Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff has discussed rumours that the company is considering a bid for social network Twitter. Despite saying he would address speculation directly during an investor question and answer session at the Dreamforce conference his lengthy response didn’t mention the social network by name.
What he did say was: “I have read the stories and what’s unfortunate is that usually when we are brought into a mergers and acquisitions (M&A) process rarely do you guys even know about it. In this case there have been big leaks and that has been unfortunate so we have to address it, so I want to directly address it.
“Number one is we look at a lot of companies, we look at a lot of things and pass on almost everything.
"We are extremely disciplined in what we do and how we buy [...] I think our history and track record is better than anyone. Not every deal has been perfect, but the vast majority of cases we either got great people, great technology or a great business and in best cases we get all three.”
Furthermore, in three separate statements he stated: “We have to look at this, it gives us so many ideas and visions for the future.
“I think it's a great brand and I wish Jack [Dorsey, Twitter CEO] all the best with his company.
“You probably want a definitive yes or no answer, but unfortunately life doesn’t work that way.”
When questioned if customers have been asking him about the “spectre of Twitter”, Benioff said: “The honest answer is I have had 200 one-to-one conversations with customers this month and not a single one has asked me about Twitter. Every reporter has and obviously it is on your minds, but not a single customer has asked me. It's not why they are here.”
When asked what he looks for in these sort of big-name acquisitions Benioff was more succinct: “They are once in a lifetime trades, so you better be damn sure. These are marquee, monopolistic trades and once they trade they are gone.”
“We got one with Demandware. There are people that are pissed that they didn’t get it. We didn’t start the process and we got lucky, frankly. I still don’t know how we ended up with it.” Demandware now forms the backbone of Salesforce's ecommerce platform Commerce Cloud.
Benioff went on to talk about their recent failed bid for the business social network LinkedIn, saying: “You know how long it will take you to build that? A long time. If it is a great asset and a great price then that would be incredible and I viewed LinkedIn that way.”
Benioff also responded to claims that Salesforce’s run at LinkedIn was about its proprietary data. “Other companies are buying assets just for the data, that isn’t why we are interested in assets. Like LinkedIn, Microsoft wants to take that data as a proprietary asset, according to [Microsoft executive vice president] Scott Guthrie. We liked that asset because of its deferred revenue.”
Benioff inevitably touched upon the recent comments by Guthrie, following up on tweets he sent in the aftermath of his comments.
During the Q&A he reiterated his position, saying: “You can’t combine assets to create barriers to entry, because that’s illegal. Guthrie made aggressive statements about these assets. And it’s not just us, Oracle is on board with us, Infor is on board with us and other companies that aren’t ready to come forward agree with us that what they are saying they are going to do is not cool.”
Brexit and the fiscal roadmap
Benioff told investors that they are “on the fast track to $20 billion [revenue], we just have to execute that keynote we just did, that is the twenty billion plan.”
The keynote ran through all of Salesforce’s recent announcements and focused heavily on its new AI offering called Einstein. Read next: What is Salesforce's AI powered Einstein product? When can customers try Einstein and how much will it cost?
However he did admit that Brexit took them by surprise: “We got a curve ball this year with the Great British Pound, but we are going to make our commitment even with that. The pound went from 1.50 to 1.25, not that I follow it, and that had a material impact on our revenue.”
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Talking about their numbers Benioff went on to state their leading position in the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) market, regardless of what their rivals may say. He said: “The numbers are not that bad. Larry [Ellison] said “we are the only ones selling $2 billion in the cloud,” I think, do you look at our financials or just pretend we don’t exist?”
“The thing is he is one of my five best friends but I don’t want to say anything to him because he is one of the most sensitive people I know.”