Marc Benioff, the CEO and founder of Salesforce.com, worked at Apple as an intern in 1984. The experience was a formative one, and Apple cofounder Steve Jobs became a mentor, Benioff told the audience at TechCrunch Disrupt on Tuesday.
Jobs passed away nearly two years ago, but he still looms large at the company, Benioff argues—and it's time for Apple executives to admit as much.
"It's like they're trying to pretend Steve Jobs never existed," says Benioff. "We owe a huge debt of gratitude to Steve. I think it's appropriate for Apple to acknowledge this on a regular basis."
At the same time, Benioff says that CEO Tim Cook, marketing chief Phil Schiller and others are imitating Jobs's style—down to idiosyncrasies like displaying a slide with the word "video" before playing a video in a keynote.
"They want to look like Steve and act like Steve," says Benioff. "For them, they need to find themselves and be who they are. I think in many ways, they're trying to be him."
Benioff's advice, which he says Jobs gave to him: "Respect the past, but project the future."