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Marc Benioff: Salesforce would not exist today without Steve Jobs

Marc Benioff, CEO of SalesForce.
Adam Jeffery | CNBC
Marc Benioff, CEO of SalesForce.

In a recent interview with CNN's Poppy Harlow, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff discussed his relationship with late Apple founder Steve Jobs and said that his company would not exist today without him.

Benioff was a 19-year-old college student in 1984 when Jobs gave him his first job as an assembly language programmer at Apple. The two kept in touch over the years, and Benioff says that when he was starting Salesforce, Jobs would invite him to his office to tutor and mentor him.

"He was one of the greatest mentors I had," says Benioff.

Apple chief executive Steve Jobs unveils a new mobile phone that can also be used as a digital music player and a camera, a long-anticipated device dubbed an 'iPhone.' at the Macworld Conference 09 January, 2007 in San Francisco, California.
Tony Avelar | AFP | Getty Images
Apple chief executive Steve Jobs unveils a new mobile phone that can also be used as a digital music player and a camera, a long-anticipated device dubbed an 'iPhone.' at the Macworld Conference 09 January, 2007 in San Francisco, California.

In the early 2000s, Benioff looked to the tech legend for advice when he was feeling stuck about the direction of his company. Jobs advised him to do three things.

"One, Salesforce better be 10 times larger in 24 months or less, or else it's over," Benioff says Jobs told him. "Two, you have to close a huge massive customer, like Avon...and three, you've got to build an application economy."

Benioff says he went home to brainstorm ways to put those ideas in to action. He thought of developing a huge marketplace for apps, but when Salesforce tested the product in focus groups, people responded that it was more an exchange than a store.

AppExchange launched in 2005. In 2008, Benioff received a call from Jobs asking him to come to his team's office for a big announcement. To his surprise, the announcement included Apple's launch of the App Store.

"It was like a spiritual moment," said Benioff, "because we had already launched our AppExchange three years before."

After the event, Benioff congratulated Jobs on the launch and told him as a gift he was giving Apple the trademark and appstore.com URL he had purchased years ago thanks to his advice.

"That was a great moment for me because I just remember that he had a huge impact on me personally and on Salesforce," Benioff added.

Jobs impacted many business leaders beyond Benioff. Following Jobs' death in 2011, Bill Gates wrote a blog post about the Apple founder's influence not only on his own life, but on the world.

"The world rarely sees someone who has had the profound impact Steve has had, the effects of which will be felt for many generations to come," wrote Gates. "For those of us lucky enough to get to work with him, it's been an insanely great honor."

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