Tech and the city, again: Marc Benioff urges industry to give back

The recent comments by venture capitalist and provocateur Tom Perkins were not — thankfully, many will say — the last word by a tech bigwig on the rising backlash against the tech industry in San Francisco and elsewhere in the Bay Area.

Marc Benioff, CEO of cloud company Salesforce.com, has been weighing in, and his message contrasts sharply with Perkins’ comparison of the Google-bus protests to the Nazis’ persecution of the Jews.

“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,” Benioff told the Wall Street Journal. This follows comments he made to the Los Angeles Times in which he criticized the tech industry’s “stinginess” amid rising rents and evictions in San Francisco, which has led to protests that have included blocking companies’ commuter buses.

What’s Benioff’s idea of giving back? The WSJ notes that Salesforce, a huge employer in San Francisco, gives 1 percent of its equity, profit and time to philanthropy under the 1/1/1 plan Benioff drafted. And he said other tech companies have similar programs. (Which probably could use a boost in marketing right about now, we’d say. If you’ve got it, flaunt it.)

As for the other issues, Benioff said he supported regulation of the tech buses, plus a dialogue among San Francisco residents, government officials, tech leaders and others to tackle the issues. Benioff, venture capitalist Ron Conway and other tech executives met last month with S.F. Mayor Ed Lee and agreed to work with local organizations in a civic-engagement effort, according to the LAT.

Back to the Perkins drama: VC firm Kleiner Perkins distanced itself from the controversial comments of Perkins, one of its co-founders. In a letter to the editor of the Wall Street Journal last week, Perkins characterized the protests as a “demonization of the rich” and “the progressive war on the American one percent.” The VC firm tweeted that it was “shocked” at Perkins’ comments. Perkins later apologized for what he said was a poor choice of words, but stuck to his message that “the 1 percent are not causing inequality — they’re the job creators.”

 

Photo: Salesforce.com Chairman and CEO Marc Benioff at the company’s annual trade show at the Moscone Center in San Francisco in November. (Josie Lepe/Bay Area News Group)

Levi Sumagaysay Levi Sumagaysay (4175 Posts)

Levi Sumagaysay is editor of the combined SiliconBeat and Good Morning Silicon Valley. She also helps take care of SiliconValley.com, the Mercury News tech website. Email: lsumagaysay@bayareanewsgroup.com