BOSTON—Salesforce executives spent much of April 9 here pitching the company's broad range of cloud-based B2B, marketing and sales platforms as tools to help businesses deepen their relationships with their customers and with prospective buyers.
But before the Salesforce World Tour event really got underway—before the breakout sessions about everything from the Marketing Cloud to Wave (the company's analytics cloud), the presentations by a range of partners and 1:1 meetings with Salesforce representatives—officials used the keynote session to celebrate the company's role in persuading Indiana legislators to change their controversial religious freedom law and to give the Boston crowd some time with local favorites.
Salesforce founder and CEO Marc Benioff was among the most vocal of the tech industry leaders earlier this month to speak out against a religious objections law signed by Indiana Gov. Mike Pence that he and many others saw as a way of legalizing discrimination against homosexuals. Benioff canceled company events in the state and said he was willing to pay moving costs for employees who no longer wanted to live in Indiana. After intense pressure from the tech industry and other business interests, Indiana lawmakers reworked the legislation to explicitly prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
During the keynote session at the event here, Peter Coffee, vice president for strategic research at Salesforce, introduced a video that has been on the company's YouTube channel addressing the decades-long battle for gay rights that showed images invoking San Francisco and Indiana and anchored by a speech given by San Francisco lawmaker Harvey Milk in 1978.
"It comes from putting values up front," Coffee told the crowd.
Later during the session, Coffee introduced the Dropkick Murphys—a Boston band best known around here as creating the soundtrack for the Boston Red Sox and their World Series championships—who ripped through hard-charging renditions of "Tessie" and "Shipping Up to Boston."
Soon after, Salesforce President and Vice Chairman Keith Block brought the audience to its feet with the introduction of New England Patriots QB Tom Brady, who spent 20 minutes reminiscing about the team's Super Bowl victory over the Seattle Seahawks and giving his thoughts on everything from leadership and teamwork to preparation and what he was thinking when he recently went cliff diving 40 feet into the ocean (he was scared, he said, but probably not as frightened as Patriots owner Robert Kraft).
Brady also said the words most of New England wanted to hear: "There's no better place to play than Boston. … This is where I live, this is where my kids were born and I'll be a lifer."