RealTime IT News

A Salute to Visionary CEOs

InternetNews.com 2008 CEO Vision Awards

It's not easy to find the most inspired executives who possess a unique mix of talent, drive, energy, leadership -- on top of a steely conviction about their technology vision.

Don't get us wrong: The technology industry is filled with lots of executive talent at all ranks and is populated by some of the sharpest minds on the planet.

But what about the ones who manage to break away from this very competitive pack and make a difference in the industry and our lives?

This helps explain why we created the InternetNews.com annual Vision Awards list, starting with CEOs at technology companies big and small. We set out to study who is impacting the industry on the strength of a clear vision -- and who is executing on that vision.

What went into our choices? Plenty of arguments, for starters. We looked at a wide swath of criteria: stock prices of the public companies involved, their performance in the year time frame, how much the companies are advancing innovation with information technology that enables greater strength in businesses and in how we live our lives.

What kind of difference did their moves make? How did their accomplishments influence and otherwise touch our lives? Should company size matter? What types of innovations mattered the most?

Of all these considerations, how and why they made that vision happen carried the most weight.

With this in mind, the editors of InternetNews.com and of Jupitermedia's online division salute the InternetNews.com Visionary CEOs of 2008, presented in alphabetical order.

We would like to thank you, our readers, for sending in some of the hundreds of names and accomplishments the editors studied in compiling this list. With so much talent in the industry, this was no easy task.

We look forward to keeping an eye on next year's winners. And, of course, we look forward to hearing from you.

(In alphabetical order)

Marc Benioff, Salesforce.com

Back when he was an up-and-coming executive within Oracle's (NASDAQ: ORCL) ranks, Marc Benioff had a cushy deal. Appointed a corporate vice president while still in his 20s, he could have been content to be one of CEO Larry Ellison's foot soldiers, pushing database software, making good money and enjoying solid job security.

Marc Benioff
Source: Salesforce

Benioff left his job as senior vice president at Oracle in 1999 to create Salesforce.com (NYSE: CRM), with $2 million as a parting present from Ellison to start the company that would promote the crazy notion that people would want their software as, well, a service they get online.

In doing so, he saw the ubiquity of the Internet becoming a reality, and that was vital to Salesforce.com's success. Electricity is useless without power plugs; Salesforce.com's on-demand customer resource management (CRM) software is useless without the Internet everywhere. In 1999, that build-out was still going on. Today, it's being realized.

But he and the company still have problems to address, such as embarrassing outages that call the whole SaaS model into question. After all, what good is an online application when it's not available? But it was what Salesforce.com continued to do in the last year that also stood out.

Take the strategic buy to add more gusto to the services it sells with last month's $31.5 million acquisition of multichannel knowledge applications vendor InStranet.

It put together deals with Oracle for iPhone applications and moved closer to Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) with its partnership on applications, keeping tongues wagging over whether a sale could be in the