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- Marc Benioff praised Elon Musk, hailed AI’s potential, and warned of an impending US recession.
- The Salesforce CEO said he regretted not buying Twitter years ago, and has always loved the company.
- Benioff hinted Bob Iger and Howard Schultz felt obligated to return as CEOs of Disney and Starbucks.
Marc Benioff has bemoaned that he didn’t buy Twitter years ago, championed Elon Musk as a visionary, and raised the alarm on a US recession.
Salesforce‘s billionaire CEO also touted artificial intelligence’s potential, underlined ChatGPT‘s limitations, and suggested Bob Iger and Howard Schultz felt obligated to return as CEOs of Disney and Starbucks respectively.
Benioff spoke during the Upfront Summit this month, in an interview aired during a recent episode of the “On With Kara Swisher” podcast.
Here are Benioff’s 9 best quotes, edited for length and clarity:
1. “This is a man who is landing rockets on surfboards in the ocean. He’s got cars going down the highway by themselves. He’s drilling holes in the brains of monkeys, connecting them to video games without joysticks. And he thinks he’s going to drill a tunnel on Mars and drive a Tesla through it. We are going to wake up with our own consciousness in a car. That’s his vision for his life, and I think it’s quite extraordinary.” (Benioff was referring to Musk’s work at Tesla, SpaceX, Neuralink, and The Boring Company.)
2. “Oh, yeah. I was very interested. I had a vision that was very different from what’s happened. I think it’s one of the great companies, brands, platforms. It has huge potential, and I love it. I’ve always been in love with it.” (He was asked whether he regretted not buying Twitter years ago. Musk purchased the social-media platform last year.)
3. “They came back, because they unfortunately had to. I don’t think any one of them really — I know them very well.” (Benioff was discussing the recent return of Bob Iger and Howard Schultz as CEOs of Disney and Starbucks respectively.)
4. “I actually need a CRM system just to keep track of them all.” (He was joking about the raft of activist investors that have targeted Salesforce in recent months, including Elliott Management and Dan Loeb’s Third Point.)
5. “We are one of the three largest software companies now in the world — Microsoft, Oracle, Salesforce — and we see a lot of political shenanigans. Whether it’s a politician running for president who buys a share of stock, or it could be a governor of a state, could be all kinds of folks. Not just here. It could be all over the world, and they’ll try to use or manipulate.”
6. “We started to see some unusual macro issues. Currency really started to change aggressively. We saw inflation start to come up. The stock market basically imploded. The buying environment changed, and CEOs, especially, became more measured.” (Benioff was describing the dramatic change in the market and economic backdrop for tech companies last year.)
7. “The key is that this is not my first recession. I went through it in 2001 and 2002. That was extremely difficult. We had to have an employment action. We went through 2008 and 2009. We had the same situation. And here we are today.”
8. “I think we are are in a threshold moment for artificial intelligence. It’s going to transform how all of us work and live. We’re not that far away from having a commodity device that is on our ceiling or on our floor, that’s maybe moving around or following us or that we’re wearing, that is paying attention to what we’re doing and trying to augment our experience. That is a new moment.”
9. “I think AI is not completely there. We can all see that ChatGPT is exciting, but we all have seen what the boundaries are as well. ChatGPT is the ultimate plagiarizer, right? All of the things that it’s learning it got from somebody else. So its boundaries are the boundaries of the content that it’s trying to grab.”