources of Salesforce to improve communities around the world. Today, more than 18,000 companies have adopted this model through the Pledge 1% movement. Since its founding, Salesforce has given US$650mn in grants to nonprofits and NGOs, more than US$180m to education and more than US$100m to public children's hospitals, while employees have volunteered more than eight million hours.

Benioff and his wife, Lynne, have focused their philanthropy on children’s health, the environment, public education and homelessness. In 2016, they created the Benioff Ocean Initiative at the University of California, Santa Barbara, to study and solve ocean issues around the world.

Focus on AI

In 2023 Salesforce introduced the next generation of Einstein AI, Einstein GPT, the world’s first generative AI for CRM.

In a long line of AI innovations, Salesforce announced AI Cloud, a suite of capabilities powered by Einstein GPT and supported by the Einstein GPT Trust Layer to deliver trusted, secure generative AI experiences across all applications and workflows.

“When I look back at 2019, we had really gone through three huge waves of technology: cloud computing, mobile and social,” Benioff said in an interview with the Associated Press. “And now we are going into the fourth wave, which is probably the most important one in AI, which is not just the most important technology of our lifetime, but probably the most important in any lifetime. It’s going to be a new world of technology that’s as exciting as all the other worlds put together.

“We are on the threshold of a dramatic change in the way we work with computers. We are going to work side by side with them. And, in many cases, they are going to augment or extend what we have been doing.”

A member of the World Economic Forum (WEF) Board of Trustees, Benioff serves as the inaugural Chair of WEF's Forum Center for the Fourth Industrial Revolution in San Francisco.

Benioff is the owner and co-chair of TIME, and is author of the New York Times bestseller Trailblazer: The Power of Business as the Greatest Platform for Change.

Before launching Salesforce, Benioff spent 13 years at Oracle Corporation, where he was the youngest vice president in the company’s history. When he was 14 years old, he sold his first piece of software, “How to Juggle,” for US$75. He founded his first company, Liberty Software, which created video games, at the age of 15.

Benioff received a B.S. in Business Administration from the University of Southern California, where he is on its Board of Trustees. In 2014, USC awarded Benioff an honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters.

Benioff was named Innovator of the Decade by Forbes, and is recognised as one of the World’s 25 Greatest Leaders by Fortune and one of the 10 Best-Performing CEOs by Harvard Business Review. For his leadership on equality, Benioff has been honoured by GLAAD, the Billie Jean King Leadership Initiative and Variety Magazine with its EmPOWerment Award.

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