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Marc Benioff Reached Millionaire Status by Age 25 -- and 9 Other Things to Know About the Co-Founder of Salesforce

On Sunday, Benioff and his wife Lynne announced their $190 million purchase of Time magazine from Meredith Corp.
Marc Benioff Reached Millionaire Status by Age 25 -- and 9 Other Things to Know About the Co-Founder of Salesforce
Image credit: Bloomberg | Getty Images
Entrepreneur Staff
Associate Editor
5 min read

Almost 40 years ago, a 15-year-old Marc Benioff sold his first piece of software, called “How to Juggle,” for $75. Now, he’s a billionaire tech mogul and the co-founder of Salesforce, a leading enterprise cloud computing company.

With an illustrious list of mentors -- including Larry Ellison and Steve Jobs -- Benioff set off to launch his company in 1999, working out of an apartment in San Francisco. Almost two decades later, Salesforce’s annual revenue surpassed $10 billion for fiscal year 2018.

Here are 10 details from Benioff’s life that begin to paint a picture of the billionaire tech mogul.

1. He cleaned cases at a jewelry store for his first official paying job.

Benioff asked his parents for permission to work at the jewelry store after school so he could save enough money for his first computer, which he bought at Radio Shack. (He was later fired for using the wrong soap on the floors.)

2. He developed games for Atari as a teenager.

Benioff founded his first company, Liberty Software, at age 15 -- the same age he sold his first piece of software (“How to Juggle”) for $75. Benioff then sold several 8-bit games for systems including the Atari 800, including Crypt of the Undead, King Arthur’s Heir, The Nightmare and Escape From Vulcan’s Isle.

3. He was a millionaire by age 25.

Benioff spent 13 years working at database software giant Oracle under then-CEO Larry Ellison. He was one of the company’s youngest executives, and at age 25, his salary put him over the millionaire mark.

4. A sabbatical trip around the world inspired him to start Salesforce.

After about a decade at Oracle, Benioff felt something was missing in his view of success and spoke with Ellison about taking a sabbatical. He spent a few months in Hawaii studying meditation, and had the fundamental idea for Salesforce while swimming with dolphins in the Pacific Ocean. Amazon and eBay had recently emerged, and he asked himself, “Why are we still loading and upgrading software the way we’ve been doing all this time when we can now do it over the internet?” The next leg of Benioff’s trip was India, where a host of spiritual leaders inspired him to prioritize philanthropy.

5. He considered Steve Jobs a mentor.

In 1984, Benioff, then a college student, interned at Apple. He went on to develop a friendship with founder Steve Jobs and often asked him for input in Salesforce’s early stages. “There would be no Salesforce.com without Steve Jobs,” Benioff said at a 2013 conference, crediting Jobs as the guide for many of his early decisions. Jobs, like Benioff, also spent time searching for inspiration in India.

Related: The Steve Jobs Equation for Tough Leadership

6. He helped invent a $116 billion market.

With Salesforce, Benioff launched a new form of cloud computing: software as a service (SaaS). Through SaaS, individuals and companies can rent software over the internet instead of installing it on physical computers -- and its estimated market size for 2018 is upwards of $116 billion.

7. He turned down a $55 billion offer from Microsoft.

Microsoft and Salesforce have a famously volatile relationship -- they’ve been both competitors and partners over the years, and a potential merger fell apart in 2015. Microsoft made a bid for Salesforce amounting to roughly $55 billion, but Benioff’s asking price was reportedly $15 billion more. The deal fell through.  

8. He developed a new 1-1-1 model for corporate philanthropy.

Benioff dedicated Salesforce to philanthropy at its core: a 1-1-1 model stipulating that the company set aside 1 percent of equity, 1 percent of product and 1 percent of employees’ time for nonprofits and local communities.

9. His net worth is an estimated $6.51 billion.

Benioff’s wealth has increased by about 60 percent since June 2016, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

Related: These Are the 19 Richest Tech Billionaires on the Planet

10. He and his wife Lynne paid $190 million in cash for Time magazine.

Eight months after the end of TIME Inc., the brand’s namesake publication will change hands in a $190 million deal between the Benioffs and Meredith Corp. The Benioffs announced their acquisition of Time magazine on Sunday. The deal, which is already drawing comparisons to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’s purchase of The Washington Post, is expected to close within 30 days. Benioff said he and his wife will have no journalistic input and will not be involved in the magazine’s day-to-day operations.

"The power of Time has always been in its unique storytelling of the people and issues that affect us all and connect us all," said Benioff in a tweet. "[Time is a] treasure trove of our history and culture. We have deep respect for their organization and [are] honored to be stewards of this iconic brand."

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