Oraclе: How A Two-Time College Drop-out Build The Next Tech Giant
Larry Elison - the man, the myth, the legend.
Very few men in the tech world are respected and admired the way Larry is! The man built a company that offers products we've all used.
Just like Rome, Oracle wasn't built in a day. It took some time for Larry to perfect his management style and create one of the most influential companies in the tech world.
Larry was used to getting punches from life itself, considering his tough childhood - but he wasn't about to give up!
This is a story about a man who went to hell, got back, and took the world by storm, exceeding everyone's expectations and building the tech giant Oracle.
The Lonely Child
Larry (Lawrence Joseph Ellison) was born on August 17, 1944, in the Bronx, New York to a single Jewish mother. When he was 9 months old, he got sick with pneumonia, an event that caused his mother to realize that she was too young to take care of a child and decided to send little Larry to his aunt Lillian and uncle Louis.
Larry didn't know that he was adopted until he was 12 and his uncle told him the news over dinner. That moment changed Larry, even more so than the discouragement he received from his uncle Louis, a failed relationship that influenced his entire life.
The Rebellious Student
As a student, he had a bright future in front of him. He enrolled in South Shore High School in Chicago and after graduation, he attended the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign as a pre-med student. However, during his second year of college, his step-mother passed away, which shocked Larry to the core. Even though he was named as the science student of the year, he was deeply affected by his mother's death and dropped out of college completely.
After one particularly hot summer in California in 1966, he gave the idea of college another go, and applied to the University of Chicago to study mathematics and physics. Larry didn't even take exams before he dropped out of this college too - it was obvious that he was repulsed by the formal educational system. So, in 1966, after two failed attempts to become an academic citizen, he moved to Berkeley, California.
He rolled into California in his turquoise Thunderbird, a car equally extravagant as his character! There, he knew he had to make something of himself - and he did!
Building The Foundation Of Oracle
Upon his arrival in Berkeley, Larry had one goal on his mind - to become the best programmer in the world.
It was the early '70s and the choice of programming languages was quite limited, but Larry was determined and soon got a job to practice his craft.
His first working experience was at a company named Amdahl in 1973. There, he met Stuart Feigin, who would go on to become one of his closest friends. It wasn't long until Larry's coworkers at Amdahl noticed his restlessness and urge to solve problems. What bothered him the most was the fact he didn't work on anything revolutionary in this company.
Things changed when he landed a job at Ampex, a company that worked with the CIA at the time. They had a problem with storing sensitive information in one place and for Larry, solving that problem was the dream job.
The project was named Oracle.
Larry, The Visionary
Larry had a vision about this project, but he knew that he couldn't make great things at Ampex. However, while working there, he built a strong friendship with his supervisor Bob Miner, as they both wanted to start a company together. So, in 1977, they both resigned from Ampex and began to work on their dream - to launch a data-storing company. They got another skillful developer on their team, Ed Oates, and the trio was ready to shake the foundations of the tech world.
They founded Software Development Laboratories (SDL) on June 16, 1977, and the first investment came from their own pockets - a total of $2000, most of which came from Larry himself! They needed a product, something revolutionary, and after reading a research paper from IBM called "A Relational Model of Data for Large Shared Data Banks", they found it!
Larry was smitten: IBM's engineers were unable to see the potential in their idea, so he decided to take matters into his own hands. Soon, he invited the reluctant Stuart Feigin to join the team, but he wasn't too enthusiastic about the idea, saying Larry was known for leaving stuff unfinished.
Together with his friends, in a three-room apartment, Larry set the basics of Oracle. The developers worked on a database management system (DBMS) - a place for companies to store their client's data, financial reports, legal documents, and so on. Larry was in charge and looking for clients and when it came to the job, he was absolutely tenacious! No one was better than him in convincing companies that they need their software and sophisticated database system, so their company took off to a great start.
Becoming Larry Ellison, The Legend
Larry didn't make a name out of himself in the business world by being the kindest and humblest leader, as many of today's tech moguls present themselves. He was known in the industry as one of the toughest guys to go up against.
A lot of it had to do with Larry's trip to Japan in the early '70s and one conversation he had with a Japanese business executive. Larry had an epiphany during the talk - in Japan, anything less than a 100% share of the market is no good for business.
He accepted this policy and since then, he was known as the guy with the take-no-prisoners approach, later known as The Oracle Way.
Winning was the most important thing for Larry, regardless of the cost.
Everything he did was unconventional. Even the first version of the Oracle database was not a version 1.0, but version 2.0 - he believed people don't buy first versions because of the lack of effectiveness and functionality of the 'first-born.'
Can you take a wild guess of who was Oracle's first customer?
The CIA, of course - their long-standing problems with storing data were finally coming to an end. Larry's idea was to target big corporations and governmental agencies, as they had the largest chunks of data to work with.
Once they had the CIA, it was only a matter of time before Oracle became a huge deal!
The Oracle Way
In 1979, the company was renamed Relational Software Inc., and in 1983 it renamed again, this time to the Oracle Corporation, headquartered in Santa Clara, California.
The real growth had begun, and in 1983, Oracle got the first outside investment from Sequoia Capital, an investment strong enough to sweep the feet of the tech world. Their influence in the tech world exploded in 1986 when they went public and Larry's 39% in the company was now worth a whopping $93 million!
However, Larry's success was quickly overshadowed by Bill Gates' mega-success after Microsoft's public offering, worth $350 million! This was ground zero for what would turn out to be one of the most misunderstood rivalries of all times - Larry vs Bill. It was mostly one-sided and coming from Larry, as he used every moment he could to demolish Microsoft's brand image. In one interview, he even stated that he hated Microsoft and their PC, especially the way they infiltrated almost every home through their software.
The Downside Of Oracle
In 1989, Oracle's headquarters were moved to Redwood City, California.
But in the early '90s, Larry had bigger problems than his personal caprices - his company started to drown heavily. The company's senior managers made bad sales decisions and Larry had to lay off 10% of his workforce, a business mistake that cost him $790 million by November 1st, 1990!
It wasn't easy to recover from this hard hit, but by 1992, Oracle had managed to overcome its challenges and its engineers built the popular Oracle 7, a spotless software for that time.
The Oracle Way continued for most of the '90s, as Larry continued to 'trash-talk' the competitors. Even when he was losing, Larry somehow managed to benefit from the deal. In 1999, he invested $2 million in SalesForce, a company founded by a former Oracle employee, Marc Benioff. The moment Marc discovered that Oracle was working with competitors, he tried to convince Larry to leave the SalesForce's board. Larry, a one-of-a-kind tough guy, convinced Marc to fire him - leading Larry to keep all his shares in SalesForce!
Another thing happened in the late '90s - the dot-com boom. All those new companies needed databases to store information - guess who came to their rescue?
Even when things went south for everyone in the tech industry, Larry and his team in Oracle, somehow, managed to make the best of every deal, surviving the dotcom crash as well.
One of the most discussed aspects of Larry's story is his lifestyle. He followed his mantra - always be first - in every aspect of his life. Be it sponsoring a winning sailing team to buying an entire island, getting married four times, and owning luxurious houses on multiple locations - the guy did it all!
Nonetheless, he remained as one of the best Oracle ever had. Officially, he stepped down from the role of CEO in 2014.
Today, Oracle's worth $108 billion, which makes Larry the fifth richest man on Earth!
Despite the countless controversies, Larry is still on the face of determination and success - even if you fail at college, you can still create something bigger than yourself!