News that Oracle is buying NetSuite, a cloud ERP vendor, took me back to my final days as a working journalist, when I went on the Best Junket Ever – a trip to SuiteWorld, the annual NetSuite event for customers, add-on partners, analysts and media. It was my first visit to Silicon Valley and I had a blast.
It was the third SuiteWorld they’d held and it had been moved to San Jose because it had grown to 5000 attendees. Apparently the company was a little embarrassed about making the media stay in San Jose so they put us up in San Francisco in a posh hotel for two nights before the conference. Someone said that Hilary Clinton had stayed at the same hotel the previous week and I will always wonder – did we sleep in the same bed?
On the first day of the conference, minutes before the doors opened for CEO Zach Nelson’s keynote, the PR in charge of the Australian and New Zealand journos gathered her flock and pushed us ahead of the queue. As the doors opened she urged me to run with her to the front of the room so we could get the chairs with tables and power sockets. It felt like an enormous achievement charging my laptop that day, I can tell you.
You could sum up Nelson’s keynote address in one word – swaggering bravado. OK, that’s two. He trash-talked the opposition (SAP) and he bragged about all the money NetSuite had in the bank ($190m). Fortunately I had cloud commentator Ben Kepes sitting next to me, who kindly explained what was going on – you can read the article I wrote (which includes a helpful interpretation from Ben) here.
The next day CTO Evan Goldberg opened his keynote with a short movie in which he starred as Batman. The production values were slick. After his cinematic intro Goldberg took to the stage and acted in a variety of skits illustrating what it’s like to be a retailer using NetSuite. This struck me as an odd thing for a CTO to do, but everyone around me seemed to find it hugely entertaining.
At some stage during the conference the PR took us up to the highest floor in the hotel for an audience with Zach Nelson in a room that may or may not have been rented for group media interviews. He sat in the middle of a circle of sofas and talked a lot about a guy called Larry and burning tons of cash. I wrote about the meeting here.
There are some who consider junkets a shameful breach of journalist ethics, others who say as long as you declare that your flights, hotels, and margaritas are paid for by the vendor then you are good to go. From my perspective at the time – I was a NZ journalist whose specialist subject was telco regulation – it was a fascinating insight into the US tech scene that I never would have got from just reading TechCrunch.