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How an Indian guru taught me the life-changing energy of giving, says philanthropist Marc Benioff


It was hardly the place Marc Benioff ever imagined can be the setting for what he now describes as ‘an unimaginable awakening’. Incense hung heavy within the air because the sound of chanting crammed the room. He was in a distant city in India and seated reverse a Hindu non secular guru referred to as Mata Amritanandamayi, revered as ‘the cuddling saint’ by her followers.

Mr Benioff, a Silicon Valley pioneer, was already wildly profitable. A millionaire by 25, he was the youngest ever vice-president of software program big Oracle, drove a Ferrari and appeared to have all of it.

However in his coronary heart he knew that one thing was lacking.

He had taken a three-month sabbatical from Oracle to journey the world. ‘It was like a scene from a film,’ he recalled. ‘We’re in the course of nowhere on this tiny Indian village and all people’s wearing white and orange and there is incense wafting.

‘I am with a pal who’s Indian. He is telling her [the guru] concerning the challenges in his life and his struggles and about this enterprise that he was going to begin. I believed he was going to ask her to take a position, he was fairly aggressive.

‘Then she appeared proper at me and mentioned, ‘In your quest to vary the world, do not forget to do one thing for someone else.’ ‘

Today, 55-year-old Mr Benioff (pictured with his wife in 2017) is worth £5.5 billion thanks to the success of the company he founded shortly after that encounter, Salesforce, which employs 50,000 people around the globe including more than 1,500 in the UK

In the present day, 55-year-old Mr Benioff (pictured together with his spouse in 2017) is price £5.5 billion because of the success of the corporate he based shortly after that encounter, Salesforce, which employs 50,000 folks across the globe together with greater than 1,500 within the UK 

It was a remark that might without end change his life.

In the present day, 55-year-old Mr Benioff is price £5.5 billion because of the success of the corporate he based shortly after that encounter, Salesforce, which employs 50,000 folks across the globe together with greater than 1,500 within the UK. His agency is the world chief in ‘buyer relationship administration software program’ which makes use of the cloud to assist companies organise details about their prospects and has an annual income of £13 billion.

He’s additionally one of many world’s best philanthropists because of the encounter with the lady he calls merely ‘Amma’ (‘Mom’). ‘It was she who launched me to the thought, and chance, of giving again to the world by pursuing my profession ambitions,’ Mr Benioff mentioned. ‘I realised that I did not have to select between doing enterprise and doing good. I may do each.’

Final week, a consortium led by our sister paper the Each day Mail, and together with Salesforce and UK asset administration agency Marshall Wace, arrange a charity referred to as the Mail Drive Charity to sort out the pressing scarcity of private protecting gear (PPE) within the Covid-19 emergency in Britain.

The tech tycoon has already donated £1 million of his fortune to assist the charity together with one other £1 million from Salesforce. In whole he has spent round £20 million sourcing and supplying PPE to hospitals world wide.


Mail Drive Charity has been launched with one intention to assist assist NHS workers, volunteers and care staff struggle again towards Covid-1 within the UK.

Mail Drive is a separate charity established and supported by the Each day Mail and Normal Belief. 

The cash raised will fund important gear required by the NHS and care staff. 

This gear is significant in defending the heroic workers while they carry out their incredible work in serving to the UK overcome this pandemic.

If we elevate more cash than is required for very important Covid-1 gear, we are going to apply all funds to assist the work of the NHS in different methods.

Click on the button beneath to make a donation:

If the button will not be seen, click here 

However his beneficiant contribution is just the tip of the iceberg.

The person the New York Instances calls ‘the hyperconnected billionaire’ has used his private friendships on the highest echelons of the worldwide enterprise world to succeed the place governments and bureaucrats have failed; to supply after which transport high-quality PPE to those that want it most, together with right here within the UK.

Mr Benioff, who alongside together with his spouse Lynne donated £200 million to construct two youngsters’s hospitals of their native San Francisco, phoned pals like Daniel Zhang, the chief government of Alibaba – the enormous e-commerce market and China’s equal of Amazon – who instantly supplied to assist.

He additionally referred to as on long-term enterprise associates akin to Fred Smith, the founding father of FedEx, whose son Richard helped to rearrange to move the PPE at a reduced charge.

‘Now we have two dozen devoted staff who’ve canvassed the world for PPE and constructed a database utilizing our expertise,’ he mentioned. ‘We all know the place to get every part and we’ve got all varieties of modes of transportation.’

Mr Benioff spoke to The Mail on Sunday by way of Zoom from his residence overlooking San Francisco Bay, the place he has been in lockdown in the course of the pandemic together with his spouse and their two youngsters.

Like most of us, company put on has disappeared and been changed by an informal blue sweatshirt and baseball cap.

An enormous bear of a person – he’s 6ft 5in – he couldn’t be extra completely different from the standard picture of a nerdy Silicon Valley billionaire.

He’s fast to snort, affable and charming, and clearly passionate concerning the work he’s doing throughout lockdown and significantly the work of the Mail Drive Charity.

‘I believe the world is being proven a brand new set of values we will reside by. It is an evolution to fact, an evolution to a stage of unity for humanity,’ he mentioned.

‘This virus doesn’t discriminate. It does not matter what faith you might be, or gender, or sexual orientation or the color of your pores and skin.

‘The virus goes in spite of everything of humanity with equanimity, so that’s unifying for us to understand that we’re one group.

‘I am right here in San Francisco and I am perched on a cliff and after I look out the air has by no means been clearer, the water has by no means been bluer, there’s animal life touchdown right here on the seashores in California that we have not seen for a very long time. We’re being introduced with a brand new stage of concord with the planet and being requested, ‘Can we obtain a brand new steadiness in our lives and what’s going to that imply?’

‘On the identical time we’ve got our hearts open to the super struggling that is occurring on this planet. So many households have been affected, so many individuals have misplaced their lives and that is firstly why we’re doing this work with PPE, due to human struggling.’

Indian spiritual leader Mata Amritanandamayi (centre), popularly know as 'Amma' (The Mother) or also as 'The Hugging Saint,' hugs a woman during a followers's gathering in 2016

Indian non secular chief Mata Amritanandamayi (centre), popularly know as ‘Amma’ (The Mom) or additionally as ‘The Hugging Saint,’ hugs a girl throughout a followers’s gathering in 2016

At the very least 50 staff at Salesforce have been affected by coronavirus – so this struggle is private.

For Mr Benioff, philanthropy has formed his beliefs since that assembly with the guru in India (she stays a pal to today, together with some even better-known non secular advisers, together with the Dalai Lama).

When he based Salesforce in 1999, Mr Benioff put the notion of giving again on the very core of his firm – a revolutionary concept again then.

He created what he referred to as the 1-1-1 mannequin, the place Salesforce pledged to donate 1 per cent of its income, 1 per cent of its product and 1 per cent of its staff’ time to the group and charitable acts.

Thus far the corporate has given £263 million in grants, staff have donated 5 million volunteer hours and the corporate has handed out merchandise to 46,000 non-profit organisations.

Greater than 10,000 firms in 100 nations have now joined his 1-1-1 mannequin of philanthropy. ‘I believe enterprise is the best platform for change,’ he mentioned.

‘When you’ve got companies with all of those relationships – buyer relationships, worker relationships, distributors, partnerships – you are able to do superb issues.

‘The Mail Drive Charity is a superb instance of this. You begin to put issues collectively and issues occur.’

Mr Benioff has at all times been an individual who makes issues occur. He credit his father Russell, who ran a string of six womenswear outlets referred to as Stuart’s Attire in northern California, for instilling his work ethic.

A quiet little one he grew to become ‘obsessed’ with computer systems on the daybreak of the web age, shopping for his first laptop with the cash saved from a part-time job cleansing a jewelry retailer.

At 14 he wrote a easy laptop program referred to as ‘Tips on how to Juggle’, was paid round £50 for it – and was hooked.

The next 12 months he began writing video video games.

The Mail Force consignment of PPE medical equipment is pictured in Shanghai as it is loaded aboard a Mail chartered plane to London on Tuesday

The Mail Drive consignment of PPE medical gear is pictured in Shanghai as it’s loaded aboard a Mail chartered airplane to London on Tuesday 

Mr Benioff’s first expertise of the UK was at 16 when his mother and father allowed him to journey solo to Scotland to analysis Glamis Fort, the childhood residence of Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mom and the setting for Macbeth. ‘I wished to incorporate it in a recreation so preparations have been supposedly made. I went there however the citadel was closed,’ he mentioned.

Even at 16 he was decided. ‘I obtained speaking to this particular person and so they agreed to open the citadel and stroll me via it.

‘I spent the evening in Scotland and obtained a protracted practice again to London and my mum misplaced observe of me.’

In actual fact, his mom, Joelle, had organized for her son to stick with pals in Leeds.

When Mr Benioff went ‘lacking’ she frantically referred to as Scotland Yard: ‘They came upon the place I used to be and I reappeared so all was OK.’

After college he joined Oracle, the software program firm, and rose swiftly via the ranks.

Then got here his second of private disaster. In his ebook Trailblazer, revealed final 12 months, Mr Benioff wrote: ‘I had the best job I may ever have imagined at Oracle, one of many fastest-growing software program firms on this planet.

‘I had been promoted to vice-president, the youngest particular person ever in that place. I had the multi-million greenback wage, inventory and perks to go along with it.

‘I used to be supposedly dwelling the American dream however I used to be misplaced. I didn’t really feel comfortable or fulfilled.’

He took three months off and travelled to, amongst different locations, Hawaii the place he swam with dolphins and got here up with the thought for Salesforce, which he began in a rented one-bedroom flat in San Francisco.

The corporate HQ is now town’s tallest constructing, the 326-metre Salesforce Tower.

Whereas most firms would have the chief workplaces on the highest flooring, Mr Benioff created a espresso store and viewing space for everybody to get pleasure from.

His philanthropic efforts are mind-blowing. He has began a charity dedicated to planting a trillion timber impressed by considered one of his heroes, English chimpanzee professional and environmentalist Dame Jane Goodall. And he works carefully with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge whom he ‘admires enormously’: ‘I am so impressed with what Prince William’s doing for the surroundings, each of them are inspiring for the quantity of philanthropy they’re doing.’

He has by no means regretted his determination to place values earlier than {dollars}.

Like enterprise titans of earlier ages – the Rockefellers, Carnegies, Rothschilds and Gettys, who used their huge private fortunes to create lasting legacies within the form of museums, hospitals and funding for training – Mr Benioff says he’s happy with constructing a enterprise targeted on giving again whereas inspiring different enterprise leaders within the course of:

‘CEOs must be given permission to be targeted on issues aside from their earnings per share,’ he mentioned. ‘On the finish of their life, when their obituary is written, no person goes to say the shareholder returns they’d throughout their time as CEO.

‘They will discuss issues they’ve finished for different folks and for his or her household and who they have been on this planet.

‘I believe moments like this are an excellent time to remind those who life is finite and you aren’t going to be right here for ever and that it is essential to assist different folks. That is still crucial factor on this planet.

‘Conventional capitalism was: The enterprise of enterprise is enterprise. Our method is: The enterprise of enterprise is bettering the state of the world, and the Mail Drive Charity is an instance of that.’

The full kit: Nurse Miss Burns clad head to foot in the new PPE after it arrived at Milton Keynes University Hospital

The total package: Nurse Miss Burns clad head to foot within the new PPE after it arrived at Milton Keynes College Hospital 

He grew to become conscious of the worldwide scarcity of PPE in March when Sam Hawgood, the chancellor of the College of California, San Francisco – an organisation to which Mr Benioff and his spouse donated £200 million for 2 youngsters’s hospitals in 2010 – raised the alarm.

‘They have been operating out of PPE within the emergency rooms,’ he mentioned. ‘So we began getting concerned and when the scenario exploded in New York we made some aggressive efforts and chartered planes from China and introduced in tens of millions of items to the US.’

He talked about his efforts in a textual content message to Lord Rothermere, the proprietor of this newspaper and a long-time pal: ‘I mentioned, ‘Properly, this is what we have been as much as’ and he instantly replied again saying that the UK wanted the identical sort of targeted effort from the non-public sector.

‘I used to be in a position to name a pal of mine named Daniel Zhang, the CEO of Alibaba. He is in all probability probably the most related retailer in all of China. He knew the place all of the PPE was and he mentioned, ‘Don’t be concerned Marc, I’ll handle this.’ And he made all these items occur and that is why I say enterprise is a superb platform for change.

‘Our relationship with the Each day Mail and Mail on Sunday is a superb instance of that. I’m very happy with the truth that all of us got here collectively to assist the Mail Drive Charity, which is doing such nice work.’

How would he wish to be remembered? ‘That I cherished my household and cherished my enterprise and cherished my group and did what I may to make issues higher.’

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