Oracle tech festival opens with a buzz

Oracle’s massive five-day gathering of tech junkies and businesspeople began at the Moscone Center on Sunday with hundreds of presentations and a speech from the Peninsula’s $21.5 billion man.

CEO Larry Ellison, Woodside, who co-founded the company in 1977, was the opening night’s keynote speaker. Forbes named him the 11th richest person alive this year with an estimated net worth of $21.5 billion.

Ellison spoke Sunday night about his Silicon Valley startup that began with a $48,000 deal with the CIA. Eventually, a partner began paying his bills after the bank started foreclosing on his house. But that was only the start of his uncharacteristic beginnings.

“As programmers, of course, we would always stay up late and order pizza,” said Ellison, who found out one night that his pizza deliveryman was studying accounting at UC Berkeley. Coincidentally, his startup needed an accountant. “So of course we made him the chief financial officer.”

Oracle OpenWorld 2007 is so large, in fact, that it took up more than all three halls of the center and shuts downHoward Street between Third and Fourth streets from Thursday night until this Saturday morning. A tent was set up on that roadway, along with another one at Yerba Buena Gardens to complete a mini-downtownlike setting for the expected 45,000 attendees.

The conference draws well-known companies from across the globe, including Sun Microsystems, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Intel, Geek Squad, Canon, Best Buy, Subaru, Blue Cross, GE and plenty of small companies.

Until the Sunday night event with Ellison and President/CFO Safra Catz, the opening day started 1,400 of the week’s talk “sessions” featuring new products and services, which make up the majority of each day’s happenings.

The real fun should start today when demonstrations and exhibitions begin, event organizers said. More than 500 exhibitors from Oracle and its partners will show off their new products across more than 300,000 square feet of space.

The center turned into a giant Wi-Fi-enabled coffeehouse during the event. Participants such as Alec Stinson were lounging on giant beanbag chairs and using their laptops all day long.

“[OpenWorld] is just the place you go for this sort of thing,” said Stinson, who flew in from Ohio with his company.

Stinson, his business partners and others filled five hotels around the center. All the hotel and local business patronage is expected to pump around $80 million into The City’s economy.

San Francisco has hosted the event since its first small gathering in 1982, according to a greeting by Mayor Gavin Newsom. The corporation billed its event as an opportunity to “explore the latest innovations in applications, technologies and solutions.”

mrosenberg@examiner.com

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