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Listen to Evan on the How Success Happens podcast
What started with four people in a small office above a hair salon next to a liquor store is now the backbone of more than 24,000 companies around the world. In my latest installment of How Success Happens, I interviewed Evan Goldberg, the co-founder of the very first cloud software company, Oracle NetSuite.
NetSuite's software suite provides rapidly growing organizations of all sizes – small to large – the technology to run their most important business processes – including accounting, enterprise resource planning (ERP), inventory management, customer relationship management (CRM), e-commerce and human capital management ( HCM).
Evan began his career at Oracle in the late 1980s after graduating from Harvard with a degree in computer science. He met Oracle founder Larry Ellison during the interview process – Larry interviewed all technology job candidates at the time – and was added to the respected database team. But Evan's dream has always been to make software that people use every day. About a year later he moved to the MacIntosh Group, a new team within Oracle that focused on making database software accessible to users.
This group's core belief that high-performance systems and sophisticated capabilities should be democratized became NetSuite's mission when Evan and his partners founded the company in 1998. However, this was not his first business venture.
In 1995, Evan left his position as vice president of Oracle to start mBed Software, which came up with the innovative idea of making it easier for mere mortals to create interactive websites. Though the company was building a loyal following, Macromedia's Flash ruled the space and Evan experienced his first stereotype, but the necessary failure of Silicon Valley. Running the company changed everything for Evan because he felt the pain of not having the systems in place to run the business.
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Payroll was separated from the accounting function, none of it was connected to the webshop system, and there were several customer lists to support. Nothing worked together. He sensed an opportunity that led to a conversation with Larry that would change not only Evans' lives forever, but the lives of dreaming entrepreneurs and future NetSuite customers as well.
When Evan got the idea of developing software to help businesses run smoother, Larry suggested they start with basic accounting software and run it on the internet, where he said all applications would run in the future.
Originally called NetLedger, the company began developing a web-based accounting system that, as Larry rightly pointed out, is the heart of any business. Evan had put all his money into his last company, so he invested $ 2,000 – pretty much everything he had – in what would become NetSuite.
Evan and his partners got to work. When the system was ready, they uploaded their company's files to their new software – and for the first time, Evan could access information about his company anytime, anywhere in a browser. He then knew this business would work.
The reality of how diverse their business models were, however, became apparent when he and his co-founders – all of whom were experienced software developers – released the second version of their software. Instead of creating the update, tossing it over the wall and moving on to the next project (this is how local software development worked), their software was a service. Being in the cloud meant that they could constantly improve and improve their applications and quickly bring new features to their customers. You could be bothering yourself.
From the beginning, Evan not only focused on making NetSuite self-disrupting, but also helped extend the capabilities of its platform beyond traditional for-profit organizations. The need for this technology in the nonprofit sector became even more apparent in the company's early days when Evans' wife led her school's PTA group. NetSuite helped the company move from using multiple spreadsheets to NetSuite. This idea quickly went beyond the PTA and became a primary tenant for the company. Today, NetSuite has a comprehensive social impact program that brings technology to more than 2,000 charities worldwide and enables its employees to provide their expertise through voluntary return. To date, NetSuite employees have donated more than 7,000 pro bono hours to help nonprofit customers get the most out of the platform.
NetSuite grew from that tiny first office to one of the world's leading cloud-based business administration software. The company went public in 2007 and was acquired by Oracle nine years later, bringing Evan and Larry back together. NetSuite shows no signs of slowing down. Evan still brings out new innovations twice a year and takes advantage of the proximity to Oracle. And that thing called "Web", in turn, helped introduce some of our favorite brands that we got to know as we grew from ZoomInfo and Modsy to LoveSac, Hello Products, Philz Coffee, and more. It has been more than 20 years since NetSuite was first launched. Despite all the changes, the company's focus on helping entrepreneurs realize their visions and grow with cloud-based applications has remained unchanged.