Looking back at a decade of Dreamforce

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Looking back at a decade of Dreamforce

As the team was working tirelessly on preparing amazing sessions and parties for Dreamforce 2017, we realized that FinancialForce had just celebrated its 8th anniversary. What better time, I thought, to take a trip down memory lane?

Tentative first steps

With only a couple of apps and customers on record, we set up our very first Dreamforce booth (actually more like a kiosk) in September 2007 under the banner of “CODA2go”— a couple years before FinancialForce was officially born. With barely space for a laptop, we demonstrated how to turn an Opportunity into a fully formatted invoice. The crowd swooned as we showed not only an elegant document but also related debits and credits automatically generated by our app.

“Accounting entries on Salesforce.com? I didn’t know you could do that.”

That wasn’t all. We also had a Cash Entry screen for customers to pay those invoices. Little did we know this would be the start of an exceptional, long-term relationship with Salesforce.

By the way, back then there was no such thing as booth duty scheduling. If the expo was open, then you were on booth duty. I’d never seen “Foot Spa from CVS” on an expense report before but it was approved without question as a perfectly reasonable business purchase.

A new kind of conference

Despite the sore feet, we knew we were onto something special. And it was clear that Dreamforce was unlike anything we’d ever experienced. Yes, that first event felt big—although 7,000 attendees seems tiny now—but what was most striking was the huge level of enthusiasm. This was a business software conference, but it felt completely different. An hour after the official closing time at the pre-show reception we still had a crowd of eager, patient visitors waiting to ask questions and learn so much more.

Rising stars

After this encouraging reception to cloud accounting—and the successful launch of FinancialForce—it was time to make a bigger impression. By 2010, the Salesforce ecosystem was flourishing. We’d been fortunate in the early years to get Salesforce’s support at the highest level, including “rockstar” keynote walk-on spots for company founder Jeremy Roche, but now we had to find our own ways to spark interest.

The booth got bigger. Jumbo screens replaced the solo laptop. And the creative team started thinking “viral.”

In 2009, Marc Benioff and Parker Harris’ keynote announcement of Chatter for social style collaboration in the workplace went down like a lead balloon. It would take some time for the use of social tools in business to becoming more widely accepted, and FinancialForce did its part to help market the value.

At Dreamforce 2010, we widely distributed the first, FinancialForce novel: The Deal: Unzipping the Wall Between Sales and Finance that featured Twitter, Facebook, and Chatter framing a juicy office story along with a great endorsement from Mr. Benioff himself. (Let me know if you would like a copy—it’s still an excellent read!).

The major acquisitions we made that year also hit the headlines – of course during Dreamforce week. The acquisition of the PSA business from Appirio was especially memorable for me. At the first night’s Dreamforce dinner, we discussed the need for a demo environment between our new PSA and Accounting apps.

“Shouldn’t be too hard,” I said.

“Can we have that for the booth tomorrow morning?” asked our fearless leader.

So there I was at 3 AM on a flaky hotel internet connection installing our package into Appirio PSA demo org, creating a chart of accounts, adding a few custom lookup fields, configuring integration rules, tweaking page layouts, and building out list views. Sure enough, the following morning our pre-sales team demoed our newest cool feature: Project Billing Events into Sales Invoices.

Bigger and better

In recent years Dreamforce has spread across San Francisco with multiple venues not just throughout the Moscone campus but also at hotels, auditoriums, and even multiplex cinemas (showing now at screen 9 – “Avoiding Platform Nightmares”). The challenge of rising above the noise has become even harder.

FinancialForce plans for Dreamforce with military precision, making itself known on taxis, billboards, buildings, hotel door cards, Meetups, DevZone Sessions, breakout sessions and panels, keynote appearances, whiskey tastings, CEO DJ jams, logo conference bags, parties, and parties to recover from parties.

In 2014 we launched our own conference within a conference, including dedicated building space and the introduction of “ERP Central” at MoAD. This provided a unique opportunity to see ERP cloud software side by side with art from the African diaspora.

Amidst all the blitz, of course, lives a technology conference so we were able to geek out with “art of the possible” demonstrations using new devices including early Android wearables, Apple Watch and Amazon Echo .

Heading to the airport after one of these more recent Dreamforces, I received a text from a partner:

“Jeez Kev, you guys were f***ing everywhere.”

Mission accomplished—until the next one.

Come and join us at #DF17

But enough nostalgia. I want you to know that you are cordially invited to join FinancialForce at the technology conference of the year. Check out what we have planned here. We have a great team who are eager to help you see your customers in full color and create your own memorable Dreamforce experiences.

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