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What these 6 CEOs learned from working at Salesforce

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

Peter Gassner, CEO of Veeva, which offers CRM for the pharmaceutical industry. The company had a very successful IPO earlier this year. 
Company formed: 2007.
What he did at Salesforce: Gassner was at Salesforce for two years, joining early when it were a small private company with just a few hundred employees. He was Senior Vice President of Technology, "but like everyone else at that time I wore many hats," he says. "My main responsibility was building the platform and taking it to market."
What Gassner learned at Salesforce that helped him the most when forming Veeva: "That the cloud is a much better model. I saw that cloud software had the ability to transform business processes at a scale never before seen....So I learned how to build a new category from the ground up and how to lead that category. I also saw that industry cloud could be the next big thing. At Salesforce, we were selling horizontal cloud products to all types of businesses, but I started noticing that there were certain industries that needed very specific applications with very specific functionality. I saw the opportunity to tailor cloud offerings for these types of companies. Veeva was founded in large part based on my experience at Salesforce and recognizing this business opportunity." 
What he thinks about his former colleagues: "Some of today's most exciting young companies were started by my friends from Salesforce. We get together, we share ideas, and we enjoy each other's company."
What is special about Veeva: "Veeva delivers industry-specific, cloud-based solutions to the global life sciences industry. We chose life sciences because it's a trillion dollar industry that invests heavily in IT. We've seen rapid adoption by helping these organizations leverage cloud software to get drugs to market faster, maximize sales, and maintain compliance. Today, 33 of the top 50 pharma companies use our software." 

Jim Yu, co-founder and CEO of BrightEdge, an SEO and content marketing platform
Company formed: 2007.
What he did at Salesforce: At the company for two years, Yu was Director of Product Management on the platform team.
Why he left Salesforce: "In 2007, most companies were focused on paid media, such as search ads, banner ads, and ads within specific channels, not on earned media, creating content, or content optimization. In my eyes, there was a huge disconnect that if bridged had the potential to unleash exponential marketing opportunities for brands. This was the impetus for my decision to leave Salesforce and bootstrap BrightEdge from my kitchen table."
What Yu learned at Salesforce that helped him the most when forming BrightEdge: "There were two primary lessons from Salesforce that directly informed decisions I made when forming BrightEdge: a heavy emphasis on customer success and a culture that inspires innovation. In other words, Salesforce taught me how to approach software, business management, and the building of scalable technology in a totally new and agile way. Back when we were just getting started with BrightEdge, it was clear that digital marketing was always changing, as Google innovates 500+ times/year, and Facebook redefines social and mobile over the course of a few short years. It was this understanding that change was constant, and that customers needed a platform to help them stay ahead of these changes that spurred the development of BrightEdge S3." 
What is special about BrightEdge: "Our Content Performance Marketing Solution. It starts with the Data Cube, which gathers billions of pieces of content from across the web -- including search demand, content details, and rich media -- to offer marketers a view into the performance of their content or their competitors' content."


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