About Salesforce

The History of Salesforce

Salesforce was founded in San Francisco in 1999 by Marc Benioff, Parker Harris, Dave Moellenhoff, and Frank Dominguez as a software as a service (SaaS) company. The team wrote the initial sales automation software and launched it to customers between September and November 1999.

In 2003, the first Dreamforce, Salesforce's annual conference, was held with approximately 1000 attendees.

In June 2004, the company had its initial public offering on the New York Stock Exchange, raising $110 million.

Salesforce launched the AppExchange in 2005 to support and enable third-party applications which either connect to Salesforce or run natively on the Salesforce platform to extend the functionality of Salesforce beyond its native capabilities.

In 2009, Salesforce reached the $1 billion revenue mark. Chatter was announced at Dreamforce 2009.

Salesforce hit 100,000 customers in July 2011 and was named, "the world's most innovative company" by Forbes magazine.

In 2013, Salesforce acquired email service provider ExactTarget (including Pardot, the B2B marketing automation system) which became Marketing Cloud. Salesforce 1 (the predecessor of today's Salesforce Mobile) was launched the same year.

Also in 2013, construction began on Salesforce's world headquarters, The San Francisco Salesforce Tower, over the site of the ground-level entrance to the old Transbay Terminal.

At Dreamforce 2015, Salesforce announced Lightning Experience. The same year, it announced Trailhead.

The $1.1 billion Salesforce Tower had its opening ceremony on May 22, 2018 and is now, at 1070 feet in height, the tallest building in San Francisco, replacing the previous record holder, The TransAmerica Pyramid at 853 feet. Salesforce occupies 36 floors of the 1.4 million square-foot 61-story building.

In April 2019, Salesforce announced that it would pay $300 million to merge Salesforce.org into the main Salesforce corporate unit.

As of 2019, Dreamforce has become the largest convention in San Francisco. Registration for Dreamforce 2019 was cut off at 170,000 attendees and Barack Obama, Emilia Clarke, Megan Rapinoe, Tim Cook, David Beckham, Stephen Curry, Deepak Chopra, Robin Wright, Gretchen Carlson, Arianna Huffington, and Yo Yo Ma were among the featured speakers with entertainment provided by Alicia Keyes and Fleetwood Mac. There were over 2700 breakout sessions, and events occupied Moscone Center, the Metreon, eight major downtown hotels, and Oracle Park (home of the SF Giants where Dreamfest was held).

Salesforce Acquisitions

Although Salesforce has acquired other companies throughout its life, this process dramatically expanded in 2012. Salesforce engaged in an intensive program of acquisitions, buying (as of February 2020) over 60 companies. The largest and most consequential of these acquisitions have been:

  • Slack (acquired July 2021) - a productivity tool for connecting people and finding what you need, and automating the rest.
  • Acumen (acquired February 2021) - a professional services firm with industry expertise across public sector, manufacturing, financial services and more.
  • Vlocity (acquired February 2020 for 1.33 billion) - a Salesforce ISV that builds industry-specific Apps covering six main industries: Communications, Media, Energy, Insurance, Health, and Government.
  • Evergage (acquired February 2020) - a leading software platform for real-time 1:1 personalization.
  • Click (acquired August 2019 for $1.35 billion) - pioneers in the field service space and heavily involved in the development of the Salesforce Field Service Lightning product.
  • Tableau (acquired June 2019 for $15.7 billion) - an analytics and data visualization platform.
  • MapAnything (acquired May 2019) - location-based intelligence software built natively on the Salesforce platform integrating map-based visualization, asset tracting and route optimization for use by field sales and service teams.
  • Mulesoft (acquired May 2018 for $6.5 billion) - software allowing users easily to build integrations between Salesforce and virtually any other enterprise application.
  • CloudCraze (acquired April 2018) - a leading B2Bcommerce platform built natively on Salesforce.
  • Krux (acquired October 2016 for $800 million) - a tool that quickly was rebranded Salesforce DMB and incorporated into Marketing Cloud.
  • Quip (acquired in August 2016 for $750 million) - a document collaboration platform featuring bi-directional synchronization.
  • Demandware (acquired in June 2016 for 2.8 billion) - a key component in the B2C portion of the Salesforce Commerce Cloud.
  • Metamind (acquired in April 2016) - a deep learning artificial intelligence platform (rebranded as Einstein).
  • SteelBrick (acquired February 2016) - tools that handle orders, contracts, billing, and payments.
  • ExactTarget (acquired June 2013 for $2.5 billion) - the backbone of what became Marketing Cloud including Pardot.
  • Buddy Media (acquired in June 2012 for $649 million) - a social media marketing platform now Social Studio, a part of Marketing Cloud.
  • Heroku (acquired in January 2011) - a leading cloud application platform for writing Ruby-based applications, now the principal customization and automation tool for Marketing Cloud.

Unlike most companies' acquisition strategies, Salesforce appears to have used most of its acquisitions to successfully integrate the acquired products and services into its core offerings, enabling it to innovate faster. At times, many observers have suggested that the companies being purchased seemed random and incoherent.

However, with a little distance it seems clear that Salesforce's acquisition strategy was anything but random or incoherent. Looked at as a group, these acquisitions are providing Salesforce with a path to enable the spectacular revenue growth it has seen over the past decades to continue apace.

Without these acquisitions, growth and sales would be facing stagnation; with them, new markets and continued rapid growth are now possible for Salesforce.

The Salesforce Philosophy


A fundamental concept for Salesforce is “Ohana.” Ohana is a Hawaiian word for intentional family or culture. Salesforce has inculcated the notion of ohana into just about everything it does. Its ohana is something discussed at every Salesforce gathering and plays a major part in the keynotes of events like Dreamforce and TrailheaDX.

Core Values

In addition to its Ohana, Salesforce is guided by adherence to four core values that serve as the foundation for Salesforce's decisions, actions, and communications:

  • Trust - Salesforce says that nothing is more important to the company than the privacy of its customers' data, and this, for them, is the most important element of the Trust core value. For Salesforce, Trust starts with transparency. One element of this transparency is its collection of status sites for every product and service. Additionally, Salesforce is committed to providing a robust compliance program that carefully considers data protection issues across its suite of services.
  • Customer Success - The success of its customers is critical to its growth, and Salesforce is believes that it succeeds as its customers succeed, and to the same degree.
  • Innovation - Regularly providing new, innovative solutions gives its both Salesforce and its customers a competitive advantage. Salesforce's innovative cloud-based platform along with other innovations including Lightning Experience, Einstein AI, CPQ, Communities, Lightning Bolts, Salesforce Mobile, the AppExchange, and Trailhead earn accolades from press around the world.
  • Equality - Ensuring that all voices are welcome and heard increases Salesforce's awareness of what is possible. Salesforce believes that business can be powerful platforms for social change and that it is Salesforce's responsibility to further equality for all. Salesforce believes that creating a culture of Equality isn't just the right thing to do, it's also the smart thing - empowering it to innovate, build deeper connections with its customers, and ultimately become a better company.
Giving Back

Inherent in the Salesforce Ohana is the concept of the importance of giving back. It is a philosophy that Salesforce has implemented for itself as a company and has encouraged and facilitated in its employees, its customers, and even in other corporations.

Salesforce's giving back is based on a simple idea: Leverage its technology, people and resources to improve communities throughout the world. Salesforce has named this integrated philanthropic approach the 1-1-1 model. Under the 1-1-1 model Salesforce pledges to return 1% of its resources (in terms of product, time, and equity) for, in the words of Marc Benioff, “improve the state of the world.” Salesforce has made a point of encouraging its customers and other companies to make the same pledge of 1% of their assets, time and/or product as well.

To implement its 1-1-1 program, Salesforce created Salesforce.org (a.k.a. The Salesforce Foundation) to carry out its philanthropic model and be its social impact center. Although Salesforce just integrated Salesforce.org into Salesforce itself, its goals and activities remain unchanged. The activities of Salesforce.org have included the following:

  • Given more than $240 milllion in grants including those for disaster relief assistance, to education, to literacy, to combat homelessness, and to support youth employment.
  • Salesforce gives every employee seven paid days of volunteer time off each year. To date, Salesforce employees have given over 4.3 million volunteer hours to their communities. Employees are encouraged to supplement this paid time off with additional volunteering time of their own.
  • As a part of Salesforce.org, Salesforce created three clouds specifically focused on giving back: the Nonprofit Cloud, the Education Cloud, and the Philanthropy cloud. Through each of these Salesforce has created focused, out-of-the-box solutions (such as the Nonprofit Success Pack and Education Data Architecture) to help organizations utilize Salesforce technology to meet their own fundraising and philanthropic goals. An important component of this is that all eligible organizations receive 10 free Enterprise Edition Sales & Service Cloud licenses as well as deep discounts on additional licenses.

Why Choose Salesforce?

Most of the people who have come to this website have already chosen Salesforce as their CRM. But just in case you're someone who's still in the decision process, here are some facts about Salesforce and some reasons why we think Salesforce is your best possible choice.

An obvious, but necessary caveat: everything that follows represents my personal opinions and in no way represents the views or positions of Salesforce or its management.

Lee Sauer

Salesforce Is a Large, Stable Company

Why is this important? The last thing you want to do is to select a CRM and have the company go out of business six months later or, just as bad, lack the resources to keep its product up to date and moving forward.

According to the 2019 Forbes list for the Software & Programming industry, Salesforce is the third largest software company in the U.S., based on annual sales (after Microsoft and Oracle) and has been experiencing exponential growth, going from revenue of $176 million in 2005 to $13.3 billion in 2019. For many companies, this sort of growth can be risky and challenging, but Salesforce has thrived and improved throughout this period of exponential growth.

Salesforce Has Vastly More Functionality than Its Competitors

Salesforce is definitely not the least expensive CRM on the market. And if price is your principal consideration in shopping for a CRM, then you probably won't select Salesforce.

However, the additional capabilities offered by Salesforce, both within the Sales Cloud and beyond, take Salesforce far, far beyond the capabilities of a CRM. Specifically:

  • The Clouds - No longer just supporting the sales life cycle, Salesforce now has other clouds that are based on the Sales Cloud platform and/or interact seamlessly with it behind the scenes.
    • Sales Cloud - the customer relationship management (CRM) platform designed to support all aspects of the sales life cycle.
      Learn More About the Sales Cloud
    • Service Cloud - built on the same platform as Sales Cloud and sharing many of the same objects, Service Cloud provides the tools for customer support and service with such capabilities as case management, customer portals, knowledge base, asset and order management, service process automation, call center management, and field service support.
      Learn More About the Service Cloud
    • Marketing Cloud - a set of tools to support the generation of leads and relationships with customers and potential customers. The principal tools include Journey Builder (a tool for building 1-to-1 customer journeys across channels and departments), Email Studio (builds and manages personalized email campaigns), Social Studio (engagement with customers across social media channels), and Pardot (a tool for B2B marketing automation).
      Learn More About the Marketing Cloud
    • Commerce Cloud - an ecommerce solution to support both B2B and B2C customers with 1-to-1 customer personalization including order management, self-service online buying, and a tool to create unified buying experiences across all channels: mobile, social, web, and store.
      Learn More About the Commerce Cloud
    • Community Cloud - an online social platform that enables companies to connect customers, partners, and employees with each other and the data and records they need to get work done.
      Learn More About the Community Cloud
  • The Industry Clouds
    • Financial Services Cloud - an integrated platform with specific functionality to support financial services and wealth management, including custom fields and objects modeling financial accounts, assets. liabilities, and goals for both individual clients and across entire households.
      Learn More About the Financial Services Cloud
    • Health Cloud - built on top of Service Cloud and designed around managing patient and member relationships including such things as current health conditions, medications, appointment history, communication preferences and built-in interaction with other health-based systems.
      Learn More About the Health Cloud
    • Manufacturing Cloud - a manufacturing CRM including Sales Agreements, planned volumes and revenues, Account-Based Forecasting interacting with existing Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and Order Management Systems (OMS).
      Learn More About the Manufacturing Cloud
    • Consumer Goods Cloud - improves retail execution capabilities, specifically the act of getting the right products to the right stores at the right times. In enables field reps to improve visit planning, optimize visit execution, optimize compliance and product placements, and easily capture orders and data.
      Learn More About the Consumer Goods Cloud
    • Government and Aerospace Cloud - a partitioned instance of the Salesforce platform designed to support and for use by federal, state and local government customers, government contractors, and federally funded research and development centers.
      Learn More About the Government and Aerospace Cloud
  • Other Product Offerings
  • The Former Salesforce Foundation (Salesforce.org)
    • Nonprofit Cloud - a Salesforce solution specifically for nonprofits including the Nonprofit Success Pack (NPSP) which customizes Salesforce with features including donor and donation management tools, pre-built fundraising reports, the Power of Us community supporting nonprofits using Salesforce as well as free and discounted Salesforce product.
      Learn More About the Nonprofit Cloud
    • Education Cloud - Incorporating the Education Data Architecture (EDA), the Education Cloud has functionality to support Recruitment and Admissions, Student Success enabling institutions from K-20 of all sizes to drive student success across the life-cycle from prospect to alum.
      Learn More About the Education Cloud
    • Philanthropy Cloud - a platform that empowers employees to influence and direct corporate philanthropy and connects companies and their employees to the causes they care about.
      Learn More About the Philanthropy Cloud

You won't need all of these additional capabilities, but as you grow and/or your corporate focus changes, it's valuable to know you won't have to change your CRM platform because your needs have grown and changed along with your company.

Salesforce Is Much More than a CRM

Salesforce started out as a tool to support the sales life cycle, evolving into a CRM, and that's the core of everything else it's become. If you haven't already grasped just how much more, then re-read the previous section; it should be an eye-opener. Most customers initially adopt Salesforce as a CRM and then, as they understand how much more Salesforce has to offer them, grow Salesforce into more and more aspects of their business.

Salesforce Is Ahead of the Curve in Innovation

From the day it was created, Salesforce was an innovator. Today, it can be difficult to remember what a radical concept cloud-based software was back in 1999. But the founders of Salesforce recognized that, especially for sales people who are by definition road warriors, using the then-relatively new internet let them connect to and update the same data available in their home office in real time would be revolutionary.

And that innovative spirit has continued to keep them far ahead of other CRMs with new Salesforce capabilities such as Lightning Experience, myTrailhead, and Einstein artificial intelligence. Salesforce releases upgrades to its platform three times per year. And each release seems to include not just one but many new and exciting innovations.

Salesforce Offers Free Education and Training with Trailhead

Salesforce announced Trailhead in 2015 as “a new way to learn Salesforce.”.

What I found astonishing about Trailhead was that Salesforce offered it for free. This was something that was, at least to some extent going to take revenue away from Salesforce University. And its development represented a cost to Salesforce. Nevertheless, they were giving it to their users without any charge.

After some reflection, I recognized that making Trailhead free was actually one of the canniest moves ever on Salesforce's part. Providing an easy to use and fun (yes, learning with Trailhead is a lot of fun) path to become proficient in what has become an extremely complicated and elaborate network of skills and tools makes customers and potential customers much more willing to purchase and stick with Salesforce.

In addition, Trailhead's system of badges, trails, and superbadges gives a more granular way to demonstrate proficiency in very specific Salesforce skills that has become a wonderful supplement to Salesforce Certifications. The fact that someone can dip into Salesforce in small chunks of, usually, around a half hour at a time, makes it more accessible and vastly more inviting that more traditional tutorials.

Another important component of Trailhead is the Trailhead Community, an umbrella offering which includes the Idea Exchange (see the next section), Community Groups, mentoring with Trailblazer Connect, podcasts with Trailblazer Radio, and the connections to other Salesforce users for help and inspiration in the Trailblazer Community.

Finally, there's myTrailhead, a relatively new tool that lets individual companies dip into the power of the Trailhead engine to create their own custom content to Strain their employees and customers, not just on Salesforce, but any content.

Salesforce Is Exceptionally Responsive to Customer Wants and Needs

From its inception, Salesforce has gone above and beyond in its responsiveness to its customers.

One of the most important ways that Salesforce is the Idea Exchange, part of Trailhead in the Trailblazer Community. The Idea Exchange not only provides a way for users to tell Salesforce what features and functionality they really want and need. Not only is it a forum to propose new features, but Salesforce has given users a structured way to weigh in and express their support for particular ideas with votes.

In the past year, Salesforce has made the process even more structured and consequential. The ideas on the Idea Exchange with the most votes are offered as candidates for feature implementation in the next release, and users are given 100 votes each to use in ranking those ideas for implementation. The user can split his votes among several ideas or place them all on a single idea. Additionally, an indication the amount of effort required to implement is shown for every idea. Salesforce commits to implement as many of the top contenders that it has bandwidth to do in that release cycle.

Salesforce Is Scalable

Maybe you're a ten-person company today, but I have no doubt you don't expect to stay this size. When you choose a CRM, you want to be able to start with a price and functionality that match your current pocketbook and needs, but offers a path for increasing functionality as those needs change and grow.

At the very bottom end, Salesforce Essentials offers basic functionality and a low-end price to match. As your needs (and your pocketbook) grow, Salesforce offers a path of increasing functionality with the Professional, Enterprise, and Unlimited editions.