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Salesforce’s 20th Birthday: Behind the Scene Story of Salesforce

On March 8 of this year, Salesforce has successfully completed its journey of 20 years!

This great journey indeed deserves a grand celebration. Thousands of Salesforce employees, trailblazers and the Ohana family joined this big event. Pitbull rocked the stage at Salesforce’s 20th-anniversary celebration concert.

Here, we are going to discuss how Salesforce started its journey, how it has become the world’s #1 CRM with time. Before starting with the interesting story of its journey and evolution, here is a sneak peek to the Salesforce timeline.


How the journey started

On March 8, 1999, Frank Dominguez, Marc Benioff, Parker Harris, and Dave Moellenhoff started the journey of Salesforce in a small one-bedroom apartment located in San Francisco. At that time, they planned to build a company on the following breakthrough ideas.

  • A subscription business model
  • A new technology model in the cloud
  • An integrated philanthropy model

Marc Benioff was working at Oracle. He left the company to start his own and teamed up with Parker Harris, who was a developer. The original gang had another two employees named Frank Dominguez and Dave Moellenhoff, who were programming colleagues of Harris’s.


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This is the first email Marc sent to Harris to discuss his big idea!


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Well, back in 1999, ‘Infrastructure as a Service’ – this concept had no existence.

In an interview by TechCrunch, Parker Harris mentioned,

I think in a way, that’s part of what made us successful because we knew that we had to, first of all, imagine scale for the world.

It was not about simply devising one CRM tool for an enterprise and then scaling it in such a way so that it can meet that individual organisation’s demand. Rather, it was about coming up with a way in which, people just have to sign up to start using the service.

The journey to achieve the dream

While Marc had the vision, Harris was in charge to build it. Tien Tzuo, the 11th employee at Salesforce mentioned in one of his interviews that Benioff wanted his coders to be stashed upstairs with the San Francisco Bay view while the remaining employees were working in the downstairs to get customers!

Here is an image of the early prototype of

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This image was taken on 15th November 1999. You can clearly see that it was definitely not so fancy but the basic functionalities of a CRM tool, which include Contacts, Accounts, Forecasts, Opportunities, and Reports – everything was present and represented by a tab.

“No Software” campaigning

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From the very starting phase, around the year 2000 – 2002, started doing “The End of Software” campaign. The main message that the marketing team were highlighting in this campaign was “no software to buy, install, or upgrade”.

Laurie McCabe, the partner and co-founder at SMB Group was then working for a Boston-based consulting firm. She mentioned Marc being a great marketer, storyteller along with everything else needed to gain enough attention and focus to Salesforce.

She said,

He was the ringmaster I believe for SaaS or cloud or whatever we want to call it today. And that doesn’t mean some of these other guys didn’t also have a great vision, but he was the guy beating the drum louder”.

Salesforce arranged multiple city tours around the country. The main objective was to showcase the latest upgrades along with creating new networks.

Paul Greenberg, a veteran in the CRM industry and the managing principal at the 56 Group shared an interesting story as he was one of the early users of Salesforce during this phase.

He mentioned that initially, he did not like the product! He had some complaints on the early export functionality, which he mentioned in one article. Salesnet, one of the competitors of Salesforce at that time noticed Greenberg’s post and put it on the company website!

When Benioff noticed it, he immediately dropped an email to Greenberg saying,

I see you’re a skeptic. I love convincing skeptics. Can I convince you?

Take your best shot.

was the reply from Greenberg to Benioff. And after 20 glorious years, Greenberg said Benioff did end up convincing him by taking the best shot! According to Greenberg, the “no software” campaigning idea was brilliant. 

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Dreamforce (2003 – 2005)

This is the annual user conference hosted by the company in downtown San Francisco. Dreamforce brings together all the industry pioneers, thought leaders, and the IT professionals from all over the world.

It came into action since the year 2003. That year Salesforce had 1000 attendees. In 2001, the company revenue was around $5.9 million, which grew to around $50.9 million in 2003! This was definitely a huge success for Salesforce.

In 2004, Salesforce introduced Salesforce Ohana. This was a global community of al the Salesforce enthusiasts and Salesforce employees. In the same year, Salesforce was valued at $1.1 billion.

In 2004, Brent Leary, the owner of CRM Essentials attended his first Dreamforce and according to his interview,

I remember it particularly because it was actually held on Election Day 2004 and they had a George W. Bush look-alike come and help open the conference, and some people actually thought it was him.”

In 2005, Salesforce launched appexchange. Today, this is one of the biggest marketplaces, which not only offers cloud-computing applications but also consulting services.

Growing up (2006 – 2011)

In 2006, the present CEO and co-founder at Okta, Todd Mckinnon joined Salesforce as the VP of Engineering. According to his statement, the company had to deal with some growing pains at that time.

During this time, the company began a strategy to grow through acquisitions. This year, it bought a small company dealing with wireless technology for $15 million.

Parker Harris introduced visualforce in the market. This visualforce technology helped in building forms, buttons, links, and creating impressive UI.

The dreamforce was becoming big. In 2006, it had over 5,000 members.

By this timeline, the Salesforce team introduced Apex, an on-demand programming language.

Acquiring Jigsaw was definitely a major step for Salesforce to take in order to grow. Jigsaw was a crowd-sourced data company. After the acquisition, the company was named Following this acquisition, Salesforce introduced, the Salesforce SaaS platform.

Year 2012 – 2014

The acquiring journey continued and as a result, Salesforce acquired Buddy Media for $745 million, Radian 6 for $326 million, and ExactTarget for $2.5 billion.

In Dreamforce 2012, Salesforce had over 92,000 attendees and it launched Marketing Cloud there.

Well, before the year 2013, Salesforce had a mobile app called Salesforce Mobile. But in 2013, they introduced Salesforce1 platform in the market.

SalesforceIQ came into the picture in 2014 after Salesforce acquired a relationship intelligence platform RelateIQ.

Year 2015 – 2018

In this timeline, Salesforce witnessed a lot of new things.

  • It introduced The Lightning Experience to amp up the feel and look and also to keep up with the market trends.
  • It acquired Quip, which helped the users to create documents and spreadsheets effortlessly.
  • Dreamforce 2016 had more than 170,000 attendees.
  • It acquired Demandware in 2016. After this, Salesforce launched the Commerce Cloud.
  • Salesforce Einstein is getting a lot of attention these days. This AI-enabled product was launched in the Dreamforce 2016.
  • The product Integration Cloud came into the picture after Salesforce acquired Mulesoft in 2018.  

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As you can see, Salesforce started its journey only with four employees initially and today, this globally renowned organisation has 36,000 employees.

The teams are working for bringing revolution in the IT industry, democratizing cloud, social, mobile, AI technologies, and IoT for industry-specific companies of every size. The core values of the company include Trust, Innovation, Customer Success, and Equality for all.

20 years is definitely a big milestone, but this is not everything! It is just one more step in the long arc of Salesforce.

We, at Envertis, house a professional team of best Salesforce consultants in Australia and known for providing the best industry-specific business and enterprise solutions. Be it consultation, planning, development, deployment, maintenance, and support – our Salesforce functional experts are here to help you out. For any queries, you can reach the experts either by calling them directly or by visiting our official website.

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