Droves of business titans have made an annual pilgrimage to Salesforce’s headline conference in San Francisco for decades—but all that could be set to change.
Marc Benioff, CEO of the customer management platform provider, has warned that this year’s “Dreamforce” conference could be the last held in The Golden City.
Dreamforce has been a major pull to the area since it launched two decades ago—with some 40,000 people expected to descend on the Moscone Center for the two-day event from September 12.
The line-up for the event is world-class: speakers include OpenAI’s CEO Sam Altman, Anthropic CEO Dario Amodei, Stanford Computer Science professor, Dr. Fei-Fei Li, as well as celebrities such as Matthew McConaughey, The Office’s Rainn Wilson and Oscar award-winning director Spike Lee.
But San Francisco may no longer be up to the task of hosting a star-studded line-up, Benioff has warned.
The event—this year complete with a performance from the Foo Fighters—has previously been plagued by complaints from attendees about the homelessness and dirty city streets, Benioff has claimed.
“If this Dreamforce is impacted by the current situation with homelessness and drug use it may be the last Dreamforce” in the city, Benioff told The San Francisco Chronicle in an interview published this week.
San Francisco has made headlines for all the wrong reasons in recent months: homelessness is rampant, shoplifting is on the rise, and gun violence and homicides remain elevated compared to before the pandemic.
For his part, Benioff and Salesforce are trying to help.
The warning Dreamforce may depart San Francisco came after the news Salesforce had donated $1 million to the Salvation Army, an organization focused on helping homeless people.
Benioff added he was working hard to ensure guests had an enjoyable time at Dreamforce, noting that organizers of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit due to be held in San Francisco in September will also be closely watching.
“We’re working hand in hand with the city as we always do,” Benioff explained. “We’ll bring a significant number of people to the city—40,000 people—and it will generate $57 million in the downtown economy. So it’s in all of our interests for it to go well, and for APEC to go well. This should be the focus of the city.”
The state of San Francisco
The West Coast city’s newfound notoriety may form one of the themes of the conference, with Mayor of San Francisco London Breed set to speak during Dreamforce.
She’ll certainly have plenty to discuss. Only last week the Democrat blasted the city’s “homeless coalition” after a court blocked the city’s right to clear homeless encampments.
According to a 2022 count, there are just over 7,750 people living on the streets of San Francisco. Of those, approximately 3,360 are sleeping rough while approximately 4,400 sleep in shelters.
On top of that, over the past year, some 6,000 women have been homeless at any given time, and are facing “overwhelming” levels of violence.
Many women are being forced to sell sex in order to survive, while others are assaulted living on the streets or in shelters according to reports from the San Francisco Chronicle.
Homelessness is compounded by drug problems, which in turn are pushing out employers and businesses.
In April this year, Whole Foods announced it was closing its flagship store in downtown San Francisco, citing employee safety.
It came after The San Francisco Standard reported opening hours had been changed because of shoplifting, while rules were introduced to bathroom use because staff found syringes and pipes in the facilities.
The city was also the scene of a high-profile stabbing which caught the attention of some of the biggest names in tech.
Cash App creator Bob Lee was killed in April, dying in hospital after suffering multiple knife wounds.
Although a tech consultant has since been charged with the attack, the incident prompted a wider conversation about crime in San Francisco.
Elon Musk, a frequent critic of the city his platform X—formerly Twitter—calls home, wrote on the social media site at the time: “Violent crime in SF is horrific and even if attackers are caught, they are often released immediately.”
Very sorry to hear that. Many people I know have been severely assaulted.
Violent crime in SF is horrific and even if attackers are caught, they are often released immediately.
Is the city taking stronger action to incarcerate repeat violent offenders @BrookeJenkinsSF?
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 5, 2023
Musk, who is also the CEO of Tesla, has similarly claimed many Twitter employees “feel unsafe coming to work” and labeled downtown San Francisco a “disaster” and likened it to “a derelict zombie apocalypse.”