When asked if he were going to play in the Oracle NetSuite Open Squash Championships in September, NetSuite co-founder and EVP Evan Goldberg laughed. The Open, which he helped establish in 2008, attracts top athletes from around the world to dazzling all-glass courts in Justin Herman Plaza to compete for Pro Tour prize money. This fall marked the 10th anniversary of the annual San Francisco competition that offers equal winnings for both the men’s and women’s divisions while raising money for the nonprofit SquashDrive, a Bay Area after-school youth development program. Goldberg also leads the Oracle NetSuite Social Impact program that helps nonprofits around the globe. The philanthropist and entrepreneur shared his thoughts on social good, empathy and what drew him to squash.
What was the genesis of the social impact component of NetSuite’s model? We originally built NetSuite for businesses. It was a for-profit endeavor that targeted startup, fast-growing for-profit companies. My local PTA was doing their finances, running two different copies of QuickBooks, going back and forth to each, and having a hard time finding the most recent copy. It made sense to try using NetSuite there. And once we got it up and running and the volunteers were happy with it, we realized it could be a solution for many social impact organizations to help them be as efficient as possible, to have the best visibility, and to have controls in place that ensure consistency as they grow.
What would you say to up-and-coming innovators about keeping social good as a core company value? Everybody in an organization wants a sense of purpose. Part of that is going to be the organization’s vision, and our role at Oracle NetSuite Social Impact is to achieve our vision by helping other organizations achieve their vision, and that is a really important part of delivering a sense of purpose to your employees. But that’s not even enough. People want to see how an organization helps the world, not just in the service it provides, but in how it impacts the community. I would invite tech entrepreneurs to build that sense of purpose into the fabric of their company on day one.
You’ve been vocal about empathy. Please explain. Empathy, which can only be achieved by listening, is the No. 1 predictor of success. We often go on field trips so employees can visit organizations using NetSuite to see it in action: both the good things and the bad things users experience. A lot of time, sales people focus on the decision-maker to the exclusion of other people. Within the organization, you are actually selling to a lot of other people. Sometimes you’ll hear, ‘Wow! If we just had this, we could accomplish so much more.’ Listening for those kinds of points, and not just the problems, is critical for a strategy.
You also founded the after-school Squash on Track program. Why squash? I became a fanatic when the Bay Club opened in Redwood Shores and some friends invited me to try. Within five minutes, I thought, ‘Yes!
I am going to be playing this for the rest of my life.’ Kids benefit from the skills and the fitness you get. But the program is not so much about creating the next great squash player, [but rather] about giving these kids a coach, which they may not have access to, and mentoring from older kids.