Silicon Valley Watcher - Former FT journalist Tom Foremski reporting from the intersection of technology and media

Salesforce's Benioff Warns Of More Civil Disobedience, Has A Plan To 'Fix San Francisco'

Posted by Tom Foremski - February 4, 2014

BenioffWSJ

It’s good to see Marc Benioff, CEO of San Francisco’s largest tech firm, Salesforce and a fourth generation San Franciscan, stepping into a leadership role to calm community conflict over the tech commuter buses and the increasing seclusion of the city’s tech community.

Wall Street Journal’s Evelyn Rusli, interviewed Benioff last week: Salesforce CEO Benioff on How to Fix San Francisco - Digits - WSJ

I think that this kind of tide will be turned if these tech companies, the entrepreneurs, everyday employees, give back to the city. When you see them out there in the schools, in the homeless shelters, you see them in the hospitals, then everyone will appreciate them. If you only see them behind their Google buses, then you’ve got a problem.

Well said. 

The indifference of tech companies that make a difference to the plight of their neighbors is astounding. If they can make a difference locally, then maybe they can make a difference elsewhere. The problem is that companies such as Twitter would claim the difference that people using their service are making, rather than getting out into the streets themselves.

Benioff is insistent that the giving back should be local: 

Homelessness is another great problem. We have 500,000 homeless kids right here in California — that’s amazing — so let’s make sure we have shelters and let’s make sure that we’re taking care of them and doing things that we can do with all this incredible wealth that we are generating.

There’s a good reason for this saying: “Charity begins at home.”

Benioff on buses: 

I think these buses — which if you hang out in the Mission, [they come] every five minutes — they’ve got to be massively regulated, we have to get them off our streets.

Telecommuting works! Why isn’t this included in the discussion over buses?

Google has fabulous telecommuting technologies such as Google Voice, Hangouts, Drive, etc. And its own studies have shown that remote teams are as productive as those inside the Googleplex. So why does it insist on shipping its engineers to a central holding facility every day? So they don’t plot a Google-killer in their spare time is my guess. 

Benioff on San Francisco’s disruptive culture:

I’m a fan of civil disobedience. I think that what has been happening has mostly been good. This is a San Francisco tradition actually. This is not the first time we’ve had civil disobedience, and it will not be the last time. It’s a part of who we are as a city.

San Francisco’s non-conformist culture has helped shape society on a national and global level for more than 150 years. It’s a disruptive culture — exactly the kind that tech companies need. So why trample it under a fleet of buses?

Tech workers should be encouraged to expose themselves as much as possible to San Francisco. Because original ideas come from original experiences, unfiltered, and as unmediated as possible.

There is little room for new experiences in the daily lives of tech workers, who log into their cubicle on the bus early morning, and spend most of their hours in an environment controlled by their employer.

That’s a conformist culture — when was it cool to be a company man or woman, eating the company food, only using the company store, sitting only with others at the company, not knowing others in their neighborhoods?

San Francisco can help rescue these people from the clutches of their employers, who feed them free food while colluding to keep their wages down. And who isolate them in remote enclaves all day to keep them from interacting with outsiders rather than let them telecommute from neighborhood work spaces. 

Benioff on inclusivity: 

… the tech leaders, the government leaders, the non-governmental organizations, the nonprofit organizations, the schools, the hospitals — let’s get everybody together and figure out how we’re going to use the next decade to make San Francisco better. I think it’s that easy.

I agree. Let that early morning blast of stale urine on the streets of  San Francisco, act like smelling salts to awaken the innovation centers in the brains of our tech workers, and rouse them to make an app to help the helpless, and come up with a myriad other solutions.

Monkey see, monkey innovates:  If the tech community doesn’t see a problem, because police sweep the streets along mid-Market Street, they won’t come up with a solution. Integration is the best gentrification

Please see: 

San Francisco's Incredible History Of Media Innovation

San Francisco's Culture War With Silicon Valley's Cubicle Culture

San Francisco: An Epicenter Of Creativity

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