Case Study In 1999, Marc Benioff was writing software in a small San Francisco…

Case Study

In 1999, Marc Benioff was writing software in a small San Francisco apartment with two other cofounders of his new company. Together they created a cloud enterprise software used by millions of people today. Prior to starting the new company, Benioff was a successful executive at Oracle. But he was tired of the big company culture. He wanted to leave Oracle, but leaving such a successful job was a very hard decision. After some deep reflection and a bit of soul searching, Benioff decided to trust himself and start a new company called


Benioff knew he wouldn’t be able to go it alone. He didn’t have the experience or the skills he needed to create what he envisioned. Finding the right people was a challenge. Even after he found the right people, he had to convince them that his vision of a people-focused software company would actually work. That was hard, too. Finally, once his team was in place, he faced a third challenge—he needed to raise a lot of money to develop the large systems the company needed.
Investors and venture capitalists weren’t really interested in his idea, so Benioff turned to friends. Luckily, he had some successful friends, including founders and investors at companies like Oracle, Dropbox, and CNET. With money in hand, Benioff and his cofounders were able to launch one of the very earliest enterprise software as a service (SaaS) companies in the world. organizations. It’s estimated that has a 20 percent share of the $40 billion CRM software market.27
As of 2018,’s market capitalization was more than $98 billion, and it is one of the most valued cloud computing companies in the United States. Even more amazing is how quickly has grown. Since its initial public offering (IPO) in 2004,’s stock price has grown from $4 per share (adjusting for a stock split) to more than $130 per share (a P/E ratio of 147).28 That’s a 3,150 percent increase in stock price in 14 years, or 262 percent annual growth every year since its IPO. That is a tremendous amount of growth for any company. And has gone worldwide, too. It has been translated into more than 15 different languages. has been more than just a financial success. It has been given numerous awards, including “100 Best Companies to Work For,” “World’s Most Admired Companies,” and “Most Innovative Companies in the World.”29
As an organization, focuses on four pillars of success: trust, growth, innovation, and equality. To build trust, communicates openly with its customers. It promises to do what it takes to keep customer data secure. To promote growth, focuses on the success of its customers. By maintaining positive relationships with existing customers, the company continues to grow. works to innovate in what it does with the hope that its ideas drive positive change in the company, the industry, and even the world. Finally, pursues equality and is committed to hiring employees from every background. This focus helps it thrive.


1. Go to, and click on the “Try for Free” button. Fill in the required fields and start your free trial. This will take you to a test site full of data for a company named Acme. Click on the “Take a Tour of” link on the upper left-hand side of the screen. Walk through the automated tour labeled “Manage Your Pipeline (13 steps).”

a. Why would these dashboards be useful to a marketing or sales manager?

b. How could help a sales manager increase sales?

c. How long do you think it would take you to learn the basics of

2. Explain why a company like requires so much money to become successful. Once the software is built, what are the incremental costs of adding additional customers? How does this affect profitability?

3. Why was it critical to choose the right team of people to get off the ground? What types of skills would be necessary to create a CRM like

4. Why did tech giants like SAP, Oracle, Microsoft, and IBM miss the opportunity to produce a SaaS CRM like What might keep large tech companies from identifying potential opportunities like

5. What could be driving the tremendous growth in’s stock price and revenue? Why do you think investors put such a high premium on’s stock?

6. Why do you think chose trust, growth, innovation, and equality as its four pillars of success? Why are these important for a company that provides CRM software?

7. CRM software is just one type of software service. Companies might be open to trying additional types of SaaS after having a great experience with Salesforce .com. What other types of software might be good candidates for future expansion for Why?

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