Over the next few days, 160,000 registered attendees and media from around the world will be learning about Salesforce’s customers, solutions and vision at Dreamforce. But for 70 international journalists, the event started a day early with an exclusive tour of some of San Francisco’s most innovative and revered companies.

Media from Canada, Brazil, the U.K., Australia, Germany, France, Spain, Japan and other countries were hosted at the headquarters of Autodesk, Uber and Fitbit for tours, discussions and a glimpse of what’s ahead.

While the tour wasn’t directly linked to Dreamforce – aside from the fact that all of the media were in San Francisco for the event – the symbiosis between Salesforce and these other brands was evident throughout.

For example, Woody Scal, Chief Revenue Officer at Fitbit, explained to the group the persistent question that has driven the brand from its inception. It isn’t “What can I do with this technology that people will want to use?”, but rather: “What can I do that’s useful to people?”  

Both Uber and Autodesk had similar philosophies.

Uber’s David Plouffe, the company’s strategic advisor, could have focused his time with the group on how the company has become a verb and is often held up as a strategic example of innovation. Instead he focused on how Uber is changing lives – the lives of people in cities with mobility challenges, but, more pointedly, the lives of Uber’s drivers, who are using the service to supplement their income in a way they can control.

During his session, Plouffe, who served as campaign manager for Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign and then as Senior Advisor to the President, explained that Uber’s massive growth and expansion has happened organically thanks to word of mouth. Linking his political experience with his Uber work, Plouffe said that success in politics or in promoting a brand like Uber’s boils down to one important factor: a conversation between two human beings. No amount of advertising or marketing can replace the recommendation of a candidate or a service from one trusted person to another, and it’s something he sees on both the passenger and the driver side of the Uber story.

During this stop, media were also given a first look at a new program rolling out under the Uber for Business umbrella. Already a popular service in Canada – Toronto sits in the top four international cities making up 40 per cent of all trips for Uber for Business along with London, Mexico City and Paris – this new program will allow users to create a business profile alongside a personal profile, simplifying business expenses and making it easier for companies to use the service. More information on this announcement will happen this week when Marc Benioff has a fireside chat with Uber CEO Travis Kalanick.

Autodesk Senior Vice President Andrew Anagnost focused his time with the media discussing the future of making things. Breaking it down into sections on design, production, demand and product, he gave his audience a glimpse into what’s already happening around the world and what’s around the corner. From generative design, where a computer can actively participate in the design process, to using technology to perform facial reconstruction, Anagnost had dozens of examples of demonstrating how his company is finding ways to be useful to people.

Which brings it right back to Salesforce. This philosophy seems to permeate the Dreamforce campus, and is something that’s woven into the fabric of Salesforce itself. The conference isn’t simply about learning to be useful to customers, but to the world. With every day of the event devoted to a different issue, such as education, encouraging girls to learn to code, backing veterans as they re-enter the workforce, and giving back to the environment, attendees are encouraged to participate and take positive action alongside Salesforce – on Wednesday, more than a million books will be donated by attendees for underserved children.

It’s going to be a great week of innovation and inspiration, and the innovation tour for international media was definitely a great place to start.