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Salesforce.com's Benioff: Tech is not the 'Hunger Games'

Which, of course, doesn't mean that CEO Marc Benioff wouldn't like to make life miserable for his rivals like Box and Asana.

Uncrunched Michael Arrington and Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff
Dan Farber

For Salesforce.com co-founder and CEO Marc Benioff, business is more than creating disruptive technologies and changing business models. It's also about helping other people. He has been true to his word in donating $100 million to build a children's hospital in San Francisco, and the company's philanthropic arm has given more than $40 million in grants over the last 13 years.

But Benioff isn't all about helping other people. In a panel discussion prior to his interview at TechCrunch Disrupt with angel investor and TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington, the CEOs from Asana, Box and Okta offered their views about the future of enterprise software. Benioff, it turns out, views all three as competitors, an he hopes to make their lives less harmonious in coming weeks.

Arrington noted that the CEOs of those three startups must getting a bit nervous backstage with Salesforce's plans to destroy them. "Our industry is not about the 'Hunger Games.' I don't look at this as a zero-sum game. You innovate, deliver value to customers, and get value back from the world," Benioff responded.

Maybe so. But Benioff is rapidly expanding his reach by enabling more kinds of applications to be built on the Salesforce cloud platform. Salesforce Identity will provide single sign-on across multiple applications (competing with Okta), Chatterbox offers file sharing services (competing with Box) and Do.com integrates group productivity management (competing with Asana).

While Okta, Box and Asana are companies that Benioff chose to ignore as acquisition targets, Salesforce has bought more than 20 companies during its history and invested in several other firms. "We are looking to make money and amplify strategic requirements, and looking for talent," Benioff said in explaining his M&A strategy.

Regarding another competitor and partner, Google, Benioff said that the company has "squandered" its enterprise opportunity. Google's enterprise business is about a $1 billion unit, and their products are "very good," but it has a crisis of prioritization, meaning enterprise software doesn't get as much attention from the co-founders as Google Glasses.

As for Facebook, which is a major customer of Salesforce, Benioff said it should have gone with the New York Stock Exchange -- as Salesforce did, naturally -- instead of Nasdaq, which had a major glitch when Facebook listed its shares. Benioff also believes that Facebook stayed private too long.

"Too much light is shed on them at the wrong time. They should have gone public two years ago. It's a great company -- now they need to double down on revenue," he said. "Few companies have opportunity to be the next Google, but it you want to, you have to grow more than 30 percent. Facebook will have to look for revenue opportunities in its products."