Salesforce had an envy-worthy 2018. The markets had their gloomiest year since 2008, but Salesforce shares were up 34%. In the most recent quarter, revenue and earnings topped estimates for the 30,000-employee company. Ari Levy looks at what CEO Marc Benioff is doing right—and Levy begins his lengthy piece for CNBC by recounting an epiphany Benioff had while on a two-week vacation in pretty much the middle of nowhere (the Galapagos Islands, Bora Bora, and Easter Island): He's far, far, too busy. And so next came a big—and atypical, as far as the current software industry is concerned—decision: to name a co-CEO. That would be Keith Block, who had for years been at the helm of Salesforce's sales and support organizations.
Benioff "resolved to focus only on the things in life he enjoys," writes Levy, but the impact is larger than that. "After a particularly dark year for much of his industry, he’s on a mission to help save technology from itself." Levy charts the waves Benioff has made this year on topics ranging from San Francisco's homeless problem (with Block as co-CEO he was able to dedicate two weeks to pushing Proposition C, which passed) to Facebook's privacy woes. He himself had to deal with an ethical issue raised by both his employees and protesters: Whether to continue to allow US Customs and Border Protection to use Salesforce products for recruiting and border-activity management. He ultimately decided the answer was yes, but realized the company needed what no company has: a team to address these issues. Salesforce now has a chief ethical and humane use officer. Read the full profile here. (Read more Longform stories.)