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A recent SuiteConnect event in London saw executives from Oracle and NetSuite in optimistic mood about prospects for economic growth and new business formation.
Oracle NetSuite’s co-founder and executive vice-president Evan Goldberg, Oracle NetSuite’s EMEA senior vice-president Nicky Tozer, and Oracle’s executive vice-president and Cormac Watters were all drinking from half-full glasses.
Just ahead of the event, NetSuite published some optimistic research based on a survey of its customers, which found that 71% of founders are more optimistic about their business prospects in 2023 than they were in 2022 and 47% are expecting their business to grow.
The study of more than 2,100 UK business founders and workers also found that 64% of the employees surveyed have ambitions to start their own business in the next two years. Indeed, many already have a side hustle, with 45% of younger Gen Z workers already having a separate source of income to their main job that they plan on turning into a full-time gig.
“It’s encouraging to see so many business founders and workers looking positively at the year ahead,” said Tozer. “Our study suggests that founders are adapting to the persistent risk posed by inflation and recession by doubling down on productivity, the use of cloud technology, and meeting pricing pressures head-on. The UK’s entrepreneurial spirit is shining brightly, as evidenced by the quarter of workers currently bringing in additional sources of income to their day job.”
In an interview at the event, Goldberg was optimistic that the current economic “dislocation” would prove to be the breeding ground for new companies, just as the aftermath of the dot com boom and bust of the turn of the century and the period after the great financial crash of 2007-8 had been.
“Every one of these times of dislocation is a great primordial soup for great businesses to be started. What was interesting about the dot com meltdown was that a ton of great businesses got started after that, because a lot of entrepreneurs are serial entrepreneurs. But you couldn’t get any funding, so a lot of people just did things on a shoestring budget,” he said.
“NetSuite’s first phase of really great growth came in the early 2000s, and we went public in 2007. Those companies that were driving our success were started in 2001, right after practically every internet company went under, but those entrepreneurs knew that the internet was here to stay. The same thing happened in the financial meltdown,” Goldberg added.
“I don’t have a crystal ball, but it doesn’t appear to me that this is the same level of downturn that we had in those two cases, at least so far. In the tech industry, there are layoffs, and some of those people will start companies, so I look forward to some of the great companies that started as pandemic babies [and] we will look back at in five or 10 years as great new companies,” he said.
His colleague Tozer added that the respondents to its research believed things were improving economically. “There is optimism that this isn’t going to last as long as we first thought. And then there are people feeling ‘I’m doing this job, but I feel optimistic about starting my own business’. The nuance of the research data was that we had people saying they are wanting to start their own businesses, be their own bosses,” he said.
Watters, from the Oracle side of the business, responsible for applications across the EMEA region, was also optimistic, especially in respect of the Middle East and Africa. His focus is also on the larger companies and organisations that NetSuite tends to eschew, though it does have large customers, too, as Goldberg and Tozer would readily attest. However, NetSuite customers tend not to be global.
Goldberg puts the difference this way: “NetSuite is really built as a single application. It’s for a company that’s pretty tightly knit, where everything is still working together, which is more commonly true when your company is smaller.”
Watters, also in an interview at the SuiteConnect event, added a more global perspective to the discussion about the economy: “We have the economic situation that we’re in. Are we in a recession or not? I’m not sure we are in one. But we all feel like there’s one coming.
“We don’t have one in the Middle East. That’s not the same thing. That’s a different economic environment right now. And Africa has also got a different sense of it. They may have leapfrogged some of the old legacy stuff and can move more nimbly to the cloud.”
Goldberg and Watters expressed confidence about one other thing, perhaps unsurprisingly: that Oracle’s cloud infrastructure is a competitive advantage for their applications businesses.
Goldberg commented: “It has been an advantage for us. All our new customers, for over a year now, have gone onto Oracle Cloud Infrastructure [OCI]. We’ve moved most of our customers over, they’ll all be moved over within a few months. They get to choose their upgrade date. There are all kinds of services we’re going to be able to provide that are right there in OCI. They’re going to work really fast and seamlessly with NetSuite. And we’re going to adopt Oracle’s latest autonomous database technology.”
Watters emphasised what he sees as an unsung advantage of OCI, namely the platform-as-a-service aspect. He also views Oracle’s offering of its applications on its own cloud services through the lens of a former CIO. He was formerly group CIO at DCC Technology and CIO at bakery firm Arysta. He was also managing director, UK and Ireland, at SAP, and chief operating officer, EMEA North, at Oracle’s main rival.
“I was that type of customer with multi vendors, at that level. One vendor is good. But what’s more important is Oracle came to the cloud infrastructure piece probably later than it wanted to. They genuinely learned some things about what’s good and what’s needed. Therefore, our security is amazing,” said Watters.
“As a CIO, your two big worries are being hacked and being relevant to the CEO: ‘Am I actually adding value to the business? Or am I just a service that can be outsourced?’ Both those concerns are addressed by having all the Oracle stuff in the same stack.
“We also have the breadth of the application suite requiring a platform underneath it, which sometimes gets confused with the infrastructure,” he added. “The platform is what allows you to have the security, but also the user experience, the development toolkit for doing your own extensions, the integration for mixing Oracle with other applications. [Everything] our developers use is available to the customers. That’s a powerful thing. The Oracle platform is an often unspoken about significant advantage.”
As for NetSuite’s co-founder, Goldberg, he believes the two applications businesses are well matched: “I think there’s no single product that can serve the highest ends of the market and the lowest ends of the market. And I think you need two, but I think that’s all you need, just two. You don’t need 10, you don’t need five. We have it just right.”