Learning from Benioff and Salesforce

The July 4th holiday is time for family, BBQs, and summer reading lists. I write to suggest Marc Benioff’s Behind the Cloud.  The book details Benioff’s journey building Salesforce into a billion-dollar industry pioneer, lessons learned, and his philosophy.

Salesforce pioneered innovative technical and business models that dramatically changed the enterprise software market. Rather than pay license fees, implementation fees, etc, Salesforce customers were able to buy by the seat and benefit from Salesforce’s single instance, multi-tenant infrastructure. The “No Software” net effect was to dramatically reduce costs, while improving customer experience, enlarging the overall market, and creating recurring revenue streams.



How bad was traditional enterprise software?  Gartner estimated that 65% of licences were unused “shelfware,” while sales force automation per seat costs for a 200 person company were ~$9,000 for year one. While the product may cost only $1,500 per user, the deployment costs forced customers into hardware, data center, implementation services, etc, costs that increased the true cost by 6x.

Flite is working to do to the traditional ad tech market what Salesforce did to traditional enterprise software. By leveraging cloud computing, customer-friendly business models, and dramatically increasing customer productivity and efficiency, Flite is adding customers at a record level.

Reading Behind the Cloud and the litany of egregious costs and challenges facing enterprise software customers, I am struck by the parallels to today’s ad tech industry.  Customers today face technical, operational, performance, and provisioning challenges that overly complicate digital marketing, while dramatically increasing costs.

Like the client-server to SaaS revolution of the late 1990s, Flite is helping to lead a similar transition in ad tech. Ad tech remains an industry dominated by client-side technology, complex workflow and services, and a “stack” that makes it hard for the end-user to feel empowered and in control. The LUMA Partners charts elicit moans of pain as customers try to navigate the acronyms and countless vendors.



When Salesforce started business users were hostage to IT, while today marketers are often hostage to a manual set of workflows and processes that lead to long cycle times (months vs days), incremental costs along each step of the execution path, and an inability to act quickly.

Cloud computing is turning the very definition of an ad unit from a file to a program or application. Cloud computing and the programmable web allows brands to CONNECT their paid media with the marketing applications and services that power their owned and earned properties.  Today, 90+% of ads are static files disconnected from the rich fabric of today’s web and are therefore not able to leverage the thousands of APIs and programs today’s web users expect from a modern web experience.  Banners are the MS Word documents of today's Google Docs world.

The Flite vision is to serve as the nexus by which brands and publishers are able to syndicate the best of their applications and content into paid media units, moving the ad world from an industry still sending the equivalent of MS Word documents and red lines around via email to an industry operating from the cloud.

Benioff writes that Larry Ellison, his mentor and boss at Oracle, taught him to “Think of it as you want it, not as it is!”  Salesforce rebuilt an industry based on Ellison’s sage counsel. At Flite, we are working to do the same.  Come join us.