Cloudflare TV

🎂 Bret Taylor & Jen Taylor Fireside Chat

Presented by Jen Taylor, Bret Taylor
Originally aired on 

2020 marks Cloudflare’s 10th birthday. To celebrate this milestone, we are hosting a series of fireside chats with business and industry leaders all week long.

In this Cloudflare TV segment, we will have a fireside chat between Jen Taylor and Bret Taylor, President & Chief Operating Officer of Salesforce.

Watch more Fireside Chats 🎂

Birthday Week
Fireside Chat

Transcript (Beta)

Hi, I'm Jen Taylor, Chief Product Officer at Cloudflare, and I am very excited to be talking with Bret Taylor, who is the President and COO of Salesforce.

Bret also has a long career as an entrepreneur, as an executive leader at Facebook, and so very excited to be welcoming you here today on Cloudflare TV, Bret.

Well, thanks for having me.

I'm really excited to be here. And also, I just want to say this Cloudflare TV concept, super cool.

Like seeing like the TV guide online. I don't know, it's awesome.

What a great idea. Yeah, it was total, Matthew's total brainchild, but it's been, I think, a great time, especially as we've shifted kind of the way that we work and the way that we communicate.

It's been a great platform, I think, for us internally to kind of stay more connected and more aware, and also for us to stay connected to the community.

Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. So, and I think one of the interesting things for us, too, is the technology behind Cloudflare TV is technology that we've all built up ourselves.

And, you know, what I really, you know, when I was thinking about this conversation and I was, I was thinking about and looking at some of your experience, I was really kind of curious to understand from you a little bit about your career journey and how really the innovations in technology have created kind of different opportunities.

What are some of those kind of great innovations in technology over the course of the past 10, 10 plus years?

Yeah, I mean, so I was interested when going into this, we're talking about like what's gone on in the past decade.

And I don't know who is the actual source of this quote, but I love saying, you know, we overestimate what we can do in a year and underestimate what we can do in a decade.

And I, going back a decade, it was interesting, like the iPad was introduced in 2010.

Watson beat Ken Jennings on Jeopardy in 2010. That feels like a long time, honestly.

Oh, wow. Wow. And, you know, so you look back a decade ago and it feels like ancient history.

You know, essentially, because I, you're right, I'm an entrepreneur.

I'm a geek. I'm a, you know, computer programmer. It's probably like the soul of my identity.

But I'm also an entrepreneur. And if there's anything that I really think about over the past decade, it's new platforms.

And what I mean by that is I do think that the most interesting shifts in technology are these platforms that like really change consumer behavior in such fundamental ways that they open up new business models.

And probably for me over the past decade, the thing that's been so surprising to me is just how important mobile phones were, you know, because the iPhone was introduced in 2007.

So more than a decade ago, you've had the iPad, you've had smartwatches, smart everything, right?

You know, like everything's got a chip inside of it now.

But the phone just, for me, defined the past decade, you know, sort of ramping up in adoption going into 2010.

But over the past decade, it's really gone to ubiquity.

And the stats that I find really interesting.

So I remember the early days of Microsoft, I think their mission was something like a PC on every desktop or something like that.

But we actually reached peak PCs.

So like, I think it was like the early 2000s, we're about 1.5 billion PCs.

So relatively modest number if you look like the population of the world, and it's been going down ever since.

And we're already at like three and a half billion smartphones or something.

I'm probably wrong. It's way more than that, actually.

But it's some, you know, we're reaching basically the number of people who could functionally use a smartphone, have one now.

And we basically, you know, we talked about the early days of the PC and the Internet.

But the idea of a PC on every desktop is essentially we're going to like, give connectivity and computing to everybody.

I think the smartphone really did that. It kind of actually achieved that vision that we had in the early days of technology.

And for me, that has defined, I think, a lot of the opportunities for entrepreneurs.

We've got Uber and DoorDash. You know, we got, you know, one of my, you know, creations in Google Maps.

Well, we created the browser, I think, Steve Jobs bringing to the iPhone probably brought it into more hands than, you know, I ever did.

You know, and I really think that and actually, it was so popular. I think things like the iPad and tablets are probably like less successful than they might have been because like, this thing works so gosh darn well, that it's kind of been all consuming.

So for me, that was like still the defining innovation of the decade where there could have been more.

But the interesting thing is, if you look at the huge companies that were created, I think it was mainly people leveraging the momentum that smartphones gave.

Either companies like Cloudflare just, I think, built off the connectivity afforded by that mobile explosion.

But and then also the companies building off mobility as the main platform.

And there was a bunch of other stuff.

Obviously, you know, AI was really influential. I think there's been a lot of interesting stuff.

But that was sort of the defining platform. In a way, it was so all consuming and almost hurt the adoption of all these other platforms.

And I think that's really interesting.

And that really transformed our culture. Well, I think it's really interesting.

If you think about the power of mobile, and the fact that everybody now has a device interface connected.

Also, the shifts that that started creating in the expectations that users had about the way that they could connect with other people, you know, and I think back to, you know, some of the experiences at Facebook, and I think about, you know, services like like friend feed, which which was your company kind of, you know, prior, you know, prior to Facebook, you know, how do you feel like some of these shifts in technology have have also shift, I think, kind of user behaviors and the way in which people kind of expect to connect with each other?

Yeah, you know, it's interesting. My mom is my role model.

She was an executive for a long time at a really large company. And, you know, she also raised both of us at the same time.

And we had family dinners every night.

And I was asked her for advice and things like work life balance.

And she reflected to me, she's like, you know what, when I was, you know, an executive, we didn't have smartphones, like we didn't have email, you know, when I went home, I was at home.

And I, when I think about not just the way we connect, but I, I, I actually think ubiquity is sort of the term that comes to mind.

We're always connected all the time.

And I think it comes with some good and some bad, you know, on the good side, I think that it's really interesting that technology can push you not just pull, you know, like I think of last night, when we all found out that President Trump has COVID-19, you know, I was being texted, Twitter, push notifications, all that.

Yeah, it's interesting. I mean, that's a really instant glimpse into what technology is facilitated, which is, we have a thing at a risk and a thing in our pocket, which can actually be a part of our consciousness, right?

It's telling us to alert that I haven't stood up in too long, and I should go walk around the block, or that there's this important news event.

For me, I think push that idea of technology notifying us in proactively is a really fundamental step in technology.

We don't seek it out, it seeks us out. I look in the industrial sector and scenario that Salesforce is involved with, we talk a lot about customer service, and we as consumers think that's when you call someone up or, you know, chat with a chatbot because you have a problem.

Well, the next generation of customer service is proactive, right?

It's that elevator connected to the Internet, saying, hey, I might have a problem later this afternoon.

Let's send a notification in an automated way to a system like Salesforce and send a field technician out to fix it before it's broken.

That to me is really interesting, proactive rather than reactive.

The other thing I think is interesting is I remember reading the story when television was first introduced and radio was first introduced and the printing press.

I think we're at the point where the smartphone and push notifications and information technology and social media where things like screen time and, you know, the influence of information just on our own psychology has become one of the dominant conversations.

And I think it feels novel. I think this happens with a lot of these new technologies where you democratize something so much that you disrupt social structures.

And I think that's going to be one of the most interesting conversations over the next decade, which is we've created all these things.

Now how do we as a society and we as individuals make them healthy?

And I can't tell you, I mean, I as an individual don't think I do that well.

And you look at the social implications, I think that's a really interesting and I'm really, I'm a techno -optimist and I'm really hopeful that we can use technology to solve some of these problems with technology and I really think we can.

I also want to apologize that my daughter is going to be here in five minutes.

That's excellent. That's excellent. My dog's actually just went out for a walk.

So there's a lot going on outside of the screen. So we're all in it together.

You know, but I think it is really interesting to think about the role of technology in terms of driving and creating change, but then also kind of this next 10 years really being thinking about how do we leverage the technology to kind of reset those norms, reset those expectations, help us figure out sort of what the right balance is.

What are some of the ways in which you think technologists may think about that problem or may approach that problem?

You know, one of the flaws I think that we have in Silicon Valley at times is being overly focused on kind of silver bullet solutions.

You know, I look back at the last 10 years, one of the most remarkable things to me is, let's just take one of our big problems, climate change.

Right now, no one's building new coal plants, right?

And it's not because of a political affiliation, it's because it's more expensive than renewable energy.

I think the last stat I read, which is maybe wrong, but I think at the beginning of like this decade, it was about half of our electricity production is down to like 22% or something like that.

Solar has gone down by like a factor of five in terms of cost.

But it wasn't that someone came up with one huge breakthrough.

It was just, you know, supply and demand, it was engineering, right?

We made it better, faster, cheaper, right, over time. And those things compound over time.

And when I look at all of our big problems that we're facing, you know, the problem of like, what is the intersection of social media and finding truth, you know, in our society?

What's the future of journalism? What's the future of climate change?

What is the future of the way we work in this all digital work anywhere world?

Are we going to go back to the office or is this the way all companies are?

I actually think some of the best entrepreneurs and best technologists, you know, go ahead and rather looking for some silver bullet solution that's going to solve all the world's problems, you know, like discover it, have an aha moment.

A lot of it is just engineers saying, I'm going to whittle this down one year at a time.

And a decade from now, we're going to look back and be awe-inspired by how much progress we made.

And again, I don't think it's easy.

But I think that to me, that's the ethos of engineering, right, which is we're going to get better and better.

I mean, it's interesting. I watched a really fun video of John Carmack who was participating in the Oculus and made some of my favorite video games as a kid.

And it was really, I love the way he talks about augmented reality and virtual reality.

It's here's where the hardware is now.

Here's where it's going to be. But you sort of sense he's kind of mapping it out over multiple years, knowing the hardware's going to get better, the software's going to get better.

I kind of feel like that's the right mentality with a lot of these things.

And I do think as Silicon Valley engineers, let's just pick these problems and iterate on them.

And I do think that we've shown ourselves as a society time and time again, we're pretty good at that.

And there's some really smart people out there working on these problems.

Let's support them. Well, and I think that that's one of the things I love about the work that we do, right?

We get to identify these interesting problems.

We get to collaborate with really smart people from all sorts of different disciplines to think about ways in which we could potentially solve them and then build solutions and try things, experiment and have kind of the thread they used to say on ABC wide world of sports, thrill of victory and agony of defeat.

But, you know, kind of the way I think about it too, is that these moments, these kind of problems, these changes, be it new platforms or kind of the world that we face now with some of the bigger, more challenging moments like climate change, they create really interesting moments for entrepreneurs.

How have you seen entrepreneurship evolve over the last 10 years?

And where do you think entrepreneurship is heading? Yeah, that's a great question.

And I've started two companies. One was a social network back when we created social networks back in those days.

And a company called Quick, which Salesforce acquired.

And it was really interesting to just, for me personally, in a relatively short period of time, to see the differences in my own personal experience.

So with FriendFeed, we built our own servers and, you know, put them in a co-location facility.

And, you know, once that was 2007. And then in 2012, when I started my second company, you know, Amazon Web Services and GCP and Azure were there.

Of course, I would never build my own servers. You know, nowadays with trends like serverless and all these, you know, new trends, I wonder what would the architecture technologically of my company be?

But architecture is one thing, but really what it meant is I don't need someone who knows how to build a server, right?

I mean, the ability, particularly in software, to be lean is really amazing. It means that I think we're making entrepreneurship more accessible to a much wider range of people than we ever have before.

And I think that's really interesting because I do think of, you know, if entrepreneurship is something you have to be in San Francisco to do successfully, we've failed as a society, right?

That is not getting the best and brightest from around the world. And I'm really hopeful with technologies like Cloudflare, technologies like Salesforce, technologies like infrastructure as a service broadly, can we make it so easy to contribute your great ideas to technology and distribute them as widely as possible that, you know, we actually are getting the best and the brightest to solve all the world's problems.

I think some areas of progress we can make there is making sure we have access to capital.

You know, I do think that, you know, few people have reproduced Silicon Valley's magic.

I think companies like Stripe and others have really done some interesting work there to try to make access to that part of entrepreneurialism more accessible around the world.

I also think it's interesting that this year sucks, just to be clear.

2020 is probably a low point for most of us.

And it's really hard. But it's interesting because I do think it's accelerated some trends that might end up, you know, accelerating some trends that could be interesting.

So I've talked to more entrepreneurs lately starting distributed companies.

And in fact, say that's the norm now. And, you know, we at Salesforce, I don't think we ever thought we could have done work without an office, but we are.

And, you know, so like, you know, we talked about these things like the science fiction that we're living in right now.

How does that impact, you know, who can work for tech companies now that people can work from anywhere?

You know, how does it impact sort of a vision for equality when you can, you know, really bring the best and the brightest anywhere to work at your organization?

So I think that's a really promising and interesting trend as it relates to both equality and what it means to be an entrepreneur, what it means to be successful as an entrepreneur.

Yeah, it is interesting to think about. I mean, the heart and soul, in my experience of great entrepreneurs are people who can look at constraints as opportunities, that people can kind of see the constraints as an opportunity to sort of innovate and change.

And I do agree. I think that like 2020 is not the most awesome year, but to the extent that it encourages us to think about how we work and how we can work differently and to shift those expectations and shift those assumptions, I think similar to you, I think at Cloudflare, you know, the idea that we could be, you know, productive and delivering and innovating in a distributed fashion was inconceivable.

We just sort of had that kind of, that assumption that you had to be there in person and just democratizing that, I think has gone a long way.

I'm, you know, I'm excited to see the next entrepreneur out of Wyoming or the distributed company or the, you know, the kind of truly global development efforts that are possible.

I also think that what ends up happening too is when you start to see this entrepreneurship, you start to see kind of greater diversity and greater participation by all sorts of different people from different walks of life, which I think is also very exciting.

And I think, you know, on our end, one of the things we've been thinking about is really from a product development perspective, you know, how do we think about, you know, building for and servicing the shifting expectations that customers have now, right?

Like, you know, one of the things I think we're all thinking a lot about is really diversity and inclusion in our communities.

It's starting to become a factor for how we think about and build product.

You know, what are some of the shifts you've seen in customer expectations over the course of the past 10 years that you think have been kind of part of this transformational journey?

Yeah, well, it's interesting. There's a great quote from the chief digital officer of L'Oreal, just, I don't know, sometime in this pandemic time is a blur this year, but they're saying that I think they accomplished in e-commerce in a few months what would have taken three years before.

So I think, you know, the trends of the past decade of kind of the digital transformation of the whole economy, I think have just been massively accelerated through COVID-19.

You know, you're seeing consumer goods companies like snack companies go direct to consumer.

Companies that probably would have never done that before.

You're seeing, you know, things like buy online, curbside pickup, right?

That's something that probably every company had a plan for at some point.

It's probably in the roadmap. And now it's like, well, if you don't do that, you don't run a business, you know?

And I think the interesting thing right now is like to consumer expectations is I think that in the early days of this pandemic, you'd talk to the CEO and she would say, okay, when this, you know, we'll get through this and when it's done, we'll go back to X, Y, and Z.

Now, I think people are realizing that this pandemic is not going away anytime soon, you know, and this all digital marketing world is hopefully temporary, but temporary means like two years.

And so when you develop habits over a period of two years, you're not going to snap back, right?

And so for me personally, it's things like I had never bought groceries online before.

You know, I'm a geek, but I was kind of the go to the grocery store, smell the vegetable type of thing, right?

I'm not going back.

Like I'm not going to go buy toilet paper in the store anymore. I'm on subscription now.

And I think the big question for consumers, but I think also for all the entrepreneurs watching is what of those habits will remain on the other side of that?

And I would say a lot more than we think. You know, I talk to executives in every industry.

It's one of the most fun parts of my job is just that we kind of get to be a trusted digital advisor for a lot of the companies around the world.

And I hear around, across every industry that people aren't going to come back to the office full time.

You know, maybe they'll come in a couple of days a week, but that means our offices are probably going to be a little bit more for onsites than they are for, you know, desks, you know, and I think how does that change the shape of our employee engagement and more importantly, how does it change the shape of our business models?

And I think that the companies who kind of were treating their digital, you know, initiatives and sort of something that's sort of on the side are probably suffering right now.

And I think there's an urgency around these steps now that I think is more palpable than ever before.

And I think a lot of these terms will remain.

I think that's where the opportunity is for great companies, whether it's technology companies or not technology companies who will kind of lean into these changes and transform themselves.

I think the ones that do will benefit from it. And I think there's going to be a lot of business model disruption and technology disruption coming out of this.

Yeah. And people sort of parking those assumptions and those expectations at the door and being willing to experiment and try new things.

I think will be critical now.

But as you as you sort of look forward and you think about kind of the next the next decade of technology and again, it's hard sometimes in a technology.

I mean, to imagine the rate of innovation we're living in, what that could look like.

You know, when you think about that, you know, you've talked about being a techno optimist and I really appreciate that about you.

But are there are there places where you have concerns or you think that we as an industry need to kind of kind of think twice or heed caution?

Yeah, I mean, without question. And I say techno optimist.

It's not what I would hope. I don't think it's naive. It's it's really recognizing that I think we can solve a lot of society's problems with technology.

But I do think that there are a ton of risks. I say, you know, number one is I do think that at times, particularly not technology in this way, but Silicon Valley has prioritized growth over trust.

And I think in a world where I don't think technology is inherently good or bad.

And if we just create technology without thinking about how it's applied, it can create inequality.

It can create dysfunction.

It can have many unintended side effects. One of the things I, you know, sort of known for is my participation in creating the Facebook like button.

And then when all the stuff was happening, like an election manipulation, I was like, oh, my God, this little innocence button, you know, somehow correlated with just, you know, a pretty significant disruption to society.

And were we sitting there, you know, with malice?

No, of course not. But there's a there's long term effects of the technologies that we produce.

And I would say number one is I think trust needs to be the number one value of every single organization creating technology.

If you're creating connectivity, creating social connectivity, creating AI, how do you build trust into the process of developing the technology?

That's number one. Number two, we've talked a little bit about it is equality.

You know, I think that I truly believe that technology can be such a great amplifier of equality around the world, that I love the idea that, you know, you can be a kid in any country and, you know, have a great idea.

And thanks to all the trends we talked about, you can turn that idea into a business and turn that business into something that can change the world.

And that's amazing.

But our technology industry has not been a beacon for equality.

And it's been well documented. And that's on us. You know, we can't absolve ourselves of responsibility for making sure that our companies reflect the society that we bring our technologies to serve.

And so those are two areas I think, you know, we have obviously been very vocal at Salesforce about.

But I think they're really important and I think they're cultural.

And so trust and equality are two things I think we're really focused on and things that, if I have concerns, are probably there.

Yeah. Well, it's, you know, the thing that I think is always important to me when I think about trust and diversity and the relationship between technologies and society is really about the importance of technology companies being a significant part of the communities they operate in, being a part of furthering and advancing those conversations, facilitating and opening those doors.

As you think about trust, trust is something I spend a lot of time thinking about.

It's something I think that is just kind of the cornerstone of good technology.

It's part of being just a good human. What are some of the things that you would encourage people to think about when they think about building trust?

You know, I think I would just say, I think thinking about it in a very expansive and inclusive way is really important.

Trust could be as small as, is the service I'm making available?

Do people trust that it works? Does it have bugs?

Does it have downtime? You know, kind of the technical parts of trust. It also means, you know, the way you engage with your stakeholders.

You know, does the way you do business engender trust?

You know, does it, do you create trust with your stakeholders in that way?

And then trust is also about the trust you create with sort of all of your stakeholders around your business.

You know, and, you know, do you, do people feel like that you're taking into account sort of like, are you making the world a better place with what you're building?

And I do think that sometimes trust can be very narrowly defined in a way that I think creates cultural impacts.

And I do think that trust is really about culture because whether it's someone in customer support or an engineer or the CEO, if trust is not their number one value, you can end up creating a really dysfunctional culture that I think has produced some of the cautionary tales of Silicon Valley.

And so I think, I just think that word has gravity.

That word is important and it means different things in every interaction you're having with your stakeholder.

You also brought up something which is community, I think is really important.

We've, at Salesforce, I actually just, I've been really influenced by Mark Benioff in this point.

I think really he's influenced my thinking in a deep way, which is we don't exist in a vacuum as a business.

Businesses are a part of the community, just like you or I as individuals are a part of the community.

And I think businesses are an amazing platform for change. And to somehow treat your only stakeholder as your shareholder kind of absolves yourself as a responsibility as a member of the community.

And I think that's absolutely the wrong way to run a business.

We are a part of San Francisco. We are a part of every community in which we serve.

And it's important that we act that way. And it's why we distributed things like 50 million units of personal protective equipment to hospitals.

Like we're not in the PPE business, don't get us wrong, but we're in San Francisco and we're in these states.

So we're a part of the community and we want to use our business as a platform to contribute back to the communities we offer it, whether it's the schools, the hospitals, or just making sure our employees are present as members of the community.

And I do think that concept of stakeholder capitalism is really important too.

And the reason I connected to this trust concept is I think that will make businesses more meaningfully a part of the solutions to these big societal problems, which will engender trust, not just in the technology industry, but in sort of how businesses can contribute to society broadly.

Yeah. Well, it's amazing if we sort of look back at the innovation and the change that has been possible in the way in which it has changed our world, the technology has changed the world and changed our community, changed the way that we connect and communicate and we think forward.

Really, I think trust is kind of core to what we've been able to accomplish and what is possible in the future.

Yeah, absolutely. Well, Brett, I want to thank you so much for making the time for talking with us today.

It was a pleasure to get a chance to reconnect with you and I wish you and your family and the entire Salesforce community just health and happiness and look forward to being in touch soon.

Thank you so much and happy birthday to Cloudflare. Thank you very much.

We have seen malicious foreign actors attempt to subvert democracy.

What we saw was a sophisticated attack on our electoral system.

The Athenian Project is our little contribution as a company to say, how can we help ensure that the political process has integrity and that it's fair and just?

That people can trust it and that people can rely on it.

It's like a small family or community here and I think elections around the nation is the same way.

We're not a big agency. We don't have thousands of employees. We have tens of employees.

We have less than 100 here in North Carolina. So, what's on my mind when I get up and go to work every morning is, what's next?

What did we not think of and what are the bad actors thinking of?

The Athenian Project, we use that to protect our voter information center site and allow it to be securely accessed by the citizens of Rhode Island.

It's extremely important to protect that and to be able to keep it available.

There are many bad actors out there that are trying to bring that down and others trying to penetrate our perimeter defenses from the Internet to access our voter registration and or tabulation data.

So, it's very important to have an elections website that is safe, secure and foremost accurate.

The Athenian Project for anyone who is trying to run an election anywhere in the United States is provided by us for free.

We think of it as a community service.

I stay optimistic by reminding myself there's a light at the end of the tunnel.

It's not a train. Having this protection gives us some peace of mind that we know if for some reason we were to come under attack we wouldn't have to scramble or worry about trying to keep our site up that Cloudflare has our back.