A couple of weeks before the flagship conference, Marc Benioff, Founder & CEO of Salesforce, made a very public statement that warned this may be the last Dreamforce in San Francisco.
Dreamforce has been held in San Francisco since 2003, where Salesforce was founded, and is the largest employer in the area with around 10,000 employees. However, due to rampant homelessness and drug use, the conference that brings upwards of $100m into the city of San Francisco may be moving away.
Whilst the notion of one of the largest tech conferences moving away from its home is sad, it’s understandable. Anyone who has visited downtown San Francisco or attended Dreamforce will know that the homelessness and drug issues are extremely visible, which can cause distress and bring your own safety into question.
Recently, these problems have been getting worse for San Francisco. Since the pandemic and the rise of remote working, retailers and investors have been departing the city center, which has allowed homelessness to take over.
Before Dreamforce 2023, Marc Benioff told the San Francisco Chronicle: “If this Dreamforce is impacted by the current situation with homelessness and drug use, it may be the last Dreamforce”.
These comments were made during an interview with the Chronicle about Salesforce’s $1 million donation to a Salvation Army’s program that aids homeless people. Previously, Benioff was a big supporter of a ballot measure known as “Prop C”, which was passed in 2018 and is due to raise $300 million a year from corporate taxes to support homelessness programs.
Is Dreamforce Leaving San Francisco?
When the news broke about Dreamforce potentially leaving its home, opinions were divided, but the majority of my network had the feeling that ‘it’s about time’.
Whilst there have never been any major incidents recorded at Dreamforce, I think you will be hard-pressed to find anyone who feels completely safe and secure walking around downtown San Francisco. In fact, I’ve heard from multiple people in my network that the rise in homelessness is the explicit reason they will not be attending Dreamforce this year.
Whilst this year’s Dreamforce was a roaring success from Salesforce’s point of view, homelessness was still very visible – even with the work that had been done to clear up the streets before and during the conference. It also came to light on September 20th that a Chicago-based surgeon and speaker at Dreamforce was attacked on September 11th during the conference.
The comments that Marc Benioff made in the build-up to Dreamforce have clearly put pressure on the city of San Francisco to do better. During the week of the conference, Benioff complimented San Francisco’s cleanliness and safety but questioned why the city couldn’t maintain this every day.
Summary: Will Dreamforce Return to its Original Home?
From the looks of these “save the date” signs that were popping up on the last day of the conference, it certainly looks like it.
As a fourth-generation San Franciscan, I’m sure the last thing Benioff will want to do is pull Dreamforce out of his hometown and remove the millions injected into the local economy. And right now, it looks like he has the full attention of California Governor Gavin Newson and San Francisco Mayor London Breed, who both appeared at the conference.
But whilst Benioff and Salesforce may want the conference to stay, attendees may want a switch. The allure of a safer, cheaper, and more accessible city like Las Vegas may be on the cards in the not-too-distant future.