Salesforce (the company) has arguably done more to advance the adoption of what’s now commonly known as “cloud software” than any other company.
When Salesforce (the product) was first launched, a majority of business people were distrustful of any third party holding their valuable contact data.
Because of this, Salesforce not only needed to sell the idea of using a browser as a CRM user interface — the company also had to convince buyers that customer and other data was secure from loss and intrusion.
Keep in mind that Salesforce existed years before Gmail, Facebook, Twitter, iTunes, and many other now popular cloud brands came along.
1999: The Humble Beginnings
Salesforce began in a small apartment in Telegraph Hill in San Francisco.
Marc Benioff decided to leave a lucrative sales career at Oracle in order to pursue a vision.
While Marc Benioff had the idea for Salesforce, there were three other company founders: Parker Harris, Dave Moellenhoff and Frank Dominguez. The latter two were cofounders at Parker Harris’s previous company.
Funding was initially raised from Oracle’s Larry Ellison (Benioff’s former boss), Dropbox’s early investor Bobby Yazdani, and CNET founder Halsey Minor.
The Salesforce Foundation was founded in December of the year the company was formed. The 1-1-1 model of integrated philanthropy (1% of product, 1% of time, and 1% of resources) continues today under Salesforce.org. That branding may soon change, as you’ll read below.
The same year, Jeff Bezos was named Person of the Year by Time Magazine.
2003: The First Dreamforce
The first Dreamforce, Salesforce’s annual convention, was attended by just over 1,000 people and was held at the Westin Hotel in San Francisco.
That number would turn out to be less than 1% of the eventual attendance.
In later years, Dreamforce would become a major San Francisco event, which included a multi-day closure of Howard Street between Moscone Centers North and South.
The conference became so big and spread out, that dozens of partners began posting Dreamforce survival guides.
2004: The Initial Public Offering
After five years of steady growth that led to the 8,700 customer mark, Salesforce launched its IPO and raised $110 Million.
2005: The AppExchange
The Salesforce AppExchange, a third party marketplace, was launched in 2005. This is an eCommerce site for third party apps that either connect to Salesforce or that run natively on the Salesforce platform.
Entire companies have formed around the AppExchange. A prime example is Conga.
AppExchange ended up becoming its own source of revenue, as Salesforce receives a margin on partner subscription revenue.
2009: A Billion Dollars In Annual Revenue
This was the year that Salesforce reached the $1 billion revenue mark. The company ended its fiscal year with over 55,000 customers.
At Dreamforce ’09, Chatter was announced. Chatter functionality continues to be iterated with each seasonal release.
2011: 100,000 Customers
In July of 2011, Salesforce reached 100,000 customers. Forbes named Salesforce “the world’s most innovative company.”
2013: The Acquisition of ‘The Marketing Cloud’
In the company’s second largest acquisition ever, Salesforce acquired the popular email service provider ExactTarget for $2.5 billion.
The incidental acquisition was Pardot, which ExactTarget had previously acquired.
ExactTarget later became The Marketing Cloud, one of Salesforce’s core offerings. The Marketing Cloud remains one of Salesforce’s key pillars.
Pardot, now Salesforce Pardot, became Salesforce’s own version of a HubSpot or a Marketo B2B marketing automation system.
2014: The New Industries Business Unit
In April of 2014, Salesforce announced its New Industries Strategy. This was the company’s first large scale push into vertical markets. Six global industries, including healthcare & life sciences, were a part of this.
The press release stated, “Salesforce.com enables payers, providers and life science companies to connect with patients and providers wherever they are to improve the patient experience, outcomes and cost.”
2015: Lightning & Trailhead Announced
At Dreamforce ‘15, the Salesforce Lightning Experience was formally announced.
Trailhead was announced in 2015 as “a new way to learn Salesforce.”
2016: Thirteen Acquisitions; Health Cloud
2016 was the most acquisitive year in the history of Salesforce. Acquisitions included the native CPQ tool SteelBrick. It also included the largest purchase price up until that point – $2.86 billion for DemandWare.
2016 was also the year that Salesforce announced Health Cloud. The press release stated, “Salesforce is leveraging a comprehensive ecosystem of partners, systems integrators (SIs) and independent software vendors (ISVs) to extend and implement Health Cloud.” J2 Interactive is a partner in that ecosystem.
2017: Rapid Growth Continues
By the end of 2017, Salesforce was an $8.3 billion company.
Forbes once again named Salesforce the world’s #1 most innovative company.
2018: New Digs
In early 2018, Salesforce employees began the move from multiple locations into the Salesforce Tower.
The top space that can be occupied is the 61st floor. Salesforce began offering this space to community nonprofits in the fall of 2018.
Partners in the Salesforce ecosystem will also be occupying space in the new tower as it’s ready.
In March of 2018, Salesforce announced its biggest acquisition ever—a $6.5 billion purchase of integration vendor MuleSoft.
2019: .Com and .Org Become One
In April 2019, Salesforce announced that it will pay $300 million to merge with Salesforce.org. Salesforce.org will function as an industry vertical within Salesforce.
Based on what Marc Benioff said in 2018, it’s still early in the history of Salesforce. The goal is to be a $60 billion company by 2034. Now that’s planning ahead.