Marc Benioff is the CEO of Salesforce, a cloud based software worth about $50 billion.
Benioff started Salesforce back in 1999 where he worked with his 3 co-founders in a small apartment in San Francisco.
While it wasn’t an easy road to get early adoption after launching, Benioff was lucky to have mentors like the late Steve Jobs who was able to guide Benioff to help build Salesforce. Benioff today credits that mentorship to helping Salesforce become the business it is today.
Prior to launching Salesforce, Benioff was working at Apple and later an executive at Oracle. He was sick of the big corporate culture and believed there was a better way.
He came up with the idea and vision for salesforce but new he couldn’t do it alone.
He searched out 3 people that he wanted to work with but they each took a bit of convincing having not being impressed with Benioff’s idea. One of his cofounders, Dave Moellenhoff’s, initial reaction was not great. Benioff recalled that Moellenhoff had said: “Then what happens is, you invite them to your apartment, show the idea, and then the guy says, ‘You’re an idiot. That’s the stupidest thing. This is never going to work,’”
Once he had convinced the 3 co-founders to join him on the journey to build Salesforce but there was another problem – Benioff couldn’t find any investors.
“We couldn’t get a dollar from VCs. We were thrown out multiple times. Luckily I have a lot of rich friends, and so we were able to raise money,” he said.
Early investors in Salesforce included Oracle cofounder Larry Ellison, Dropbox’s early investor Bobby Yazdani, and CNET founder Halsey Minor.
Benioff suggested that before any founder takes the plunge to start their own business they look inside themselves and get a clear conviction that it’s the right timing.
He also suggested that the five questions below are what every aspiring business owner should to ask themselves before starting a business:
• What is it that you really want?
• What’s really important to you?
• How are you going to get it?
• What is preventing me from having it?
• How will you know that you have it?
“I think the biggest issue for a small business, or for any business, is they’re not asking those core questions,” Benioff said. “And if you can ask those five questions, and we do this constantly, this is our process, then you can break out. But you can’t break out unless you do all of that.