Why you need to pay attention to Salesforce Dreamforce 2023

Marc Benioff, co-chief executive officer of Salesforce.com Inc., speaks during a keynote at the 2022 Dreamforce conference in San Francisco, California
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There’s a palpable sense of excitement ahead of the 2023 Dreamforce conference in San Francisco next week, which Salesforce is billing as the “AI event of the year”. 

Conference agendas have been saturated with AI content – including the likes of Google Cloud Next and Dell Technologies World – begging the question of how Dreamforce will differentiate itself. But the company’s recent overperformance and shift in focus paints a compelling picture. 

Salesforce started 2023 in a rather awkward position. With tentative warnings of a looming recession and turbulent economic conditions, the tech giant joined others across the industry in laying off around 8,000 staff. 

Amidst the seemingly never-ending wave of tech layoffs, the generative AI boom was gathering momentum, with organizations the world over fawning at the tantalizing opportunities that might await in a new era of AI-driven optimization. 

Tune in for Salesforce Dreamforce 2023

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Since then, Salesforce has made no secret of its desire to capitalize on this trend, with CEO Marc Benioff highly vocal about the firm’s bullish outlook on generative AI in recent months. 

Benioff told Yahoo Finance in June, for instance, that the current generative AI wave is going to be “the biggest that anyone has ever seen”. 

“I think that the success of OpenAI is the point of evidence that this is going to be one of the fastest growing moves, not just in the consumer market but in the enterprise market,” he said. 

Unpacking a star-studded AI agenda

During a recent earnings call in which the firm recorded better-than-expected results (a consistent trend for the firm so far this year) Benioff outlined the firm’s ambition, adding it’s firmly positioning itself as a standout leader amid the generative AI boom.

"We're now driving our AI transformation," he told reporters. "We're pioneering AI for both our customers and ourselves, leading the industry through this incredible new innovation cycle. We are very thirsty to make sure that Salesforce is the number-one AI CRM, and we have done a lot organically to do that in the last six months.”


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With Salesforce going all-in on AI, Dreamforce will serve as an opportunity to showcase these plans and act as a launchpad for its goals through the rest of 2023 and beyond. 

Simply glance at the conference agenda and you’ll see how excited Salesforce is, with OpenAI CEO Sam Altman, Anthropic co-founder Dario Amodei, and Clement Delangue, CEO & co-founder of Hugging Face, set to appear. 

But there’s more to its AI ambitions than soundbites and a star-studded conference agenda. The company has made significant moves in the AI space throughout 2023 in a drive that shows no signs of slowing down. 

Doubling down on generative AI investments

In March, Salesforce Ventures, the company’s investment wing, launched a $250 million generative AI fund to support the startup ecosystem and “spark the development of responsible generative AI”. 


At launch, Salesforce revealed it planned to initially invest in four companies, including Anthropic, Cohere, You.com, and Hearth.AI. 

Naturally, this ambitious investment pledge raised eyebrows, but just two months later the firm doubled down on its commitment with an additional $250 million in funding and the addition of Tribble and Humane to its ecosystem. 

These AI investments are by no means Salesforce’s first. 

It’s been innovating in the space for nearly a decade, having launched its Einstein AI assistance tool in 2016, for example, to provide customers with machine learning capabilities. 

This latest round of investment underlines the firm’s optimistic long-term outlook on generative AI and, more importantly, its commitment to drawing upon the shared expertise of partners within its broader ecosystem. 

This also coincided with the launch of Salesforce’s ‘AI Cloud’ in June. This is a product suite designed to provide enterprise customers with access to generative AI capabilities, hosting a range of models from partner organizations including Anthropic, Cohere, and OpenAI, as well as its own first-party models. 

Partnering up to conquer the AI market

By drawing on its partner community, Salesforce is taking a similar approach AWS, which has in recent months leveraged its own in-house capabilities alongside those of external partners. 

AWS unveiled the launch of Amazon Bedrock in April, offering customers access to in-house foundation models as well as those from third parties, such as Anthropic, Stability AI, and AI21 Labs. 

The service was hailed as a dynamic approach at the time, and one that differentiated it from industry counterparts such as Google and Microsoft in the generative AI race. AWS, too, has been highly vocal of its success. Swami Sivasubramanian, VP for database, analytics, and machine learning revealed in July that the service has attracted “thousands of customers” within just a few months of launch.

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Are we in a generative AI bubble? 

Following suit from AWS could deliver positive results for Salesforce in the immediate future given the impact that Bedrock has already had. 

If AWS’  success is an appropriate measurement of how this dynamic, ecosystem-driven approach to AI innovation can work, then it’s not without reason to say Salesforce can deliver on Benioff’s plans to position the company as the “number-one AI CRM” in the coming months. 

ITPro's Ross Kelly will be covering Dreamforce 2023 live from the Moscone Center, San Francisco between 12 – 14 September. To stay up-to-date with the latest news and announcements from the conference, follow our live blog and subscribe to our newsletter below. 

Ross Kelly
News and Analysis Editor

Ross Kelly is ITPro's News & Analysis Editor, responsible for leading the brand's news output and in-depth reporting on the latest stories from across the business technology landscape. Ross was previously a Staff Writer, during which time he developed a keen interest in cyber security, business leadership, and emerging technologies.

He graduated from Edinburgh Napier University in 2016 with a BA (Hons) in Journalism, and joined ITPro in 2022 after four years working in technology conference research.

For news pitches, you can contact Ross at ross.kelly@futurenet.com, or on Twitter and LinkedIn.