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Think Ahead: Marc Benioff

A dispatch from PC Forum 2001.

Marc Benioff

Chairman
salesforce.com Inc.

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Can you name one idea that was true two PC Forums ago but is no longer valid?

Two years ago, we thought wireless would be taking off by now. But it turns out that wireless is the pen computing of 2001. Two years ago, this conference was really fueled by the notion that the Yahoo!s of the world would be buying major, old-economy companies. There was this sense that new-economy companies knew something magical, special, and new, and that the old companies did not. But the reality is that most of those new-economy companies couldn’t understand their own business model, much less know how to compete and beat established companies.

What business opportunity, partnership, or investment are you really excited about today?

As a new, emerging company, we’ve been able to exploit the last two years of explosive energy. We’ve been able to raise enough capital, create enough technology, and get enough critical mass during the manic times. We’d never be able to do all of that so quickly if we were starting the company in today’s environment. As an entrepreneur, my general observation here is that there are fewer people trying to do less. And that means there’s more opportunity to clearly define ourselves — not just against other startups, but against the big competitors that have to spend their resources maintaining a core business rather than inventing new technologies and ways of doing things.

What will we be seeing and talking about at next year’s PC Forum?

The idea I’m most excited about is the one our company is founded on: the end of software. There’s a lot of discussion here today about some core problems with the Net: identity, security, and payment systems to name a few. We’ve been talking about these issues for five years — and while they’ve been under debate, entirely new models have been invented. So, while the PC Forum is still talking about how the New York Times should best get on the Net, I’m looking at a radically new pricing and distribution model. I think that’s where the conversation’s going to move in the next year.

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Learn more about Marc Benioff on the Web.

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