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Q&A: Oracle’s Jason Williamson Tells Startups To Be Patient And Updates His 2020 Predictions

Jason Williamson, vice president of Oracle for Startups and Oracle for Research, aims to unlock the tech giant’s community to startups and vendors.

In his role, Williamson wants to work with inventors and builders doing something new and wants them to do it on Oracle’s platform.

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“If you are rolling out of the dorm, there is a place. If you are a Series A or B, there is a place,” he told Crunchbase News. “Startups are the ones pushing people to do things, and our enterprise customers want to tap into that.”

Speaking of enterprise customers, Williamson does admit that there is a bit of an unfair advantage–Oracle has 430,000 enterprise customers and is a leader in the cloud space. For startups to get access to both them and that knowledge “is like getting a golden ticket,” he said.

Williamson recently spoke to Crunchbase News about startups, and if his predictions made in January have become reality.

Where did your interest in startups begin?

Williamson: People are wired that way. They look at problems and think, ‘Is that the best way to do that thing?’ For me, my first real job was at Capital One, but then I moved to North Carolina to be employee No. 10 at a startup. I was in the process of building a house, and I am a tech guy, and thought, ‘We can do this better,’ so we started a company [the construction industry’s first CRM SaaS offering]. It is in their veins. People who do startups have a different view of risk and high tolerance for pain.

As you’ve worked with startups on their journey to scaling, what is one mistake you often see being made?

Williamson: One that I made all the time, and it is thinking being a fast mover is the thing: ‘If I don’t do it someone else will do it.’ A lack of patience means you release the product early or take funding, but the terms were awful. You have to have patience with a bias for action.

What are some trends that have emerged in the startup space in the past few years?

Williamson: For us, one is that valuations have been wacky, and we think there is a trend in those coming back to reality. There is still money on the sidelines, but deal flow is hard. VCs are looking at things as hard as ever. Startups are also able to do more with less dollars, and that is why our offerings are so compelling–our program gives a 70 percent discount for two years.

During the lifecycle of startups, entrepreneurs are bound to run up against funding inequities. What do you see happening here, and is there a solution?

Williamson: There is an interesting paradox. There is a focused community on people of color, in fact, I sit on the board of an HBCU college in Durham, North Carolina. Most of my leadership team is female. We have to be intentional about doing our part. We are all seeing the results of what we planted a few years ago. It is a fight worth fighting, and if we want change, we have to be intentional, look at the winds, be in it for the long haul and be patient. We have to invest in the candidates and the technology if we want people to be leaders who will be executives in 20 years. We can’t magically create them.

As we have reported, 2020 is the year of the SPAC. What do you think has led to a shift in exit strategies?

Williamson: It’s really related to funding. There is a ton of cash on the sidelines, and VCs are active, but are pushing cash into current portfolio companies right now instead of new ones. It is such a complicated space and super hard to predict. There are huge winners coming out of the SPAC phenomenon.

At the beginning of the year, you made five predictions for startups. Now that we are in the last months of the year, did any become reality?

Williamson: The first one was more convergence with corporates. They are getting more involved with startups and education on playing well with corporations. The second was agtech–we are going to see more of that. We had a startup emerge, AgroScout out of Israel, that has been fantastic. In Ghana, we are seeing cool agtech there, too. Feeding people for a low cost is not going away. The third was talking about the year of the female founder: the conversation there has gone way up.

Photo of Jason Williamson courtesy of Oracle
Blogroll illustration: Dom Guzman

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