Q&A: Marc Benioff, Salesforce.com CEO

Marc Benioff

Marc Benioff, never one to shy away from difficult questions, was on hand this week to answer some queries at Salesforce.com's Dreamforce event.

Having already announced the addition of Chatter Free and Database.com, Benioff talked more about the latter announcement and the state of his cloud computing company, whilst touching on the competition.

Here is what the charismatic chief executive (CEO) had to say to a group of journalists' questions.

What was the reasoning behind launching Database.com?

We know that the database market is massive. It's not single digit billions, it's double digit billions or triple digit billions and that platform is huge with our customers.

Database.com is strategic not tactical. I think that it's very important for two things: one for our customers to have a cloud database. They don't have one today and they need one, especially for those mobility apps they're building.

And then two, we have more focus than ever on ISVs [independent software vendors]. These ISVs want to build on a cloud database.

This is the sixth ... key cloud and I think the apps and the innovation you're going to see will just be awesome.

And you saw the pricing is very aggressive and the reason why is, that is going to get this thing really moving.

What are your expectations for Database.com?

When you're doing something totally new that no one has ever done before and it's a totally new world and a new consciousness, I cannot give the specific answers.

With the announcement of Database.com, have you not just moved into Oracle territory?

We have a great relationship with Oracle. I love Oracle. I worked there, Larry [Ellison] is my mentor.

Sometimes we compete, sometimes we partner. There are vendor for us. We are one of their top 100 customers. We have a great relationship with them.

I honestly don't see us as competitors. I'm sure some people do, but I just don't see it.

Larry has this great thing, you know wearing his Iron Man outfit and he says I am defined by my enemies,' and I don't see Oracle as our enemy.

What I do see is that our enemy is the past, our enemy is the status quo.

I think the most important thing is to create a vision for the future and to show people what is possible and to explore the unexplored.

The future is our friend and we're going to keep our eye on that. Oracle is very much our ally in that, in my opinion.

Larry and I have friendly banter it is friendly.

What is your opinion of Microsoft's actions against your company recently?

They have sued us this year and we won. They have protested all of our events. They are running these ads in the Wall Street Journal against us.

They're trying to do everything they can to stop the cloud because they want to hold onto their monopoly. They're monopolists, it's what monopolists do.

They try to create this kind of uncertainty because they don't want their cash cows exploded.

Companies need a variety of apps, so what will Salesforce.com do to offer more services to cater to such variation?

As a CEO of a technology company, I don't want to do everything I just think it's a huge mistake because you just can't do everything well.

If everything is important then nothing is important. That's my philosophy in life, which is that you just need to focus on a few things that you can do well.

It's not that Oracle, SAP and Microsoft didn't do CRM [customer relationship management] already or that Siebel didn't exist, or that all these other CRM products didn't exist. But what were they not doing? They weren't doing it well, they weren't doing it great, they weren't doing it amazing.

I think that is really the power of focus and that's what I really get back to what are we going to do well, what is going to be our focus?

What is the most important thing to us? For us the most important thing is the Sales Cloud, the Service Cloud, Chatter, Force.com, Database.com. Some of those things, those big software companies, they don't even do yet. Maybe they're not going to do it in a decade.

If we just waited around for them I think we would implode. We're trying to create a new future.

Tom Brewster

Tom Brewster is currently an associate editor at Forbes and an award-winning journalist who covers cyber security, surveillance, and privacy. Starting his career at ITPro as a staff writer and working up to a senior staff writer role, Tom has been covering the tech industry for more than ten years and is considered one of the leading journalists in his specialism.

He is a proud alum of the University of Sheffield where he secured an undergraduate degree in English Literature before undertaking a certification from General Assembly in web development.