Jim Burleigh is the CEO of Cloud9 and a veteran of SaaS businesses having served as a senior executive at Navis, and salesforce.com. In addition, he served as the CEO of SmartTurn, the leading SaaS warehouse and inventory management solution, immediately prior to joining Cloud9. His background includes sales, marketing, and technical expertise developed as the sixth employee at salesforce.com. He has a B.S. in engineering and applied science from the California Institute of Technology.
Sramana: Jim, where does your personal story begin?
Jim Burleigh: I am originally from San Diego. I grew up in a lower middle class family with a ranching background. My parents divorced early on, so I split my time growing up on a ranch outside of San Diego and the city itself. I was pushed hard by my parents to focus hard on school and use it as a stepping stone to get places where members of my family traditionally had not been. I went to Cal Tech and got an engineering degree, which led me to Silicon Valley.
I graduated in the late 1980s when Oracle was looking for bright people from good schools. They just wanted the right type of person, and once they found them then they would find a place for them in the company. I joined Oracle in 1989. I started off in quality assurance (QA) and did light development work around SQL drivers which gave me a good basis for understanding the platform. I was there for a year and a half before I moved into technical marketing. I was the guy who knew how to make things work on the marketing team.
Sramana: How long did you stay at Oracle?
Jim Burleigh: I stayed there for about eight years. I left in late 1996 to join a CRM startup called Baystone Software. We were Remedy’s largest ISV. I have had a number of people who have worked for me who have gone out to startups and make a ton of money. There were a couple of people I knew at Remedy who were trying to get me to come and work with them. I decided I wanted to work at a small place instead, and I was not there but nine months before Remedy acquired us. The job they wanted me to perform was still open, so I took a job running their channels and Latin American sales.
Sramana: How long did you stay with Remedy?
Jim Burleigh: I was there for about two years. I left in early 1999. At that point Marc Benioff gave me a call. I had worked for him at Oracle for three years, so I knew him. He told me he had a great idea that he wanted me to look at. I took a look at his idea and it was the outline for salesforce.com and I met the three founders. One thing I have seen throughout my career is that there is always the right coincidence of timing and opportunity. I don’t know a recipe for planning that but you have to recognize it and when you see it great.
At Remedy we were very large in the help desk space but we were also one of the largest CRM vendors at the time. We were not aggressive about pushing and promoting that information. We had an opportunity to take that CRM effort, host it, and serve it in the marketplace. I presented that to our executive staff and their thoughts was that it was too aggressive of a move that they would rather leave to the young, upstart companies. They did not want to take the risk. Marc called me closely after that so after meeting the other founders and seeing their idea I was immediately in love with the idea and joined them in early 1999. Salesforce.com had a few pages of html mockup and an apartment next to Marc’s apartment where we ran telephone and Internet lines from his apartment though the window. One of the developers slept in the master bedroom, which was also my office. My first job there was to assemble my desk, which was an Ikea-type table that I screwed together.