The most recent example was Proposition C, which was on the November ballot in San Francisco.
The measure called on corporations in the city with revenue over $50 million to pay a tax of 0.5 percent of gross receipts towards homeless programs. Benioff committed almost $8 million to passing the bill, and between mid-October and election day, he tweeted about it more than 50 times.
With Block now having CEO-level authority, Benioff said he could afford to take two solid weeks to focus on Prop C, convening meetings in Salesforce Tower with local business leaders, non-profits and homelessness experts.
But something unexpected happened to give Benioff the momentum he said he needed.
“God sent me this angel from heaven — Jack Dorsey,” Benioff said. “And then,” he gestures with his hand to show an airplane taking off.
Dorsey, the CEO of Twitter and Square, took the other side of the issue, because of the higher tax on financial services like Square, which he said would struggle to stay in San Francisco. Other local entrepreneurs like Stripe CEO Patrick Collison and Zynga founder Marc Pincus joined Dorsey in siding with San Francisco Mayor London Breed, who opposed the measure because she said the city didn’t have the controls in place to ensure the money was spent wisely.
Benioff said that ultimately, “there’s people that want to give money to the homeless and people who don’t.” To those business leaders who opposed Prop C, “then I say, ‘what is your plan?’ Benioff said. “They didn’t have one.”
Prop C passed with about 60 percent support, and Benioff’s only regret was that he didn’t get started sooner. “We moved the numbers a huge amount in a short period of time he said,” he said. “It was crazy.”
The more Benioff’s profile grows the more questions arise about his future and his political ambitions. He’s been at least near the politics arena, hosting a fundraiser for Hillary Clinton in her 2016 run for president. Benioff told Recode’s Kara Swisher in a recent interview on MSNBC that he will never run for office. Yesil said “it’s a question that’s been asked of him for the last 20 years.”
If you take Benioff at his word, he has no plans to step back from day-to-day life at Salesforce, and sharing the top role with Block buys him more time to do the things he wants. He’s in the process of writing his fourth book, this one about Salesforce’s journey from $1 billion to $10 billion in sales, and is aiming to have it ready for Dreamforce 2019.
In working on the book and preparing for Salesforce’s upcoming 20th anniversary this year, Benioff has been reaching out to early employees for various artifacts and memorabilia. Tien Tzuo, Salesforce’s 11th employee who’s now founder and CEO of Zuora, said Benioff emailed him recently looking for hand drawn sketches of the original AppExchange, the company’s app marketplace that was launched in 2005.
“His emails are very short and very specific,” Tzuo said.