By Alan Murray and Geoffrey Smith
November 7, 2017

Good morning.

I spent the day yesterday at Dreamforce, Salesforce’s annual conference in San Francisco that attracts more than 170,000 attendees and is part sales pitch, part circus, and part tent revival. Its eclectic program includes some 2,700 sessions, many focusing on the use of Salesforce software, but others featuring Hawaiian dancers, Buddhist monks, and celebrities ranging from Ashton Kutcher to When I went to bed last night, the party was still raging outside my hotel window.

The kickoff to the weeklong event was CEO Marc Benioff’s two-hour “keynote,” during which he wandered through the audience at the Moscone Center Oprah-style, spreading his unique tech message. And here’s what I found most remarkable: during the first hour of that presentation, he barely mentioned Salesforce products at all. Instead, he propounded his view that the “business of business is to make the world a better place.”

We are in the midst of a fourth industrial revolution, he told the rapt crowd, and “revolutions never change the world gently.” It was up to the people filling the Moscone Center to make sure that technology unites us rather than divides us, makes us more connected rather than less connected, and reduces inequality rather than increasing it. He also touted Salesforce’s “1-1-1” business model, in which it devotes one percent of its equity, one percent of its products and one percent of its employees’ time to charity.

Is this any way to sell software? Well, it seems to work for Salesforce, which will have revenues of over $10 billion this year, and has earned the top spot on Fortune’s new Future 50 list. (You can read Adam Lashinsky’s excellent profile of the company here.). While Benioff clearly marks the extreme of the spectrum, an increasing number of CEOs are concluding that they can motivate their employees, build loyalty among their customers, and perhaps even play a small role in restoring public trust in business, by making a strong public commitment to doing good in the world. Benioff says his 1-1-1 plan has been adopted by more than 3,000 other companies. That can’t be a bad thing.

More news below.

Alan Murray


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