Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, whose company just inked a deal that includes naming rights for what's going to be the tallest building west of the Mississippi, has no patience for his peers who take a greedy, purely capitalist approach to doing business in hyper-liberal San Francisco. In a new interview with San Francisco Magazine, he talks about SF Gives, the effort he launched to raise $10 million from tech companies to combat poverty in San Francisco. He also talks about why San Francisco is probably always going to be an expensive place to live.
Benioff points out that even though San Francisco has a historically counter-cultural spirit, it's also often been a city of dramatic economic booms, and big companies have always played major roles in creating its fabric Wells Fargo, Bank of America, and Levi's among them. "But tied into that," he says, "has always been generosity: the Haas family, the Hellmans, the Fishers, the Shorensteins. During every one of these boom times, the people who benefited the most were also giving back the most."
He's called on other companies to give between $500,000 and $1 million to his SF Gives campaign, and so far he's signed up a dozen of them, including Google, Levi’s, LinkedIn, and PopSugar. And he seems to be on a mission to create a counter-narrative to the Google bus and eviction protests that are grabbing so many headlines lately.
I say, if you want to be in this city and take advantage of all this great infrastructure our mass transit, our schools, our hospitals, the safety and stability that we have then also give back. These are the table stakes for doing business here. This is not a new idea. This place has a generous spirit, an innovative spirit, and it’s a beautiful spirit, a loving spirit those are the things that mark what S.F. is really all about.
Regarding the eviction protests, and the general angst about rents and gentrification:
Well, if you go to the great cities in the worldTokyo, New York, Paris, Londonthey have all these same issues. If you want to buy an apartment near the Eiffel Tower, it’s going to be expensive! And you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know that. S.F. is always going to be expensive because it’s a great city, and people want to live here: I mean, look at this [gesturing out the window at a sweeping view of the Ferry Building and the Bay Bridge]this is unbelievable, where we are every day. But because of that, the mayor and the leaders of this city need to work hard to regulate the changes.
And in regards to Mark Zuckerberg's recent billion-dollar donation to the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, a group of "donor-advised funds" or DAFs that has no specific obligation to distribute its money:
So you see Zuckerberg’s gift as more of a write-off than a donation? Where’s it gone? What good is it doing now? I’m sure his intentions are positive, but we need to see that money get distributed. What are his targets? What are his philanthropic interests? We know that he has a political interest with his 501(c)(4) [Fwd.us, a lobbying group pushing for tech-friendly federal policies], but what are his philanthropic interests?
Philanthropic fighting words?