- Business Insider/Eugene Kim
Salesforce’s huge annual conference, Dreamforce, is coming back to downtown San Francisco for the 14th time this week.
Everything about Dreamforce is over the top: More than 170,000 people from 83 countries are expected to come and be part of the 3,000-plus speaking sessions.
That makes Dreamforce one of the largest tech events in the world. According to the San Francisco Travel Association, this year’s event will have an estimated $263 million economic impact in the Bay Area.
Some people call it the Woodstock of the software industry.
But more than anything, Dreamforce is a great marketing event for Salesforce to meet with its customers and developers, while raising its overall brand awareness.
Here’s everything you need to know about this year’s Dreamforce:
This picture gives a clue to how big Dreamforce really is. It takes up the whole block of Howard Street, where Moscone Center is located, and turns it into a huge festival.
- Business Insider/Eugene Kim
Here’s what the street in front of Moscone Center typically looks like on a normal day. Anyway, here are a few things you should expect at this year’s Dreamforce:
- Google Maps
There’ll be a lot of talk around machine learning and artificial intelligence — and Salesforce’s new AI product, Einstein.
Salesforce spent nearly $700 million over the past few years, scooping up dozens of startups in the artificial-intelligence and machine-learning space. Now the company proudly claims to have 175 data scientists working on making Salesforce “smarter.”
In that light, Salesforce’s big new product announcement this year is “Einstein,” an artificial-intelligence feature that promises to analyze a bunch of data to give out smarter analysis and predictions.
Expect to hear a lot more about Einstein and how AI will transform not just Salesforce, but the entire enterprise-software space as well.
Everyone’s going to be asking about Salesforce’s next acquisition target (Twitter?)
- Drew Angerer/Getty Images
Salesforce has been buying companies at a record pace this year, spending over $4 billion on acquisitions.
The latest company Salesforce is rumored to be interested in is Twitter. It’s a bit of a weird fit, but given Salesforce’s previous interest in LinkedIn, and the fact that companies use social media as sales tools, we wouldn’t be too surprised to see Salesforce dole out tens of billions of dollars to buy Twitter. Investors will get a chance to ask about it on Tuesday’s Investor Day.
Also, Demandware, which cost $2.8 billion, will make its debut as Salesforce’s newest product called Commerce Cloud.
This year’s speaker list is a bit of a snoozer compared to past years.
- Getty Images/Justin Sullivan
Dreamforce is known for its star list of keynote speakers. But this year’s list somewhat fails to live up to expectations.
Unlike previous years, there’s no high-profile tech CEO or investor speaking at the event. The biggest names are probably Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan, Kaiser Permanente CEO Bernard Tyson, and GM CEO Mary Barra, but none of them are pure tech-company CEOs.
Compare that to the previous year’s speakers:
2015: Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella; Uber CEO Travis Kalanick; Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins
2014: LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman; Venture capitalist Marc Andreessen; Affirm CEO and PayPal cofounder Max Levchin (not to mention Hillary Clinton, Al Gore, and Klaus Schwab)
2013: Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer; Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg
2012: Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson; GE CEO Jeff Immelt
For what it’s worth, there will be a “Shark Tank” style pitching event, featuring Mark Cuban, Chris Sacca, and will.i.am, and some big names like Schneider Electric CEO Jean-Pascal Tricoire, Melinda Gates, and Fitbit CEO James Park are speaking. But there’s no question there’s less star power than in previous years.
Also, Microsoft won’t be around for the first time in three years.
- Business Insider
The big surprise last year was Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s keynote, which was seen as another sign of the growing bromance between Salesforce and Microsoft, two companies with a history of animosity.
In fact, it wasn’t until 2014 that a Microsoft executive (Tony Prophet) made an appearance at Dreamforce for the first time. Microsoft followed it up nicely by inviting both Nadella and its chairman, John Thompson, speak at last year’s Dreamforce.
But don’t expect any Microsoft action at this year’s Dreamforce. No one from the company’s making an appearance.
If anything, look for Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff to bring back the public trash-talking against Microsoft, as the two companies seem to be taking their rivalry to another level lately.
Sadly, the Dreamboat’s gone this year.
- Business Insider/ Eugene Kim
Salesforce ran out of hotel rooms last year, so it rented a giant cruise ship called “Dreamboat” to accommodate all the guests.
Unfortunately, there’s no Dreamboat this year. Salesforce is encouraging guests to use Airbnb instead.
You’ll miss watching Salesforce cofounders Marc Benioff and Parker Harris’s closing Q&A.
Another important event that’s missing this year: the closing Q&A with Salesforce cofounders, Marc Benioff and Parker Harris.
Anyone who’s been to Dreamforce knows how fun and engaging the closing Q&A is, and it’s one of the most popular events of the whole week.
Salesforce says Harris had to back out of this year’s Q&A for personal reasons. Hopefully, it’ll bring it back next year.
Still, there’s a lot to be excited about. Like getting to see the new faces leading Salesforce.
With all the new acquisitions, Salesforce has been able to add a lot of young leaders too.
Two of the biggest names are Quip CEO Bret Taylor and MetaMind CEO Ricahrd Socher. Salesforce paid $750 million for Quip and $32 million for MetaMind.
Both have taken on important roles at the company, with Taylor leading Quip’s expansion within Salesforce and Socher named the company’s chief scientist. Expect them to be more prominently featured throughout Dreamforce.
With the sudden departure of RelateIQ cofounder Steve Loughlin, who was quickly rising up through the ranks at Salesforce and was even given his own keynote spot last year, the roles of Taylor and Socher seem even more important.
You can also see great bands, like U2.
- Thomson Reuters
One of the best perks about Dreamforce is getting to see all the bands performing at the event. Salesforce says 27 bands will perform in Dreamforce park throughout the event.
But none of them will top U2, who’s scheduled to perform on Wednesday night.
And there’ll be plenty of events around mindfulness and giving back to the community.
- Edgard Garrido/Reuters
Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff is a huge fan of meditation and “mindfulness.” It’s why he put a meditation room on every floor of its new office building.
At Dreamforce, there’ll be plenty of mindfulness zones across the venue so people can experience meditation. Benioff has also invited 20 monks from Plum Village, a meditation center in southern France founded by Zen master Thích Nhất Hạnh, to run daily mindfulness sessions.
Benioff is also big about giving back to the community. For this Dreamforce, Salesforce has partnered with (RED) to raise $1 million to end AIDS for good and has raised $10 million to support the UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospitals.
Most importantly, don’t miss the real reason a lot of people come to Dreamforce: parties.
- Courtesy of Applebee’s
In case you didn’t know, there are hundreds of parties held by Salesforce partners and customers throughout the event, all week long. It’s a great way to network and meet new people in the industry, so go out and have some fun!