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What these 6 CEOs learned from working at Salesforce

Erika Morphy | Sept. 1, 2014
Baby Benioffs everywhere!

Salesforce launched 15 years ago. With annual revenues expected at more than US$5 billion this year, it is hard to remember those days when Salesforce was a scrappy start up, trying to sell enterprise customers on the benefits of the multi-tenant software-as-a-service model. That battle is long over, and since then Salesforce has gone on to introduce a number of other new innovations that were also promptly snapped up with the rest of the industry. Chatter comes to mind; so does its latest product, Community Cloud.

Less has been said, though, about the generation of new tech executives cultivated by Salesforce. In many ways the company has become a de facto training ground in this industry -- much like Oracle was in the 1990s.

Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, of course, is an Oracle alum so it shouldn't be surprising that he is repeating history. But while the careers of Salesforce's executive progeny are interesting to follow, what is truly telling is what they have gone on to do since their stints at the company.

We talked to several of them. Here's what they told us.

Tien Tzuo, co-founder and CEO of Zuora, which helps companies manage subscription billing.
Company formed:  December 2007
What he did at Salesforce: At the company for close to nine years, Tzuo started as head of Products and moved on to become Salesforce's first Chief Marketing Officer. In the last three years, he was Chief Strategy Officer, in charge of building out Salesforce's Enterprise and Vertical businesses.
What Tzuo learned at Salesforce that helped him the most when forming Zuora: "Always start with The Vision. At Salesforce, it was never about creating a sales force automation product, it was about the End of Software, of how enterprise software was going to transform in the age of the Internet, and we wanted to be the company that figured that out." 
How he gave Marc Benioff his notice: "Before starting Zuora, I actually went to Marc first. It was 2007, people had not yet started leaving Salesforce to start something. Marc was found of telling us that Larry said 'no' to him the first two times he tried to leave Oracle, so I figured I had to ask 3 times before he would acquiesce. But when he heard the idea, he liked it and encouraged me. He offered to be one of our angel investors, just like Larry invested in Salesforce. Marc continues to be an inspiration to this day." 
What is special about Zuora: "We offer the only billing, finance, and commerce solution for the subscription economy for companies with recurring revenue business models -- think ZipCar, Netflix, Pandora, Spotify. A century-old business model is changing in an age of ubiquitous networks and computing power, and we want to be the company to figure it out." 


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