20VC Marc Benioff on The Future of San Francisco and What He Would Do if in Charge Marc Benioff's Five Step Process to Priorities and Why Money Does Not Make You Happy & Work From Home vs InPerson; How to Manage in Changing Worlds



In this episode, host Harry Stebbings interviews Salesforce founder and CEO Mark Benioff, who shares insights on the evolution and future of AI, emphasizing the transition from predictive to generative AI and the forthcoming waves of autonomous agents and AGI. Benioff discusses the importance of trust in technology and highlights Salesforce's role as a major philanthropist in San Francisco. He reflects on balancing business innovation with giving back to the community and the personal fulfillment derived from philanthropy. Benioff also touches on the significance of personal values and spirituality in guiding his decisions and the importance of persistence, as evidenced by his own journey in securing the interview with Stebbings. Additionally, Benioff addresses the challenges of remote work, the necessity of law enforcement and funding for police in San Francisco, and the city's potential as an AI hub.

Summary Notes

Law Enforcement and Public Safety

  • Mark Benioff stresses the importance of enforcing laws and adequately funding the police force.
  • He highlights the decline in the number of police officers in San Francisco from over 2000 to around 1400.
  • Benioff calls for the expansion of the police force to maintain San Francisco as a safe and clean city.

"We must enforce our laws. I don't think it's a lot to ask. We have to fund our police force. From the time that Gavin Newsom was mayor to today, we've gone from a little over 2000 cops on the streets of San Francisco now to about 1400. That's completely unacceptable. And we need to now expand our police force."

The quote emphasizes the speaker's view on the necessity of law enforcement and adequate funding for the police to ensure public safety and order.

Persistence and Guest Introduction

  • Harry expresses his long-standing desire to have Mark Benioff on the show, indicating persistence over eight years and 3000 episodes.
  • Harry's commentary serves as encouragement for those who are on the verge of giving up, highlighting the importance of taking the next step.
  • Mark Benioff is introduced as the founder and CEO of Salesforce, with a mention of his accomplishments.

"So today's show is a testament to persistence. I've wanted to have Mark Benny off on the show for the last eight years or 3000 episodes."

Harry's quote reflects the dedication and perseverance it took to finally have Mark Benioff as a guest on the show.

Sponsorship and Investment Tools

  • The episode is sponsored by Tigas, a research tool for investors offering access to expert insights and financial data.
  • Mayfair is introduced as a service that provides companies with FDIC insurance and interest on deposits, especially important after the failure of certain banks.
  • Secureframe is mentioned as an all-in-one platform for security and privacy compliance, simplifying the process of meeting global standards.

"This episode is brought to you by Tigas, the Goto research destination for bold investing."

The quote introduces Tigas as a sponsor and highlights its role in providing resources for investors to make informed decisions.

AI and Salesforce's Position

  • Mark Benioff shares his vision for AI and the exciting times ahead, mentioning his early investments in AI for Salesforce.
  • He discusses the evolution of AI from predictive to degenerative, with upcoming waves of autonomous agents and AGI (Artificial General Intelligence).
  • Benioff believes these developments are exceeding his expectations.

"Today we're moving obviously, and everyone knows the new version of AI, which is beyond predictive, degenerative. And then we've got another big wave coming very, very close, which is going to be autonomous and agents."

The quote describes the current and future developments in AI technology and how Salesforce is adapting to these changes.

Challenges for Salesforce in AI

  • Salesforce's strong position for AI development is attributed to its location in San Francisco and access to talent and universities.
  • The unique nature of Salesforce's product and handling of customer data with a trust layer is highlighted.
  • Benioff acknowledges potential hurdles for Salesforce in the AI space but remains optimistic about the company's prospects.

"So the other great thing about Salesforce is the nature of our product is that we command a lot of data."

The quote underlines Salesforce's advantage in AI due to its data-rich environment and responsible data usage.

San Francisco's Political Climate and Real Estate

  • Benioff criticizes a political group in San Francisco for misrepresenting the city on social media.
  • He suggests that despite the "doom loop narrative," the city is thriving, with real estate booming and startups flourishing.
  • Benioff notes the dynamic nature of his life and the importance of being mobile and responsive to customer needs.

"Part of that is there's this whole thing that they've created, this concept of this doom loop narrative and the doom loop narrative, which is that there's like some doom loop going on."

The quote explains Benioff's view on the false narrative being spread about San Francisco and contrasts it with the positive economic activity he observes.

Benioff's Plan for San Francisco

  • Mark Benioff has a ten-point plan for improving San Francisco, which he has shared with local leaders.
  • The plan includes detailed steps to address the city's challenges, emphasizing law enforcement and the expansion of the police force.
  • Benioff's comments reflect his commitment to and vision for the city's future.

"I have a ten point plan I could walk you through, or I'll set it to you, Harry. It'll be much easier. And it goes through in detail exactly what I would do."

The quote indicates Benioff's preparedness to offer a comprehensive strategy for addressing issues in San Francisco.

San Francisco's Unpredictability

  • San Francisco is known for its unpredictability, which Mark Benioff finds endearing.
  • Despite its inconsistencies, the city holds a special place in his heart.

"statistics to prove it, but sometimes it doesn't deliver the goods every single day. And it's kind of a funny thing about San Francisco, but it's also one reason I love it so much."

This quote highlights Benioff's affection for San Francisco, acknowledging its flaws but appreciating the city nonetheless.

Matthew McConaughey's Influence

  • Matthew McConaughey's commencement speech on the 13 truths is a source of inspiration for Speaker C.
  • McConaughey emphasizes that life's rewards often require hard work.
  • Mark Benioff admires McConaughey's dedication and success in various roles.

"Well, he's one of my closest friends, and we spent a huge amount of time together. And I'll just tell you what he says is don't half ass it."

Benioff conveys McConaughey's philosophy of fully committing to one's endeavors and not doing things by halves.

Salesforce's Success and Hard Work

  • Mark Benioff reflects on Salesforce's success and the hard work it took to achieve it.
  • Inspired by McConaughey, Benioff believes in working harder and being a significant participant in his ventures, like Dreamforce.

"Inspired by people like Matthew, I feel like I need to continue to work harder, do more, go plug more places, is obviously if Dreamforce is going to be a success was like it was last week, I'm going to have to be there, be a huge participant."

The quote illustrates Benioff's commitment to being actively involved in Salesforce's events and initiatives to ensure their success.

Early Career and Vision of Success

  • Benioff doesn't define his early endeavors as chasing success.
  • His passion for software development began in high school, leading to the creation of entertainment software.
  • Benioff's love for software and philanthropy drive him, evident in Salesforce's contributions to education and healthcare.

"When I was young, and I worked very closely with my partner from my high school software company is one of our primary engineering leaders and architects, Steve Fisher."

This quote provides insight into Benioff's early interest in software, which was not motivated by success but by a genuine passion for the field.

Decision-Making Framework

  • Mark Benioff describes his decision-making framework, which has evolved over time.
  • At 27, while at Oracle, he realized the need for personal development and leadership skills.
  • Benioff developed the V2MOM process to focus and guide his decisions, consisting of five questions to clarify his goals and values.

"The something else was called v2mom. It was five questions that let me really focus on my company, myself, a product, a customer."

Benioff's V2MOM process is a structured approach to decision-making that helps him concentrate on what is essential for personal and professional projects.

Balancing Priorities

  • Mark Benioff acknowledges that his priorities are often out of balance.
  • He describes life as a dance, with the need to navigate between the urgent and the important.
  • Meditation has been instrumental in maintaining his focus and balance.

"Well, my priorities are constantly out of whack. So my priorities are like my spiritual health and well being, my physical health, my family, my friends, my business, my ability to give back."

Benioff recognizes the challenge of maintaining equilibrium among various aspects of life, suggesting that it is a dynamic process requiring constant attention.

Reflection on Money and Happiness

  • Mark Benioff believes that money alone cannot bring happiness.
  • His involvement in philanthropy reflects his views on the limited role of money in achieving personal fulfillment.

"Well, money is never going to make you happy. And I guess that's one of the reasons that I'm so into philanthropy."

This quote encapsulates Benioff's belief that happiness is not derived from wealth, and it explains his commitment to giving back to the community.

Philanthropy and Personal Fulfillment

  • Mark Benioff has donated over a billion dollars, primarily to organizations in San Francisco.
  • His philanthropic efforts include building children's hospitals, an ocean program, and supporting his university, UCSF.
  • Benioff believes in giving back to the community at scale and ties his personal happiness to his ability to contribute philanthropically.
  • He resonates with the idea that those who have received much have an obligation to give back.

"I've given away more than a billion dollars to all kinds of organizations, mostly in San Francisco, mostly our university, mostly UCSF. I built two children's hospitals. I built an ocean program. I've done all kinds of things. Wherever I go or where I live, I make sure that I'm always giving back at scale to the community. Personally, I feel that to whom much is given, much is required. I want to build a great company, but I also want to give back. Now I want to tell you why that's selfish, because it gets to your point. I'm not going to be happy unless I'm giving."

The quote highlights Benioff's extensive philanthropic work and his belief in the responsibility to give back, which he considers essential for his happiness.

Raising Children with Values in Wealth

  • Billionaires often struggle with instilling hunger and work ethic in children raised in wealth.
  • Benioff references Matthew McConaughey's advice on the importance of parental time and attention.
  • He emphasizes the role of his own mother in his upbringing and her ongoing influence.
  • Benioff suggests that dealing with happiness and the challenges of wealth are not current struggles for him due to resolutions made decades earlier.

"I've interviewed maybe 50 billionaires. The single biggest challenge that they have is how do you bring up children with the same tenacity, hunger, work ethic when brought up in very different financial environments? The university across the board, I actually analyzed it before this. 48 out of 50 said that was their biggest challenge."

This quote introduces the issue of raising children with strong values despite a wealthy upbringing, a common concern among billionaires.

"Matthew McConaughey probably has said it best in his books, which is you have to pay attention to, are you spending time as a parent? Are you spending time, I'll say, as a son? My mother also is still alive. So in many ways, I'm also still very much her child and saw her last week. She was in San Francisco. People come to Dreamforce see her. She's in all of my programs. It's probably a better question for her. She's obviously still working on me. Fortunately, some of these questions about happiness aren't things that I have to wrestle with, because I was able to cross those bridges so many decades ago."

Benioff emphasizes the importance of time spent as a parent and child, referencing his own relationship with his mother and how it continues to shape him.

Advice to New Parents

  • Benioff's advice to new parents is to enjoy every moment.
  • He suggests focusing on activities that bring happiness and reducing those that do not.
  • The approach is based on the premise that people are aware of what makes them happy or unhappy and should give themselves permission to pursue happiness.

"I think the number one thing that everyone needs to do is enjoy every moment. And I'll say to people the same thing and maybe it'll help you. Tell me, what are ten things that make you very happy? Now, let's make a list of ten things that make you not so happy. Now, let's look at these two lists. How about doing a little bit more of what makes you happy and a little bit less of what makes you unhappy? Everybody knows what makes them happy and what makes them unhappy, but I think they have to have the permission to do less unhappiness and more happiness. And I think then you will be obviously happier if you're doing things that are making you happy."

The quote provides practical advice for achieving happiness, emphasizing the importance of conscious choices in pursuit of joy.

Work Environment Preferences

  • Benioff believes that work environment preferences vary among different types of workers.
  • Salesforce engineers are required to be in the office only ten days a quarter to facilitate collaboration.
  • Sales, marketing, and general administration (GNA) staff have different in-person requirements.
  • Benioff works mostly from home and believes there is a need for a balance between working from home, being in person, and being with customers.
  • He sees benefits in both home and office work environments, advocating for a balance tailored to individual needs and roles.

"Well, I think for different kind of workers it's different. And I think, like, start with our engineers. Our engineers only have to come in the office ten days a quarter for our engineers. We want them to come together to collaborate and to hang out and to get to know each other. But they're very productive at home. I work mostly at home. I have for my entire life. I just never be able to work well or be successful in an office. I can't tell you why today. I think there's a balance between working at home and working in person. I need to be with my customers all the time. Now that could be digital. Like, I was just with a customer before we had this conversation, and I'm in my zoo room here and I'm like, hanging out today. And last week I was with thousands of customers. And it has to be a balance of being in person and digital today. I think for everybody, it has to be a little bit different. I think that for our sales and marketing people, we tell them that four days a week we want to see them in person with a customer. For our sales and for our marketing people and our GNA people, we like to see them in person three days a week. Obviously, I'm in an office right now. I'm not really at home. I have my chief of staff and other employees here working on various things. My futurist was just here. We're doing a variety of things. I think there's a lot of benefits to being at home. I think there's a lot of benefits to being in person. And I think there's a lot of benefits to being with customers. I think you have to do all of those things."

Benioff discusses the varying work environment preferences and requirements at Salesforce, highlighting the importance of flexibility and balance between remote and in-person work.

Quick-Fire Round Responses

  • Benioff is open to all topics for discussion, dismissing any off-limit subjects imposed by his team.
  • Great fatherhood, for Benioff, is exemplified by the lives of his parents, who serve as his role models.
  • His biggest insecurity is trying to do it all, maintaining balance and prioritization in his roles and responsibilities.
  • Benioff's unique belief is that he is guided by a higher power or spirituality, which influences all his actions.
  • If given the chance, he would have dinner with Abraham to gain insights on unifying divisions in the world.
  • He speculates on a hypothetical cage match between Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg, considering Musk's undisclosed medical conditions.
  • Benioff describes his typical day, which includes meditation, prayer, work, family time, and exercise.
  • As a leader, he continues to seek improvement in balancing innovation and creativity with the need for solid, balanced financials.
  • A highlight moment for Benioff was announcing Salesforce's philanthropic contributions at Dreamforce.

"Harry, I told you, everything's on the table, and you shouldn't listen to my team. That was never part of any deal we had."

Benioff reassures the interviewer that no subject is off-limits, indicating his openness and transparency.

"I look at my mom and I look at my dad, and my dad was just one of the greatest people. And I just am so fortunate. He passed away when he was 83. That was about eleven years ago. He died of prostate cancer. It's one of the reasons that I fund one of the largest prostate cancer research programs in the world at UCSF. My mom also is a cancer survivor. She's had cancer four times, breast cancer twice, lung cancer, kidney cancer, and skin cancer. That's one of the reasons why I fund oncology and breast cancer as well. I think about my dad. I think about incredible life he had. That's my role model. So that's what great fatherhood is."

Benioff reflects on his parents' influence and how their experiences with cancer have motivated his philanthropic efforts in medical research.

"I believe I'm guided and that I'm part of something much larger. Whether it's the universe, whether it's God, whether it's something on a spiritual basis. I feel that spirituality remains a major part of everything I do. Last night before I went, did you know an hour meditation and prayer, you."

This quote reveals Benioff's belief in being guided by a larger force or spirituality, which is a central part of his life and decision-making.

Salesforce's Philanthropic Approach

  • Mark Benioff discusses the foundation of Salesforce's philanthropic efforts, where they committed 1% of equity, product, and employee time.
  • He emphasizes the importance of giving back for personal fulfillment beyond just creating and innovating in business.
  • Benioff believes in giving back at scale and reflects on the missed opportunities of friends who passed away with fortunes unused for philanthropy.

"We put 1% of our equity, 1% of our product, and all of our employees time 1% of our employees time into a foundation."

This quote outlines Salesforce's initial commitment to philanthropy through their 1-1-1 model of giving.

"You're only going to get to the happiness and fulfillment if not only are you creating, but you're giving."

Benioff argues that true fulfillment comes from a combination of creating and giving back, not just the former.

Effective Philanthropy

  • The challenge of giving effectively is addressed, with the suggestion that individuals must start somewhere and find what works for them.
  • Benioff shares his experience with global philanthropy and the difficulties he faced, contrasting it with the fulfillment he finds in his own efforts like the trillion Tree program.
  • The importance of intention in business and philanthropy is highlighted, with the aim of impacting the world positively.

"I think the number one thing that people must do is just start giving and find what works for them effectively."

Benioff encourages starting the act of giving as the first step towards effective philanthropy.

"I have a program called onet.org, the trillion Tree program, trying to sequester 200 gigatons of carbon with a trillion trees, there's a lot of fulfillment and a lot of fun."

He shares his personal philanthropic efforts with the trillion Tree program, which aims to have a significant environmental impact.

Personal Preferences and Interests

  • Benioff discusses his changing preferences in footwear, mentioning his current choice of Louis Vuitton shoes.
  • He expresses hope that Dreamforce, Salesforce's annual conference, will continue to be held in San Francisco, referencing recent efforts to improve the city's cleanliness.

"Today I'm wearing these shoes that Louis Vuitton just sent me. They're Air Force Louis Vuittons, and they're extremely comfortable."

This quote reflects Benioff's interest in shoes and his current preference for a specific brand and style.

"I hope so. I mean, I had to kind of lay down the gauntlet."

Benioff hopes to keep Dreamforce in San Francisco, indicating his commitment to the city despite considering other locations.

Salesforce's Future with AI

  • Benioff discusses Salesforce's current leadership in CRM and the potential for AI to enhance their services.
  • He outlines the company's approach to making AI accessible to clients through low-code, no-code solutions and a metadata framework.
  • The company's vision for the future includes advancements in AGI (Artificial General Intelligence), with plans from visionary Peter Schwartz.

"AI is the opportunity to take all that to another level."

Benioff sees AI as the next step in Salesforce's evolution, enhancing their ability to serve customers.

"We worked on the Apollo mission as well. And he's got some incredible plans for Salesforce in the AGI world."

He references Peter Schwartz's background and his role in shaping Salesforce's future with AGI.

Gratitude and Recognition

  • Mark Benioff expresses his pleasure in joining the podcast and speaking from the heart.
  • Harry acknowledges the honor of interviewing Benioff and the significance of the occasion for the podcast.

"Well, I'm delighted, Harry, and I've wanted to come on the whole time."

Benioff reciprocates Harry's sentiment, showing mutual respect and anticipation for the interview.

"Mark's been such a pioneer and an incredible figure in our business, and so to have the chance to interview him was just a huge honor."

Harry reflects on the importance of interviewing Benioff and the impact he has had on the business world.

Podcast and Sponsorship Promotion

  • The podcast promotes additional content on YouTube and introduces sponsors, Tigas and Mayfair, highlighting their services for investors and companies.
  • Secureframe is mentioned as a platform for security and privacy compliance, emphasizing the ease and speed of achieving compliance through their service.

"If you'd like to see more from us behind the scenes, of course you can on YouTube by searching for 20 BC."

The podcast invites listeners to engage with additional content available on YouTube.

"And finally, Secureframe is the leading all in one platform for automated security and privacy compliance."

Secureframe is introduced as a comprehensive solution for companies needing to meet security and privacy standards.

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