Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff only had one failed startup: at age 13, but it put him on the path to being a billionaire
- Salesforce founder Marc Benioff's LinkedIn profile has just three entries: Apple intern, senior vice president at Oracle, CEO of Salesforce.
- But his tech career actually started when he was just a kid, he recently said on stage during his company's developer's conference.
- That's when he experienced his one and only failed startup.
- But that startup led him to his first computer ... and the rest is history.
A lot of people know that Marc Benioff, the billionaire cofounder CEO of Salesforce, founded his first software company, Liberty Software, at age 15.
But most people don't know that he actually started his first tech company even earlier than that, when he was just around 13 years old, he recently told me on stage during the company's TrailHeaDX developer's conference.
The company was set up to fix CB radios. He had been learning about them at the local Radio Shack. "But, it didn't scale," he joked. "It didn't work. There are a lot of reasons why. My grandmother felt I had the wrong pricing model."In any case, his junior-high company stands as his one and only failed start up. One day, while in the Radio Shack, still eagerly learning about CB radios, he saw his first computer, made by Radio Shack.
He was "fascinated," he said, and wanted to buy one, so his grandmother struck a deal with him: she would pay for half if he earned the other half. He got a job cleaning cases for a jewelry store near the Radio Shack and earned the money.
He was hooked
He bought the computer and taught himself to code on it, writing a program called "How to Juggle." Benioff can still, to this day, juggle in real life, he said (but he declined to give a demonstration).
And he sold the program for $75 to a computer newsletter for Radio Shack computer users.
That was it. He was hooked. The computer software business was for him.
Benioff went on to buy an Atari and write games for it with his next company, Liberty Software. He did that through high school and college. In fact, by age 16, his programs were earning royalties of $1,500 a month, enough to pay for college.And in college, instead of studying computer science - he never took any computer science classes - he studied entrepreneurship.
But he didn't give up coding. In college he grew enamored with Apple's Macintosh computer, and he was trying to write programs for it using the assembly language. But assembly didn't work very well. "And so when I complained to Apple, they actually hired me to come up for a summer and fix their assembly-language system, which was cool as an intern," Benioff recalled on stage.
From coding to selling
After college, he grew more interested in sales and marketing, and got so good at it that he became one of Oracle's youngest vice presidents ever. From there he launched Salesforce.
Benioff's LinkedIn CV has just three entries: Apple intern, senior vice president at Oracle, CEO of Salesforce.
He no longer writes software, not even for fun, but his old Atari games have found a strange new life, he said.
"Somebody has taken all my games and things that I wrote, and they made YouTube videos of all of my games," he said.
The YouTuber also rated the games, liking some, and not liking others. The person even posted a game that Benioff never really got to work, he said. "I had written this Atari cartridge called Flapper, and my grandmother had written the music for it. And it's on a cartridge in my garage, and I'm like, ... 'This is incredible. Everything is on YouTube."
Here him tell the full tale of his failed startup and his first company starting at 16:01 below: