Flamboyant, charismatic, visionary, and incredibly rich. There are many things to say about Marc Benioff, founder of Salesforce and one of our time’s key tech entrepreneurs. If you ask me, I’d say that he is simply larger than life.
What makes Mark so unique? Many driven and smart entrepreneurs manage to build great companies or accumulate wealth, but Benioff invented a whole new market that is now worth more than $100 billion.
I have always considered Marc Benioff one of the most inspirational figures in the tech industry. The characteristic blend of enthusiasm, disciplined communication skills, and humanity-first approach in his speeches easily persuades you that he is indeed one of a kind.
But nothing speaks better of his abilities than the lengthy list of his successes: He created and sold software from the age of 14; he used to be the youngest VP in Oracle at 25 and founded one of the world’s largest cloud-based CMR platforms at 35.
Let’s discover Marc Benioff’s exciting success story together in detail.
Marc Benioff’s Bio Facts
|Full Name: Marc Russell Benioff|
|Birth Date: 25 September 1964|
|Birth Place: San Francisco, California, U.S.|
|Nick Name: N/A|
|Siblings: Julie Young|
|Children: Two daughters|
|Partner / Spouse: Lynne Krilich|
|Profession: Software developer, tech mogul, businessman, philanthropist|
|Salary: $1.55m annual salary/approximately $30 million in total with compensations|
|Net Worth: $7.7 billion|
|Social Media: Facebook: @Marc Russell Benioff; Twitter: @Marc Benioff|
|Companies Associated With: Oracle, Salesforce, Time|
|Last Updated: July 2022|
Marc Benioff’s Key Facts Summary
- Marc Russell Benioff was born in 1964 in San Francisco into a well-to-do family – his father owned a chain of clothes shops.
- He graduated from Burlingame High School and later earned a BS from the University of Southern California.
- He was a child prodigy programmer. As a teenager, Benioff created and sold Atari video games to pay for his studies.
- During his studies, he was an intern at Apple.
- He was just 25 years old when he became a millionaire (earning $1 million a year at Oracle).
- In 1999, Benioff founded Salesforce, a cloud-based company providing modern CMR systems and products. Its current net worth is $181.5 billion.
- In 2018, he bought Times magazine. His wife Lynne serves as its co-chair.
- The Benioffs are generous philanthropists known for large donations to children’s hospitals, non-profits, and charitable housing projects around San Francisco.
- Marc is also a vocal social activist, supporting the rights of the LGBTI community, abortion rights, and immigration rights.
Marc Benioff Birthplace and Early Life
Marc Russell Benioff was born in San Francisco into the fourth generation of the Benioff family tied to this city. As he revealed in 2022, his great-grandfather emigrated to the U.S. from Kyiv, Ukraine.
His father, Russell Benioff, owned a prosperous chain of clothing stores around the city, and the family was doing very well economically.
Marc’s mother is Joelle Benioff, and he also has a younger sister Julie Young (although some sources claim her real name is also Joelle).
Besides the striking physical similarity between the siblings, I couldn’t find many details on Marc’s sister, so she’s probably living her life out of public sight. The Benioff kids were both raised Jewish.
While many tech-moguls can, at least partially, contribute their success to studying at prestigious schools or having the right contacts, I believe that Marc was already born with all he needed. He would find his way to the top from any starting point.
From an early age, Marc was attracted to modern technologies and computers, in particular, effortlessly picking up on programming. When he was just 14, he already sold his first application, a game called How to Juggle, for $75.
One year later, Mark founded his first company, Liberty Software, and turned his passion for programming into a business strategy. Ultimate goal? Saving enough money for his university studies.
It probably won’t surprise you by now that he succeeded and earned a Bachelor of Science from the University of Southern California in 1986. During his studies, Marc was a member of the Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity.
Marc Benioff’s Early Career and Business Success
Marc’s Liberty Software became successful and earned him enough money to fulfill his dream of studying without accruing large debts like most other students. Nevertheless, as he grew up, developing video games stopped fulfilling him.
But great new challenges were right ahead of him, including a dreamy internship at Apple and a lucrative work opportunity at Oracle.
After graduating, Marc was immediately hired by Oracle, one of the largest software development-related companies in the U.S.
Marc started at Oracle’s customer service department, but he quickly made his way to the top through various marketing, sales, and development positions.
Altogether, Marc Benioff spent 13 years in Oracle, and from the age of 25, he served as the company’s youngest vice-president. Thanks to earning a million a year at this position, he also became a millionaire and a publicly recognized figure.
But despite his tremendous wealth, success, and social status during his time at Oracle, Marc still felt something was missing.
After reading numerous of Marc’s books and interviews, I believe he suddenly realized that he needed a purpose, a deeper meaning behind all this hard work – an opportunity to “do good,” as he would put it himself.
In 1999, he took a leap of faith and started working on a bold project that would once become one of the largest cloud-based companies in the world.
After leaving Oracle, Marc Benioff (along with Parker Harris, Dave Moellenhoff, and Frank Dominguez) founded Salesforce, a visionary project he labeled by a bold claim “End of the Software” and promoted through various guerilla marketing tactics.
What makes this company so unique? Salesforce’s main product is a revolutionary customer relationship management (CRM) platform that helps businesses build better connections with customers through the possibility of adding their own features and apps.
Salesforce is a 100% cloud-based company providing various technologies, including Sales Cloud, Service Cloud, Marketing Cloud, and Commerce Cloud and Platform.
Customers started preferring these products due to their rich features, accessibility, and irresistible pricing. Benioff, however, did not rest on his laurels. Instead, he invested a large portion of the firm’s revenues into further technical development.
Salesforce grew into a fierce competitor of the prominent actors on the market, including Marc’s previous employer Oracle. After two decades of its existence, it officially surpassed Oracle, which Marc proudly announced in all his speeches and interviews.
Other competition was, reportedly, on its tiptoes too. Microsoft wanted to buy Salesforce for $55 billion at one point. They would even allow Benioff to stay on board with a lucrative executive position.
Of course, Marc refused, demanding at least $77 billion (I believe he knew this was unrealistic and wasn’t ready to sell his company anyway). If this topic interests you, check out our Microsoft competitor’s analysis.
As of 2022, Marc Benioff owns just 3-4% of Salesforce, but he maintains his executive position in the company as its CEO. Salesforce’s net worth is currently more than $181.5 billion.
In September 2018, Marc and his wife Lynne invested $190 million in Time Magazine, one of America’s most renowned and oldest printed media outlets. The Benioffs acquired the magazine from Meredith Corporation, a mass media conglomerate.
I am pretty sure that Time is not an ordinary business interest to the Benioffs, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it even cost them more than they ever expect to see back from it. So, why did they buy it in the first place?
According to Mark, he wanted the magazine to be liberated from its financial constraints and free to fulfill its real purpose: provide its readers with trustworthy and valuable information.
In the light of the steep decline of printed media revenues in the last decades, I believe that this sponsorship-like approach might be their only viable future (although it has its pitfalls too).
For the story of another billionaire who bought a renowned media outlet, check our Jeff Bezos Bio (The Washington Post).
Marc Benioff’s YouTube Videos
In this 2021 interview for Code, Marc Benioff discusses many trending topics, from social networks to current changes in workplace culture to the business environment. I believe this is one of Marc’s best recent interviews.
In 2014, Marc Benioff took the stage at his Alma Mater to deliver his Commencement Speech. Besides expressing his honor and gratitude, he speaks to the students on a warm personal level and tells some great anecdotes from his youth and travels.
In 2019, Marc Benioff spoke with Economic Club president David M. Rubenstein about his company, the books he co-authored, and the market in general. I particularly like the parts where he explains that business is all about one-on-one relationships.
Marc Benioff’s Business Failures
Searching for losses in Marc Benioff’s impressive resume is hard detective work, and I must admit that I couldn’t find anything wrong enough to be labeled as a ‘failure.’
(I genuinely refuse to call his unsuccessful attempt at a radio repair business at the age of 13 a ‘failure’ like some other sources…)
I believe that one of Marc’s (numerous) superpowers is identifying possible trouble upfront, way before it gains the potential to become disastrous. Most importantly, when he sees a problem, he acts swiftly and decisively to diminish any losses.
Marc Benioff’s Family
Since 10 June 2006, Marc has been married to Lynne Krilich. The couple secretly tied a knot on the Big Island of Hawaii. Their wedding was attended by many prominent figures, from Silicon Valley executives to politicians.
Lynne might not be as famous and recognized as her husband, but she is certainly a successful person too. In 2014, she was even honored by Mayor Ed Lee as one of San Francisco’s “Women of the Year.”
Lynne serves as a co-chair of TIME and is active on the boards of numerous institutions (Board of Overseers of the University of California San Francisco Foundation, The Rise Fund, UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospitals, Common Sense Media, etc.).
The couple has two children, both daughters, but since the Benioffs raised them out of the public spotlight, I couldn’t find reliable information on their names, ages, or interests.
Marc Benioff also has a famous and successful distant cousin: the Game of Thrones creator David Benioff. The two reportedly shared a great grandfather and are relatively close.
Marc Benioff’s Net Worth and Career Earnings
While serving as vice-president at Oracle, Marc Benioff earned $1 million annually. Since he serves as CEO of his own company, Salesforce, his salary is reportedly at least 25% higher: In the fiscal year 2019, he earned a base salary of $1.55 million.
Of course, this is not the largest portion of his astronomic earnings. Besides serving as Salesforce’s CEO, he also owns shares in this multi-billion company. In total, he makes almost $30 million in compensation.
Despite being incredibly rich, Marc expresses his dismay at accumulating excessive wealth and seems to be giving away a large portion of his earnings to charity and various non-profits.
He also sold the majority of shares in Salesforce in recent years (it reportedly earned him more than $2 billion) and currently holds just 3 or 4% of the company. As of July 2022, his net worth is estimated at $7.7B.
Marc Benioff’s Real Estate Holdings
Marc certainly doesn’t shy away from spending his fortune on real estate. He owned quite a few luxurious properties over the years, mainly in the San Francisco area and Hawaii, his favorite place after California.
Let’s check at least one of his lavish private mansions and one famous property associated with Marc’s company, Salesforce:
San Francisco Mansion
The Benioffs are reportedly living in one of San Francisco’s best-renowned enclaves for the rich and famous – Sea Cliff.
This area in the northern corner of the city has also been home to Jack Dorsey (check our Jack Dorsey Bio for more details on Twitter’s CEO), George Soros, or A-list celebrities like Robin Williams and Sharon Stone.
Marc’s mansion stands on Pacific Avenue, also known as Billionaire Row. It has a value exceeding $28 million.
In January 2018, Marc celebrated the opening of the Salesforce Tower, a 1,070-foot office building ranking as the tallest structure in San Francisco and the second-tallest skyscraper west of the Mississippi.
The 61-story glass and steel building is located at 415 Mission Street and boasts a smoothly rounded silhouette slightly narrowing off toward the top. It hosts dozens of companies and forms an integral part of San Francisco’s skyline.
Salesforce Tower was the last project of the late Argentinian architect César Pelli, creator of the famous Petronas Twins in Kuala Lumpur and the World Financial Center in New York. The tower’s crown features a nine-story electronic sculpture by artist Jim Campbell.
Marc Benioff is known to be incredibly proud of “his” tower, but the actual owner of the zucchini-like structure is Boston Properties, a major real estate company. The tower’s name refers to the fact that Salesforce is the largest lessee of the premises (30+ floors).
Marc Benioff Quotes
To me, Marc Benioff is primarily inspirational in his tremendous determination, commitment, and discipline. You can learn how to develop software or manage a firm, but these are the special traits you must have in your genes.
Check out some of my favorite Marc Benioff quotes for a better insight into this man’s inner world:
“When I get something in my head, it’s hard for me to just let it go.”
“One idea alone is a tactic, but if it can be executed a number of different ways, it becomes a great strategy.”
“Seize the opportunity in front of you. Imagine. Invent. Disrupt. Do good.”
“You must always examine what’s working, evolve your ideas, and change the way you do things.”
“Life grows relative to one’s investment in it.”
“Lots of businesses talk about values, but in turbulent times, when they matter most, executives often forget to operationalize them.”
“Doing well by doing good is no longer just a competitive advantage. It’s becoming a business imperative.”
“The better the developers you have, the better the product you build.”
“Trust has to be the highest value in your company. And if it’s not, something bad is going to happen.”
“Despite a list of impressive titles and a pile of material possessions, I felt that something was missing and began to consider my place in the world and how I could make a difference.”
Question: Is Marc Benioff’s Salesforce bigger than Oracle?
Answer: Oracle and Salesforce are fierce competitors. Salesforce’s market position now stands at $180 billion, whereas Oracle is one step behind it with $174 billion.
Question: How many stock units does Marc Benioff own in Salesforce?
Answer: As of 2022, Marc owns about 3 or 4% of Salesforce shares which corresponds to at least 28,928,300 units.
Question: What companies does Marc Benioff own?
Answer: Marc Benioff founded Salesforce in 1999, and despite selling most of his shares in the company, he still holds on to about 3-4% of it. Besides that, he owns Time Magazine, Slack, Mulesoft, and some other firms acquired by Salesforce over the years.
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