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Summer of '99

The Difference Between God and Larry Ellison: *God Doesn't Think He's Larry Ellison

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The first time I read Mike Wilson's book, The Difference Between God and Larry Ellison: *God Doesn't Think He's Larry Ellison, during the summer of 1999, technology IPOs and dot.coms were at their peak, not to mention Greenspan's irrational exuberance. I read through half the book one night, then placed a bookmark at the spot where the founders of Oracle - Larry Ellison, Bob Miner, and Bruce Scott - were moving into their first Oracle office, and Ellison and Scott were dashing a hole in the wall to get the wires through.

We had three editorial meetings scheduled the next day at SYS-CON. Our first meeting was with a newly formed company called PointBase. Our guests arrived on time and we exchanged business cards. When I looked at the names on the business cards, I realized the first one read Bruce Scott, founder and CEO, PointBase. Bruce and I both looked at the book lying on my desk. I said Bruce Scott, as in the cofounder of Oracle? He smiled and said yes. We talked about the broken wall a little bit before we continued with our meeting. :-)

I had the privilege of meeting with and hosting some of the makers and shakers of the software industry that summer. Java was hot and JDJ was right in the middle of the action. CNBC was "on" 24 hours in our office; more than half of the SYS-CON team was busy day trading. We watched Wall Street legend Harvey Houtkin, the chairman and chief executive officer of a day trading firm, on CNBC for several weeks after nine of his employees were tragically killed in Atlanta.

During the summer of '99, JDJ was in its fourth year of publication. I recall receiving a phone call from the youngest contributing writer of our first issue; he told me that he was taking his Web site public and asked if we wanted to partner with him. As much as I tried, I couldn't take his call seriously but we saw him on CNBC soon after. His then publicly traded Web site was worth as much as $600 million in the summer of '99.

Another memorable meeting that summer was with SilverStream Software. Back then we were in a small, not-easy-to-find Irish town - Pearl River, New York. Our meeting took place not even one week after their very successful IPO. We met with the founder of the company, David Skok. My first enthusiastic question to him was "How was the road show, David?" I recall him saying "the road show was very exciting but exhausting at the same time. We did presentations in Zurich, London, New York, and San Francisco on the same day." (I think he said "the same day.")

I don't know why but the summer of '99 reminds me a lot of the Summer of '42, my favorite movie during my teenage years. All I know is that the next summer would be nothing like the summer of '99 and it hasn't really gotten much better since then.

On a Friday morning, April 14, 2000, I ran into our next-door neighbor, Jack Martin, at the coffee shop under SYS-CON's offices. "How is the IPO coming along?" I asked. Jack answered "The party is over. That's it. Done. Ce fini." I didn't realize that Wall Street would experience its biggest one-day fall in history, ending a week in which U.S. markets lost $2 trillion in value - the equivalent to Germany's entire economy. Worst hit was NASDAQ, the stock exchange favored by high-tech companies such as Microsoft. Bill Gates saw his personal fortune drop $30 billion in a few hours...and Amazon.com and other famous e-commerce companies started laying off staff.

So"where are they now?"

Well, I stayed in touch with Bruce Scott, and consider him a friend. I don't know what happened to our youngest contributing writer; I hope he kept all or at least some of his money.

I became good friends with my neighbor Jack Martin and a good neighbor of Wall Street legend Harvey Houtkin.

I was wondering where David Skok was until we read about his $10 million funding of JBoss last month and found him. :-) I'm sure you'll enjoy Jeremy Geelan's exclusive interview with David in the pages of this issue.

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More Stories By Fuat Kircaali

Fuat Kircaali is the founder and chairman of SYS-CON Media, Cloud Expo, Inc. and Ulitzer, Inc.

Kircaali came to the United States from Zurich University, Switzerland in 1984 while studying for his PhD, to design computer systems for SH-2G submarine hunter helicopters for the U.S. Navy. He later worked at IBM's IS&CG Headquarters as a market research analyst under Mike Armstrong's leadership, an IBM executive who later ran IBM Europe and AT&T; and Fuat was the Director of Information Systems for UWCC, reporting to CEO Steve Silk (later Hebrew National CEO), one of the top marketing geniuses of the past two decades.

Kircaali founded SYS-CON Media in 1994, a privately held tech media company with sales exceeding $100 million. SYS-CON Media was listed twice by Inc 500 and Deloitte and Touche as one of the fastest-growing companies in North America. Kircaali launched Ulitzer, Inc., a revolutionary "new media" start-up in mid 2009.

Fuat completed Bogazici University Business Administration program in 1982 with a Bachelor's Degree. He was one of 50 students accepted to the program out of over 1 million high school graduates that year.

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