When the Stanford Cardinal football team beat the University of Southern California by 14 points two weeks ago, it was a big victory for Salesforce Chief Product Officer Bret Taylor over his boss, Marc Benioff.
"I am a simple man." Taylor, a Stanford alum, posted in a tweet on Sept. 7, the day before the Pac-12 Conference opener against Benioff's alma mater. "I just need my family, my health... and for Stanford to beat USC tomorrow so I can remind @ Benioff about it for the next 12 months." Benioff retweeted it.
These days, college football is about the only noticeable point of contention between them.
In the two years since Salesforce acquired Taylor's collaboration software start-up Quip, the 38-year-old programmer has climbed the company's ranks about as rapidly as the 61-floor Salesforce Tower has absorbed the San Francisco skyline. He was promoted to the C-suite in November, and recently joined a handful of top executives in traveling the country ahead of next week's Dreamforce conference, rehearsing the lengthy keynote in front of small focus groups of customers and developers.
Taylor's quick ascent plays squarely into Benioff's plan to almost double revenue to $20 billion by 2022. The company's success to date has been in transforming enterprise software from boring back office work stored on internal servers to cloud-based tools that are used by workers of all sorts from their tablets and smartphones. What started off as software for salespeople extended to marketers, field service workers and anyone interacting with customers.
The next $10 billion will require that Salesforce get its sprawling portfolio of products into the hands of more people using it to do more things, without having to be trained and retrained. It's a vision of business software made less for nine-to-fivers and more for consumers, who've grown accustomed to a world of Apple, Google and Facebook simplicity.
That's Taylor's universe. He launched his career at Google, helping create Google Maps, before starting social media company FriendFeed and selling it to Facebook in 2009. There, he ultimately became chief technology officer before leaving in 2012 to start Quip, which was building cloud-based productivity and collaboration software, with a focus on mobile devices. He's also on the board of Twitter.
"Quip was the first product I ever sold," Taylor said in an interview this month from the 15th floor of the Salesforce Tower. "I had only done ad-supported products before."
Taylor, wearing a grey t-shirt, white jeans and sneakers, spoke with CNBC from a conference room where he often works because the new building doesn't have dedicated offices. In a far corner of the room, there's a small round table with his laptop and a plant, and under the large TV screen on the wall is a credenza with pictures of his wife and three young kids.