Oracle salespeople and Class Of graduates from left to right Jacob Gerson, Camille French, Dan Elfman, Jacob Gerson Business Insider/Julie Bort
On a beautiful day in the fall of 2015, Oracle executive chairman Larry Ellison and CEO Mark Hurd flew to Austin, Texas. They were doing one of Ellison's favorite things: shopping for real estate.
"We literally walked the river looking for property," Hurd told Business Insider.
They were looking for a spot to build a new state-of-the-art campus to house employees that were part of Hurd's "Class Of" program, once an object of controversy inside the company.
Hurd had launched this program in 2013 to hire thousands of college graduates straight from school to become salespeople and help sell Oracle's cloud. It was the year he revamped the company's legendary hard-hitting salesforce.
By the time Hurd and Ellison were in Austin, the College Of program was proving to be a success. And Ellison had agreed with Hurd that they wanted to keep expanding it.
In Austin, they saw a site with an apartment complex under construction plus some vacant property. It looked out over Lady Bird Lake and was close to downtown.
"We had a real estate agent with us, and I said him. 'How much does that cost?' And the guy looks at me and says, 'In dollars?'" Hurd tells us. He still rolls his eyes in disbelief that a salesperson could be so unprepared to reel in a deal while standing toe-to-toe with such big fish.
"I'm like, 'Yeah, in dollars. I’ve got a checkbook. I’m ready to buy,'" he recalls. "Here you’ve got Larry Ellison and Mark Hurd walking around. We’re qualified buyers." He shakes his head.
Flustered realtor or not, the two still loved the piece of land and promptly bought it for an undisclosed price. In December, Oracle announced plans to build a 560,000-square-foot campus there, including the apartment complex.
"Our idea is, many of these kids, when they get out of school, their biggest issue for them is cash flow. Can we give them a housing advantage? They can come to work, have an apartment there, this facility will have fitness facilities. There will be restaurants nearby. It's going to be great," Hurd lights up while talking about it.
(Oracle isn't the only one thinking that way. Facebook is also building luxury apartments in Menlo Park, California.)
A bumpy start
But back in 2013, when the Class Of program launched, a lot of people in Oracle's sales team were not happy about it.
"Not everybody thought this was the greatest idea. When we started there were some groups that said, 'I just don’t want to do it," Hurd admits.
Mark Hurd with recent college grad employees Oracle
But he was not going to be deterred.
The idea was inspired by a dinner he had with his daughter and her friends who had just graduated from college. They were working as salespeople at a startup and were rooming together in San Francisco.
"All they could talk about was that they partied and they sold. They would go to work, sell stuff, party, sleep some, sell stuff and party. This was life. They were so energized," he remembers.
He told Ellison about the dinner and the two of them wanted to bring back that startup feel to Oracle. He and Ellison decided, "Let’s go back to the future, the way it used to be," Hurd recalls.
Hurd had changed up the sales team that year in other ways. He hired thousands more people and altered territories and quotas. A lot of experienced sales people were unhappy and bailed from the company, they told us at the time .
Sales managers worried their territories would be flooded with these lower-paid, inexperienced people, making it harder for everyone to make their quotas. And they thought they'd have to babysit them.