Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff on Oracle's Larry Ellison: He is my mentor

Summary:If you thought the new bromance between Benioff and Ellison was unbelievable before, just find out what he said at TechCrunch Disrupt on Tuesday.

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SAN FRANCISCO -- Though there has been a love-hate relationship between Salesforce.com and Oracle (and their supreme leaders) for years now, respective CEOs Marc Benioff and Larry Ellison took things to a whole new level this summer .

Becoming a staple guest at TechCrunch Disrupt over the years, Benioff further promoted (and joked about) the revived Salesforce-Oracle alliance in a fireside chat with former TechCrunch chief Michael Arrington on Tuesday morning.

The potshots commenced as soon as the two Silicon Valley celebrities took their seats on the stage at the Concourse Exhibition Center, with Arrington quipping that he would have expected Benioff to have already steered the conversation in his own direction by that point.

Arrington seemed most interested in finding out how Benioff feels now about his long-time rival Ellison.

"You don't call them a loser anymore?," asked Arrington.

"I did see the races this weekend," Benioff replied without missing a beat, reflecting Oracle Team USA's loss to Emirates Team New Zealand in three America's Cup races on Sunday.

Regardless, Benioff seemed keen on maintaining diplomacy between his cloud-based software corporation and the hardware/software giant down in Redwood Shores.

"He is my mentor," Benioff admitted about Ellison. "He was our first investor and first board member. There is no one I've learned more from than Larry Ellison."

That response didn't seem good enough for Arrington, who obviously wanted to stir the pot more by asking if all of Benioff's "quotes about him from the past" still ring true, asking sarcastically, "so those are all lies?"

Benioff did steer the conversation in his direction in the sense that he avoided anymore swipes at Oracle and Ellison, responding that "there are different ways to build all of these services."

However, when asked if he had to do it all over again and rebuild Salesforce.com from scratch, Benioff said "we might use Oracle," simply adding later he does think some of Oracle's products are "outstanding."

Here are a few more nuggets from Benioff's banter with Arrington:

  • Apple: "I have a long history with the company and Steve Jobs was a huge mentor to me. There would be no Salesforce.com without Steve Jobs...When I was at a launch, I didn't like there wasn't an acknowledgment of Steve ongoing. I think it's OK to say, 'Thank you.'" Nevertheless, Benioff did say he has a lot of respect for current CEO Tim Cook and other Apple executives, namely Phil Schiller.
  • Bill Gates: "I don't think there's anyone alive today in our industry that I respect more than Bill Gates...I've never seen a happier person. He has the biggest smile on his face and the most joy because of what he has done for the world."
  • Microsoft: Without hesitating a second, Benioff replied that Gates should take over the CEO chair at Microsoft. Benioff argued that Gates "needs to push reset button" on his mantras (i.e. "Windows Everywhere") and people ("not just get rid of Ballmer, but a lot of other people" too). "He would have to take a break from saving the world," Benioff posited, but "his wife is so fabulous" that she could handle it herself for "36 months."
  • Salesforce's revenue targets: As pointed out by Arrington, Salesforce just turned in its first billion dollar earnings quarter more than 30 percent growth. The company is projecting to deliver $4 billion in annual revenue by the end of the year.
  • Salesforce Files/Dreamforce: On a solely Salesforce.com note, Benioff reflected a bit on the recent shift of the cloud storage service Chatterbox into Salesforce Files . Based off Salesforce's acquisition of French content integration software vendor EntropySoft back in February , Benioff touted Salesforce Files as the company's major platform relaunch being introduced ahead of Dreamforce 2013 this November. Benioff asserted there will be more than 120,000 people in attendence at this year's expo in San Francisco.

Screenshot via UStream/TechCrunch

Topics: Social Enterprise, Cloud, Enterprise 2.0, Enterprise Software, Salesforce.com

About

Rachel King is a staff writer for CBS Interactive based in San Francisco, covering business and enterprise technology for ZDNet, CNET and SmartPlanet. She has previously worked for The Business Insider, FastCompany.com, CNN's San Francisco bureau and the U.S. Department of State. Rachel has also written for MainStreet.com, Irish Americ... Full Bio

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