‘Five Minutes with Larry Ellison Changed Everything’: NetSuite’s Evan Goldberg

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The world spins on a dime, and sometimes the right idea at the right moment can build an empire.

Techopedia’s Neil C. Hughes sat down with Evan Goldberg, the leader behind Oracle’s NetSuite Global Business Unit, to learn more about the story behind the company that kickstarted the cloud computing era, and how a five-minute phone call with Oracle founder Larry Ellison would change everything.

Evan shares his journey, the origins of the cloud, the drive behind continuous innovation through artificial intelligence, and the invaluable lessons he’s garnered throughout his illustrious career with Techopedia.

About Evan Goldberg

About Evan Goldberg

Evan Goldberg, the driving force behind Oracle NetSuite Global Business Unit, steers the product strategy, development, and execution of NetSuite’s comprehensive business management suite, which includes ERP/Financials, CRM, and e-commerce solutions.

A pioneer in cloud computing, Evan co-founded NetSuite in 1998, marking the inception of cloud technology in business applications.

Before Oracle’s acquisition, he served as CTO and Chairman of the NetSuite board. Evan’s extensive tech career began at Oracle Corporation, where he ascended to vice president for over eight years, working on projects aimed at democratizing complex database technologies for broader use. A distinguished Harvard College alum, he graduated Summa Cum Laude with a B.A. in Applied Mathematics.


Evan shares his journey, the origins of cloud computing, the drive behind continuous innovation through AI, and the invaluable lessons he’s garnered throughout his illustrious career with Techopedia.

Q: 25 years ago, you founded the world’s first cloud software company, NetSuite, after a five-minute phone call with Oracle founder Larry Ellison, where you discussed the idea of selling and running business software over the internet. Can you share that origin story?

A: I call it my mandatory Silicon Valley failure, and Larry helped me with that. But you always want to snatch a little victory out of the jaws of defeat. The only thing you can do when these kinds of things happen is try to learn from them.

I learned that the tools for running small companies, growing them, and trying to make them into big companies needed improvement. I was inspired to create the next generation of software tools for businesses to help them grow.

At the same time, Larry had been considering the implications of the Internet for the distribution of software.

Larry was convinced that for the next thousand years, as he would say, people will be consuming software off the internet, where the software provider is responsible for running it rather than you being responsible for running it.

It was a really important five-minute conversation that led to the merger of those two ideas and the creation of NetSuite, which, as the name suggests, is the net plus the suite.

Q: Reflecting on your early days at NetSuite, how do the lessons learned about not getting distracted by “the shiny stuff” apply to the distractions of AI in 2024?

A: This is potentially as revolutionary a time for technology as the internet was 25-plus years ago. We’ve worked with AI for many years and think these systems should be even smarter.

They should do more than track things and let you run basic reports on them. They should give you advice and assistance. That’s what AI is all about when you look at it from a business perspective.

We are confident that there will be many opportunities to improve the business application, make it more effective, and help you run your business better.

Q: As someone who has witnessed the dramatic evolution of the internet and cloud computing, including the dot-com bubble and the rise of e-commerce, what have you learned about managing a business during recessional times?

A: A concrete example of what we learned during the financial crisis is that our customers suffered. However, we could help them navigate their difficulties by helping them better understand which parts of the system they might not be taking advantage of.

We developed a whole discipline around working closely with our existing customers. And that’s a natural thing that businesses should always be doing, but sometimes the lure of the shiny object keeps them away from that.

Q: Another significant change in recent years is that socially aware consumers now look to businesses and brands to do the right thing. So, can a company be successful and do good?

A: Absolutely, and it has been built into our DNA from the beginning. Early in the company’s history, my wife was president of the PTA and complained about the woeful financial systems they had to track their donations and expenses.

I thought, why don’t we try putting in NetSuite? And we did, and it worked out great, mainly because it was available anytime, anywhere back then, which was not the default. That made me think, wow, there must be a lot of organizations that are not for profit but still want to run their organizations efficiently.

They want higher ROI. It’s just that they are not necessarily dollars, euros, or pounds. They want the most mission impact for their money and their people. So that’s when we decided to have a social impact organization within NetSuite that gives away to other organizations that are doing good for the world.

Q: Oracle Corporation recently announced plans to bolster its NetSuite software by bringing AI to life with Text Enhance. What does embracing AI everywhere mean for the evolution of NetSuite?

A: Text Enhance is the first of many AI capabilities to surface throughout the NetSuite application. That’s what AI everywhere means. And it’s not a separate add-on to NetSuite. We’re not going to have the unintelligent version of NetSuite. There will be table stakes for these applications in the future; AI has so much promise for improving business operations.

Q: What tech trends excite you? 

People have had to accept poor user experience in their business applications for too long. That may have been okay when they weren’t using computers in other parts of their lives, so they just accepted that this is as good as it gets.

However, we now have a generation of tech-savvy digital natives who don’t accept it. They’re like: “No, there’s no reason why these applications shouldn’t be as good as the others I use in my life”. Alongside Oracle, we’ve been working hard to revolutionize the business experience.

On the AI front, what excites me is applying next-generation AI techniques with these powerful new computing capabilities to the numbers in your business and seeing what we can do to surface insights and help automate things. This could allow you to free up your people to do more of what will drive your business forward faster.


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Neil C. Hughes
Senior Technology Writer
Neil C. Hughes
Senior Technology Writer

Neil is a freelance tech journalist with 20 years of experience in IT. He’s the host of the popular Tech Talks Daily Podcast, picking up a LinkedIn Top Voice for his influential insights in tech. Apart from Techopedia, his work can be found on INC, TNW, TechHQ, and Cybernews. Neil's favorite things in life range from wandering the tech conference show floors from Arizona to Armenia to enjoying a 5-day digital detox at Glastonbury Festival and supporting Derby County.  He believes technology works best when it brings people together.