Oracle CEO Larry Ellison addresses Israeli business leaders last week.On his first trip to Israel last week, Oracle CEO Larry Ellison praised the country’s technological success and resourceful manpower, while providing some sound advice to fledgling high tech companies.
“I was actually with the CEO [Gil Shweid] of an Israeli software company, Checkpoint, yesterday, and there are some pretty fabulous, extraordinary success stories… of software companies, of technology companies, here in Israel,” Ellison told Israeli business leaders and staff of Oracle Israel.
“What’s really different about Israel compared with other places we do business is the number of partners we have in the technology area,” Ellison said. “Israel has always had a wealth of intellectual talent.”
Ellison said that he launched Oracle, now the world’s second largest software companies and the leading supplier of software for information management, on his own, because no one believed in his vision. Today Ellison is ranked by Forbes as the 11th richest man in the world.
Addressing the conference of a thousand people organized by Oracle Israel and the Israeli financial magazine Globes, Ellison said that Israeli companies must constantly look beyond national borders to remain competitive in the era of globalization.
“Even though we are based in the US, we don’t think of ourselves as a US company,” said Ellison. “We have an R&D center here [Israel], and in Russia and India. I think of my company as a global one and that is what Israeli CEOs must do in order to compete.”
“I think, especially in Israel, where the competition for talent is so fierce and Israel is no longer a low cost supplier of labor… companies are going to have expand their research centers beyond the national borders and make use of the Internet to build truly global companies who are headquartered here in Israel but actually operate – both on the research side and obviously on the sales side – globally; and in Israel I think that is something you should think about even before we think about it in California.”
Ellison told the crowd he thinks Israel will continue to be a high tech powerhouse because of the country’s mentality of questioning conventional wisdom.
“Businessmen are successful when they question the norms that conventional wisdom espouses,” Ellison said. “That is where innovation comes from – finding errors in conventional wisdom. That is what my company is built upon and that is why I think Israel will continue to be innovative – people here are always questioning what they are told.”
“Only once or twice in your life do you have to discover a flaw in conventional wisdom to do something important – that is what we did and this is something that Israeli companies are also capable of accomplishing,” he later added.
Oracle has been operating in Israel since 1996, and acquired up a research and development facility in Petah Tikva in 2007, with its purchase of the Israeli start-up Demantra. The company currently employs about 200 people in its Israeli facilities. While this was Ellison’s first visit to Israel, the company’s president and CFO Safra Catz was born in the Tel Aviv suburb of Holon.
Referring to Israel’s rapid economic liberalization over the past decade, Ellison noted that “Economic funding in Israel changed to a much more entrepreneurial plan. Taxes have come down and regulations have simplified, then the entrepreneur can flourish and release his intellectual capital. Now that intellectual capital is turning into economic capital.”
While in Israel, Ellison also traveled to Sderot with Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni to see how it copes with frequent rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip. Visiting the local community center, Ellison was told that it needed $500,000 to be reinforced against rockets. He reportedly responded “You’ll have the money by tomorrow.”
Ellison told the business conference that the thing that excited him the most on his current visit was watching a video of three Israeli Airforce F-15 jets flying over the Auschwitz concentration camp – a flyover he said that will ensure that something like the Holocaust never happens again.
Democratic Congressman Tom Lantos, a Holocaust survivor, accompanied Ellison on his visit. During his visit, Ellison dined with President Shimon Peres, met with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, head of the Likud opposition and former prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Chief of General Staff Gabi Ashkenazi, and met with numerous business and high tech executives.