The End of Software, and a New Way of Doing Business

By Renee Boucher Ferguson  |  Posted 03-15-2007

Most days, at least in public venues, Marc Benioff wears a small white button pinned to his lapel that has the word "software" printed in the middle of a red circle with a thick red line drawn across it. The symbol translates to "The End of Software," in Salesforce.com parlance, and it's become synonymous with Benioff, 43.

Salesforce.com was founded by Benioff and three partners—Parker Harris, Dave Moellenhoff and Frank Dominguez—in March 1999 in a one bedroom apartment atop Telegraph Hill in San Francisco, Benioff's home town.

The concept for the company was simple: provide intuitive, easy-to-use CRM (customer relationship management) software-on-demand, enabling customers to pay a per user, per month subscription fee for the software.

In the process, Salesforce.com introduced the first multi-tenant (shared infrastructure) CRM solution that, in practice, brought the concept of consumer e-commerce applications like Amazon.com and eBay to business users. That innovation alone has led Salesforce.com to become one of the fastest growing tech companies in the world.

To date the company has 29,800 customers and 646,000 subscribers. Its software has been translated into 14 languages and is sold in more than 100 countries. For its fourth quarter of fiscal 2007 the company reported a record 90,000 new subscribers. In March Forbes ranked the company third on its list of "25 Fastest Growing Tech Companies," just behind Google and biotech equipment supplier Illumina.

"The numbers don't lie," said Benioff in a statement. "Customers are flocking to companies like Salesforce.com and Google because we are using the Internet to change the way services are delivered and people interact online."

Salesforce.com's growth, and its status as the poster child for on demand software, has sparked rivalries from some of the biggest applications providers in the world, including Microsoft, SAP AG and Oracle. To compete in a market that's becoming increasingly commoditized, Salesforce.com has stepped up with continuous innovation.

In the last two years the company has launched several major new technology and services initiatives, including AppExchange, a marketplace for Salesforce and third party applications; AppStore, for partners selling applications on AppExchange; Apex code, an on-demand programming language and development platform; IdeaExchange, a community where Salesforce customers can suggest and rank software development ideas that Salesforce incorporates back into its product roadmaps; and trust.salesforce.com, a Web site that monitors Salesforce.com's performance in real time.

Read the full story on eWeek: The End of Software, and a New Way of Doing Business