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).
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:
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.
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.
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:
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:
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.
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 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:
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 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.
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 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.
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.
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.