Oracle discusses its Emerging Business Partner Programme

Oracle discusses its Emerging Business Partner Programme

Oracle is both forthcoming, and vague about how firms can benefit from its support for startups

Six months on, Oracle has given details on the progress of its Emerging Business Partner Programme, which it launched this June.

The programme was launched to help entrepreneurs and early stage technology companies develop innovative ideas and to gain access to new markets. To qualify for the programme, a business needs to generate £2m turnover or create 30 per cent growth per annum, according to Oracle's criteria.

During the discussion at Oracle’s headquarters, Chris Baker, UK technology senior vice president, explained why the programme puts so much focus on firms’ marketing agendas. “We are all about commercialisation,” he said. Particular innovative areas at the moment are the “the real usage of data” and the application of Web 2.0 concepts to a workplace, he added.

Baker said that Oracle would give innovative companies sales support if their products are complimentary to Oracle’s, and that this will mean soup to nuts support, “The relationship goes all the way down to the sales teams and becomes completely sustainable,” he explained.

Oracle will also give businesses product advice, Baker said. “If they are moderately successful, they always have a blip at some point where they will have the chance to change their technology,” he added.

Oracle gives prospective firms a two month interview process before they are admitted to the partner programme. Oliver Chadwick, chief executive of CreditIQ, a new partner of Oracle’s, gave details of the process. “The hurdles were there and I needed to show that I can use a knife and fork, talk in public, produce a decent presentation, get the message across and convince people,” Chadwick said.

When it came to discussing the reasons for the UK’s relative lack of innovation, the UK’s tax structure and cultural issues were highlighted by Baker. “You still have this issue here where if someone fails they are blackened, but in the US if you haven’t failed twice you’re probably not qualified to do what you’re doing,” Baker said. “We are still a comparatively conservative race,” Baker added, although he believes this is starting to change with internationalisation.

Another hindrance to innovation is a lack of funding, according to Baker, “If we look at the EU compared to Japan and the US, and the percentage of GDP that is put into research and development, the EU is still miles behind Japan and the US,” Baker said.

Sam Bose, chief executive and co-founder of Oracle partner Zogix, a procurement firm, said the lack of a support network in the UK meant added challenges for entrepreneurs. “In Silicon Valley, you have the godfathers to give advice,” Bose said. Bose mentioned other hurdles for start-ups are getting the right people with the right kind of attitude, and learning how to handle change.

But despite these insights into the programme, many other questions were left unanswered. For example, when it came to discussing the finite details of how a company qualified for Oracle’s support, Baker said there are no clear boundaries in who can qualify. “You can put an awful lot of science around it but the truth is that it is mostly art,” Baker added.

“We don’t have fixed criteria because we don’t actually know what we don’t know, so we look at the people, the commitment and the sort of things they are trying to achieve,” he added. Although Baker was confident that the people need to be “differentiated, have a real passion for what they are doing, understand where they are going and what they can get from us.”

Also vague was Baker’s description of how Oracle meets innovative companies, which he said was “a bit of a daisy chain” because it often involves working with third parties to gain connections.

When asked how many companies Oracle was supporting, Baker said “I don’t know the number and I don’t care,” but he did indicate a desire to keep the programme small. “What I don’t want it to become is something that’s so big that it can’t give any help,” Baker added.

Oracle was no clearer on indicators it uses to review a firm’s situation and assess whether a firm still needs the giant’s help. “Transactions happen naturally,” said Baker. But “we try not to make it so they go past the threshold and fall off,” he added.