Every local knows Salesforce has made a lasting impression on the city, especially with its massive tower dominating the skyline—but what exactly does it do again?
Tuesday saw the return of the company’s annual mega-tech convention, Dreamforce, bringing around 40,000 convention attendees—and a temporary “national forest” near the Moscone Center—into San Francisco.
But with the company fast-approaching household name status, The Standard wanted to find out if anyone actually knew what the tech behemoth does. So we asked Dreamforce attendees and passersby.
“It’s got to be something to do with finance right?” said a first-time security worker at the event, Jose Gonzales. “I mean, it’s got ‘sales’ in its name, so it has to be finance related…”
San Franciscans who spoke to The Standard had heard the company is the biggest private employer in town, but found it hard to pinpoint exactly what Salesforce does.
“Do I know exactly what they do? No,” said SFPD officer Jahn Kim with a laugh. “I think it might have to do with some sort of recruiting for businesses?”
Industry insiders, on the other hand, spoke of the firm’s all-encompassing technology and business community, which has grown massively in the 20 years since the convention was founded.
A common set of buzzwords such as “CRM,” “SaaS” or “customer-centric” were voiced again and again as people tried to answer the question, with the order of the phrases shifting depending on who was asked.
“They kind of have their hands in everything, but everyone knows they started as a CRM (customer relationship management) tool,” said product manager Yashar Moayedian. This is his second time attending Dreamforce, after returning this year with his company Adyen. “It’s taken over internal and external systems for a bunch of major companies.”
The Standard pressed him to explain in plain English.
“It basically helps you shop online,” Moayedian said with an amused look. “It’s [an all-in-one system] where you can place orders, pay your bills and track how your business is doing in sales and marketing.”
As for what Salesforce actually does, Moayedian is not too far off. Its website says it is a cloud-based software company headquartered in San Francisco. It provides customer relationship management software and applications on its web platform Salesforce.com. Companies access and can build atop the platform by purchasing subscriptions and licenses.
The View From Out of State
Even though in-person attendance to this year’s convention is down by over 100,000 people, Dreamforce still marks the largest conference the city’s struggling downtown core and hospitality industry has seen since before the pandemic.
Latané Conant is the chief marketing officer of 6sense, an artificial intelligence sales company. Conant said that she often travels to San Francisco from her home in Chicago and that this is her sixth Dreamforce, a conference she described as “the most important event of the year.”
In what felt like a nod to earlier times when Dreamforce attendees used to flood downtown and snap up all of the good tables, 6sense returned this year and rented out an entire nearby Mexican restaurant just to host its customers and partners who were coming and going from the convention themselves.
“San Francisco used to be so vibrant and full, even without Dreamforce,” Conant said. “Then it became almost deserted. It was so sad. This time, I was excited to fly in and actually see a line at the cab stand and people waiting for tables at restaurants.”
Yoana Velikova traveled to San Francisco all the way from Ruse, Bulgaria—a journey that took her almost an entire day. The systems administrator was excited to be attending her first ever Dreamforce but admitted that she had some apprehensions about the city based on what she’d heard.
“It’s an incredible place, but it’s definitely not a Hollywood scene,” Velikova said. “The homelessness on the streets is heartbreaking and it is not something you’d see in my country.”
She added that when she arrived late on Monday night, she found that her hotel wasn’t as nice as the pictures online suggested, so she scrambled at the last minute to find another.
“Hotels were charging $900 for the same room that they listed for $200 the night before,” Velikova said. “You know that thousands of people are coming into town to boost tourism. You don’t need to jack up the prices on them. We will spend enough money here.”
Kevin V. Nguyen can be reached at [email protected]