Jobs Told Benioff to Build an “Application Ecosystem”

(p. B1) I first met Steve Jobs in 1984 when Apple Inc. hired me as a summer intern.

. . .

Even once my internship ended, we stayed in touch, and as my career progressed he became a mentor of sorts. Which is why, one memorable day in 2003, I found myself pacing anxiously in the reception area of Apple’s headquarters.

. . .

(p. B2) As Steve’s staff ushered me into Apple’s boardroom that day, I felt a rush of excitement coursing through my jangling nerves.

. . .

“Marc,” he said. “If you want to be a great CEO, be mindful and project the future.”

I nodded, perhaps a bit disappointed. He’d given me similar advice before, but he wasn’t finished.

Steve then told me we needed to land a big account, and to grow “10 times in 24 months or you’ll be dead.” I gulped. Then he said something less alarming, but more puzzling: We needed an “application ecosystem.”

. . .

One evening, over dinner in San Francisco, I was struck by an irresistibly simple idea. What if any developer from anywhere in the world could create their own application for the Salesforce platform? And what if we offered to store these apps in an online directory that allowed any Salesforce user to download them? I wouldn’t say this idea felt entirely comfortable. I’d grown up with the old view of innovation as something that should happen within the four walls of our offices. Opening our products to outside tinkering was akin to giving our intellectual property away. Yet, at that moment, I knew in my gut that if Salesforce was to become the new kind of company I wanted it to be, we would need to seek innovation everywhere.

. . .

Building an ecosystem is about acknowledging that the next game-changing innovation may come from a brilliant technologist and mentor based in Silicon Valley, or it may come from a novice programmer based halfway around the world. A company seeking to achieve true scale needs to seek innovation beyond its own four walls and tap into the entire universe of knowledge and creativity out there.

For the full commentary, see:

Marc Benioff. “What I Learned from Steve Jobs.” The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, October 12, 2019): B1-B2.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date October 11, 2019, and has the title “The Lesson I Learned from Steve Jobs.”)

Marc Benioff’s commentary is adapted from his co-authored book:

Benioff, Marc, and Monica Langley. Trailblazer: The Power of Business as the Greatest Platform for Change. New York: Currency, 2019.

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