SAN FRANCISCO — Whether he's swimming with dolphins in the Pacific Ocean or drawing inspiration from rappers, Marc Benioff has broken the CEO mold while running Salesforce.com Inc. for the past decade.
Some of his antics seem calculated to make a point about the importance of daring to be unconventional, a method that has worked well for him.
Benioff, 45, wouldn't be a billionaire and Saleforce.com wouldn't have emerged as an even better investment than Google if he hadn't been able to persuade so many corporate decision makers to change their ways.
Salesforce.com rents software for managing customer relationships and delivers its product exclusively over the Internet. The concept, often called "cloud computing," is hot now, but it was considered a pie-in-the-sky notion when Benioff started Salesforce at the height of the dot-com boom in 1999.
Back then, companies preferred to install all their software on computers sitting on their own premises. They bought prepackaged software so they could own the applications, even if it meant paying huge fees for installation and maintenance.
That mindset was so deeply ingrained in corporate America that Benioff was worried Salesforce.com might fail two years after he started the company.
There's no such worry now. Saleforce.com has more than 77,000 customers, nearly 5,000 employees and steadily rising revenue that's expected to hit $1.5 billion in the company's current fiscal year.
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