George John, CEO of Rocket Fuel, a programmatic ad-buying platform
Company formed: March 2008.
What he did at Salesforce: John was director of Product Management focusing on the needs of the company's largest customers -- analytics, dashboards, collaboration. He also rolled out its online user community.
Why Salesforce was so successful from the start: "Salesforce was a great example of the Henry Ford ('if I had built what customers wanted, I would have built a faster horse') / Steve Jobs school of product innovation. When Salesforce started in 1999, nobody was asking to have their company data smashed into a giant database in what we now call the cloud, but it was the right solution and we were able to demonstrate the benefits."
What it's like being interviewed by Marc Benioff: "I felt like I should have paid him afterwards for his incisive analysis of my interests and strengths. Marc has an awe-inspiring attention to detail."
What it's like working for Benioff: "I once saw Marc walk past a sales rep's cube, and in a split second Marc noticed that the rep's Salesforce screen was missing a button that should have been enabled by the latest release just days before. Marc stopped in his tracks, talked to the rep to understand why he wasn't using the new feature, and immediately went to ask the product manager to follow up. At that time, Salesforce was already a roughly 500-person company with thousands of customers and hundreds of features going into each release. That the CEO had such a command of the details was truly remarkable and inspiring.
On his 'Salesforce mafia' dinners and other connections: "We have 'Salesforce mafia' dinners a few times a year, and I often run into other alums who are now CEOs at various events or get lunch to catch up. Recently another salesforce alum and I did an event for the SF United Way, talking about how the Salesforce foundation and Marc's genuine commitment to philanthropy left a mark on us and made us more cognizant of this when we started our respective companies. Also, Nancy Connery, who used to be head of HR at Salesforce (from inception to around 2,000 employees), is my personal coach at Rocket Fuel and is helping me create the same kind of special place here at Rocket Fuel.
What is special about Rocket Fuel: "Rocket Fuel is a marketing technology company focused on using artificial intelligence to automate fine-grained decision-making that is on one hand too big (picking the right ad spots out of more than 50 billion a day for a brand's campaign) and on the other hand too small (each decision is about showing a single ad to a single person and paying maybe a tenth of a penny to do it) to be appropriate for manual human operation."
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