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NetSuite was founded as a cloud-based enterprise company way back in 1998. But Zach Nelson (pictured left), chief executive of the company, has plenty of advice for startups in the enterprise market, where social, mobile, and cloud technologies are all colliding.

NetSuite provides a suite of accounting, customer relationship management and other business software for running an enterprise via a cloud. One of the keys to its business is having a core transaction — the order — that it can build its business around, in terms of software and services that handle every step of the process. He spoke on stage with VentureBeat’s founder Matt Marshall (pictured right) at the DEMO Spring 2012 conference in Santa Clara, Calif.

“Social, mobile, and cloud are table stakes now,” Nelson said. “If you have just one of them, you’re not going to be very successful.”

NetSuite was born on the cloud but has been adding mobile and social features around what happens when someone places an order. Nelson believes the phone will continue to be a primary element in handling transactions.


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He added, “In the enterprise, it’s not how it works, but the work that it does in the enterprise.”

Nelson said Facebook wanted Instagram desperately because the key to the transaction is the photo in the social networking space. In business, he said Box is well positioned because it has solved how to collaborate with documents, where the documents are the heart of the transaction in the enterprise.

Nelson said, “The transaction at the center of the business process is defining big winners.” Box is built for corporate apps with proper attention paid to privacy and security requirements. If you own a particular core transaction, you will be one of the winners in enterprise business, Nelson said. Later on, you can easily add more features around the software that handles the core transaction.

“We focus on the order at NetSuite,” he said. “Order management is at the heart of our transactions.”

He thinks that Workday will be the winner in the human resources space, where the core of the transaction is the employee record. Things like payroll, human resources, and other processes all have to link to or integrate with the employee record.

Nelson said companies outside of technology are now figuring out they have to become cloud companies. Those companies are using NetSuite’s technology to adapt to cloud transactions. Understanding business processes in a variety of industries is important for startups that want to move into the enterprise, he said.

[Photo credit: Heather Kelly]

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