Sep 15, 2015 ยท 2 minutes

“It was a vast marketing campaign by the barons of industry to win affection by throwing a party, to spread the religion of small entrepreneurialism, development and innovation." -- Chris Carlsson of Shaping San Francisco, speaking this Spring on the 100 year anniversary of the Panama Pacific International Exhibition in San Francisco

“You may say I'm a dreamer But I'm not the only one” -- John Lennon

Welcome to San Francisco, dreamers!

Yes, starting today, the army of sellers will once again transform into the army of dreamers, as Salesforce launches its weeklong mega-conference, Dreamforce. Programming begins in earnest today, but by midafternoon Monday the event was already overwhelming quotidian SOMA. Astroturf was laid over Howard Street between 3rd and 4th Streets, stages, exhibits and a pair of triumphal arches were being erected by mobs of 3rd-party contractors, trucks and forklifts of all sizes idled at curbs, and everywhere salespeople with swinging badges fanned out across the pavements. Those SF residents fool enough to actually live within ten blocks of the conference had already began to quietly seethe.

As I arrived downtown, a few hundred executive assistants were being guided on a preliminary tour of the venue, advised on how best to shuttle their VIPs through the madding crowd. In the main lobby of the convention hall, DJ General J spun lush house on vinyl, as arriving attendees shuffled smoothly and efficiently through a stanchioned maze to receive their badges and shwag bags.

This year Dreamforce will be, as usual, larger than ever before. In its 13th year, the event will host the world’s gray, huddled sales masses to the tune of 150,000 attendees, a crowd that represents about one-fifth the population of San Francisco. The last-minute push on Monday to assemble its temporary glory felt like the Burning Man of CRM.

Salesforce CEO and founder Marc Bennioff is no stranger to grand gesture, in recent years he’s purchased the naming rights for a children’s hospital and the city’s tallest skyscraper (currently an immense hole filled with the sounds of hammers and welds a few short blocks away from Dreamforce). In February Bennioff shared his dream with Mad Money’s Jim Cramer: for Salesforce to be the fastest software company ever to reach $10 billion in sales. His company’s flagship event purports to be, fittingly, the largest tech event on Earth.

This year Dreamforce will take place across 19 downtown venues, and a cruise ship parked at Pier 27 will provide overflow accommodations for the global sales fauna.

Every tech and business publication in the country will have a representative or ten roaming the halls but my editor at Pando has sent me into the throng with the simple challenge to “find something Dan Raile-y” that a thousand other hacks might have overlooked.  Duly ordered, I’ll be on hand throughout to bear witness to the power of sales software: from Wednesday’s keynote address by Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, who will speak on the “future of cities” and the role of software in “enabling the success for its driver-partners and riders,” to the monster Killers/Foo Fighters/Gary Clark, Jr. concert at Pier 70 on Thursday, to sessions on topics like “Women’s Innovation,” the health of the oceans, and mindfulness.

To be continued...