SAN FRANCISCO—Don’t tell New York City’s tech scene, but sometimes it's good to be in California, the real center of the country's technology industry. Like when you can have dinner at Oracle founder Larry Ellison's, as I did on Tuesday night—his San Francisco house, which overlooks the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz from the top of Pacific Heights. (Not to be confused with his Woodside house, a 40-acre, $70 million, feudal Japanese-styled estate.) The Oracle founder wasn’t actually there, but he gave the space over to NetSuite, a business management software company he co-founded, which had drawn 2,000 people to their user conference that day.
Over Champagne and Sauvignon Blanc—no red wine, for fear of staining the incredibly expensive furniture—NetSuite executives and San Francisco bureau hands from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Fortune, and Businessweek talked about the many benefits of Bay Area living while the sun set over the bridge and the lights came up across the city.
At one point, NetSuite CEO Zach Nelson turned to co-founder and CTO Evan Goldberg and asked, "Why do you think California keeps winning?" Goldberg could only attribute California’s ongoing success to its self-perpetuating mythical status—which, as anyone who’s been here knows, is no myth at all.
"It’s never stopped here," Nelson, who became NetSuite CEO in 2002, told me. "It's just kept on growing since the beginning. I used to be afraid that one day we were going to become Detroit. That didn't happen."
The menu, served for 40 or 50 people: Foie Gras PB&J, Fluke Crudo, Marinated Bay Scallops, Tuna Tartare, Hamachi Poppers, Dungeness Crab Tartlet, Caviar on Smoked Sturgeon, American Wagyu Tartare, Spring Vegetables Jardinière, Braised Lamb Socca, Lobster Tortellini, Spring Vegetable Risotto, Braised Beef Short Ribs, Peking Duck, Poached Pineapple, White Chocolate and Jasmine Brown Sugar Wafers, Milk Chocolate Lozenges, “Spring Blossom,” Passion Fruit Panna Cotta and White Chocolate Crisps—all provided by San Francisco celebrity chef Michael Mina.
The art: "surrealist postmodern," according to an impromptu tour guide (all guests were told explicitly not to take photographs). Apparently Ellison had wanted to put in Renaissance paintings but was convinced it wouldn’t fit with the modern design. Inquiring about the history of the house, I was told Ellison drove by one day, knocked on the door, and asked, "How much?"