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Photo: Salesforce

As giant tech firms fight for the attention of their industry, they're putting more money and effort into transforming their conferences into mindshare-grabbing shows.

Why it matters: Tech firms use these events to woo business partners, inspire users, reward loyal developers and attract programming talent. For a wildly profitable industry, they're also becoming a new arena of excess.

Driving the news: Salesforce's Dreamforce, which runs this week in San Francisco, features former President Obama, soccer star Megan Rapinoe and Apple CEO Tim Cook, among many, many other people not known for their CRM software expertise.

  • It's not just Dreamforce, though. Splunk paid for Obama to appear at its conference earlier this year, while everyone from Adobe to Zoom uses celebrities to fill seats and boost buzz at their events.

What they're saying: "Every year we look at the previous year's Dreamforce and think 'How can we go bigger and better?' Somehow every year we raise the bar," Brigitte Donner, Salesforce's Dreamforce chair, told Axios.

New this year:

  • More monks: 30 monastics will travel from Plum Village, a monastic community in France, to lead over 6,000 people in mindfulness practices, with a keynote on Friday.
  • Where's the beef? Not at Dreamforce. Organizers say going beef-free at this year's conference will save at least 9 million gallons of water.

By the numbers: Dreamforce is the biggest of the company events, drawing 170,000 people to San Francisco's Moscone Center and snarling traffic downtown.

  • "We love hosting 170,000 of our closest friends, but it does bring some logistical challenges," Donner acknowledges.

Perks: In addition to providing a roster of celebrities during the day, it's common for these conferences to throw a gigantic attendee party at a big stadium, concert venue or amusement park. I've been to...

  • Microsoft events at Universal Studios
  • San Francisco's baseball stadium rented out by Oracle
  • I've also heard everyone from Pat Benatar to Metallica to Maroon 5 play for a crowd of developers. (Fleetwood Mac is playing at Dreamfest this year.)

Yes, but: Developer conferences can also cost a couple thousand dollars to attend. That's fine if your employer foots the bill, but can be quite a burden for freelancers and the self-employed.

The bottom line: Corporate decision makers wield a lot of purchasing power and tech companies are spending freely for their attention.

Go deeper: Tech giants reach further into health care

Go deeper

Updated 9 mins ago - World

Biden reviews U.S. arms deals with Saudi Arabia and UAE

Trump struck several large arms deals with Mohammed bin Salman (L) and Saudi Arabia. Photo: Kevin Dietsch-Pool/Getty Images

The Biden administration has put on hold two big arms deals with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates which were approved in the final weeks of the Trump administration, a State Department official told Axios.

Why it matters: The sales of F-35 jets and attack drones to the UAE and a large supply of munitions to Saudi Arabia will be paused pending a review. That signals a major policy shift from the Trump era, and may herald sharp tensions with both Gulf countries.

Trump supporter found with pipe bombs accused of plot to attack Democrats

Five improvised explosive devices that the FBI says "were fully operational and could cause great bodily harm or injury if handled improperly." Photo: FBI/Justice Department

The FBI believes California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) and the Bay Area headquarters of Twitter and Facebook were targets of a man facing federal explosives charges, according to a criminal complaint.

Driving the news: Prosecutors charged Ian Benjamin Rogers after finding weapons including five pipe bombs, 49 guns and thousands of rounds of ammunition following a Jan. 15 search of his Napa County home and auto repair business. His alleged goal was to ensure former President Trump remained in office.

4 hours ago - Health

Fauci: COVID vaccine rollout needs to prioritize people of color

Anthony Fauci. Photo: Alex Wong via Getty Images

Infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci highlighted the need to address racial disparities in the COVID-19 vaccination process, per an interview with The New England Journal of Medicine on Wednesday.

What he’s saying: "I think that's the one thing we really got to be careful of. We don't want in the beginning ... most of the people who are getting it are otherwise, well, middle-class white people."