The company was founded in 1999 by former Oracle executive Marc Benioff, together with Parker Harris, Dave Moellenhoff, and Frank Dominguez as a software as a service (SaaS) company. Two of Salesforce's earliest investors were Larry Ellison, the co-founder and first CEO of Oracle, and Halsey Minor, the founder of CNET.
Salesforce was severely affected by the dot-com bubble bursting at the beginning of the new millennium, with the company laying off 20% of its workforce. Despite its losses, Salesforce continued strong during the early 2000s. Salesforce also gained notability during this period for its tagline "the end of software", in which it also hired actors to hold up signs with its tagline outside a Siebel Systems conference. Salesforce's revenue continued to increase from 2000 to 2003, with 2003's revenue skyrocketing from $5.4 million in fiscal year 2001 to over $100 million by December 2003.
Also in 2003, Salesforce held its first annual Dreamforce conference in San Francisco. In June 2004, the company had its initial public offering on the New York Stock Exchange under the stock symbol CRM and raised US$110 million. In 2006, Salesforce launched IdeaExchange, a platform that allows customers to connect with company product managers.
In 2009, Salesforce passed $1 billion in annual revenue. Also in 2009, the company launched Service Cloud, an application that helps companies manage service conversations about their products and services.
In 2014, the company released Trailhead, a free online learning platform. In October 2014, Salesforce announced the development of its Customer Success Platform. In September 2016, Salesforce announced the launch of Einstein, an artificial intelligence platform that supports several of Salesforce's cloud services.
In 2019, Salesforce joined the Dow Jones Industrial Average, replacing energy giant and Standard Oil-descendant ExxonMobil. Salesforce's ascension to the Dow Jones was concurrent with that of Amgen and Honeywell. Because the Dow Jones factors its components by market price, Salesforce was the largest technology component of the index at its accession.
Across 2020 and 2021, Salesforce saw some notable leadership changes, In February 2020, co-chief executive officer Keith Block stepped down from his position in the company. Marc Benioff remained as chairman and chief executive officer. In February 2021, Amy Weaver, previously the chief legal officer, became CFO. Former CFO Mark Hawkins announced that he would be retiring in October. In November 2021, Bret Taylor was named vice chair and co-CEO of the company.
On December 1, 2020, it was announced that Salesforce would acquire Slack for $27.7 billion, its largest acquisition to date. The acquisition closed on July 21, 2021. Journalists covering the acquisition emphasized the price Salesforce paid for Slack, which is a 54% premium compared to Slack's market value, as too high of a premium for the company, with views varying from the premium being too concerning for investors to Salesforce playing the long game.
On August 24, 2022, Salesforce reported second quarter earnings of $7.72 billion. Upon the German software firm SAP reporting its earnings for the same quarter totaling to €7.52 Billion,[a] Acceleration Economy reported that Salesforce had surpassed SAP to become the world's largest enterprise software vendor. This mirrored Benioff's remarks in Salesforce's earnings call, where he stated he looked at "this quarter very much as kind of a milestone".
Salesforce announced a partnership with Meta Platforms in September 2022. The deal called that Meta's consumer application WhatsApp would integrate Salesforce's Customer 360 platform to allow consumers to directly communicate with companies.
In November 2022, Salesforce announced it would terminate employees in its sales organization. Protocol reported that the company would likely eliminate some 2500 jobs.
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