Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff (Don Clyde / KQED)
Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff (Don Clyde / KQED)

The tech crowd is abuzz with accusations of cheating and favoritism in Salesforce’s Hackathon, which awarded its $1 million grand prize yesterday at the end of Dreamforce 2013 — the ginormous and glitzy annual Salesforce convention held at Moscone Center.

San Francisco-based Salesforce, of course, is a leading cloud enterprise computing company led by charismatic founder and CEO Marc Benioff. Its official hackathon challenge exhorted developers to “Build the most awesome mobile app using the power of Salesforce Platform. Create it from scratch and blow our minds away!” Rules stipulated that hackers could start hacking as early as Oct. 25.

The grand prize-winning app, Upshot, just happens to count among its founders a former Salesforce engineer, Thomas Kim. Kim spent almost nine years at Salesforce, in senior positions. And Kim had demo’ed his app on Oct. 8 — at a Salesforce meetup.

Critics say the ‘Force was with Kim and Upshot all along.

Bobbles on Hacker News summed up how many felt:

So the winning team:
1) Had a member previously employed by the selection team.
2) Had built their project prior to the hackathon.
3) Was actively helped by the Salesforce team during the hackathon.
4) Was ensured a place by other teams not even having their submissions seen by the judges.
What a fair and balanced outcome! I fully expect everyone to take this event seriously in the future.

Salesforce was expected to respond late today.

Integrity and doing good are big in Benioff’s world: He has become known for his personal philanthropy as well as for pioneering the 1-1-1 integrated philanthropic model at Salesforce, which uses the company’s people, technology, and resources to help improve communities around the world. Earlier this month he appeared on KQED’s “Newsroom” and spoke about why he thinks tech companies need to invest in communities where they thrive.



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