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Marc Benioff to Silicon Valley: Stop being stingy

The tech industry has a lot of resources. The Salesforce CEO wants companies to get involved with their communities and do some good.

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Marc Benioff wants tech companies to give back.

Erin Carson/CNET

You have to do something. That was Marc Benioff's message to the crowd at TechCrunch Disrupt Tuesday.

"Silicon Valley does not have to be stingy like it traditionally has been," said Benioff, CEO of cloud-computing company Salesforce.com. He noted that for all the value tech companies create, they must figure out how to bring that value to their communities.

What does that mean? Figuring out how to help others with the resources that exist in tech. He doesn't really care how tech companies decide to define it. He did, though, make at least one suggestion: "I encourage every CEO in this room to adopt a public school."

Salesforce has invested $22 million in local public schools in San Francisco and the Bay Area, he said.

Benioff has a history of putting his money where his mouth is. In June 2010, he and his wife, Lynne, donated $100 million to the UCSF Children's Hospital in San Francisco. Four years later, they donated another $100 million to UCSF and Oakland Children's Hospital (now collectively called Benioff Children's Hospitals).

Benioff regularly wades into the waters of social activism. Last year in protest against a bill in Indiana that would have allowed businesses to discriminate against those in the LGBT community, he spoke out against Indiana governor and now vice presidential candidate Mike Pence, threatened to cut investments in the state, and even offered employees based there the option of relocating. He's made similar moves in Georgia and North Carolina, prompting North Carolina Lt. Gov. Dan Forest to call him a "corporate bully." He also closed Salesforce's gender pay gap in 2015.

Benioff commented Tuesday about how he got involved with LGBT rights, saying Salesforce is the largest tech employer in Indiana. He said if an employee calls him and tells him about something like that law, his choices are to ignore that person or to help out. The former just isn't an option.

"People have to say 'I fight for equality,'" he said.

Benioff, who is No. 47 on Forbes' Richest People in Tech list, with a net worth of about $3.8 billion, has his eye on everything from gender and racial equality to the refugee crisis. Next week, he said, Salesforce will announce a chief equality officer.

"We should also never forget about helping other people," he said.

Updated 11:55 a.m. PT: Adds information on Benioff's personal donations.