Billionaire of the Week
Larry Ellison, Co-Founder of Oracle
Lessons from studying Larry Ellison and Oracle:
1) Break the rules:
- Larry Ellison was a huge rule-breaker.
- Bruce Scott (Oracle co-founder) said that Larry Ellison once told him: "Bruce, we can't be successful unless we lie to customers."
- "Win by almost any means necessary. Winning leads to more winning." – Larry Ellison
- "Larry Ellison was not interested in following the rules at school, in the family, or anywhere else." – Mike Wilson, a Larry Ellison biographer.
2) Delusional self-confidence:
- A coworker from Larry Ellison’s first job said that Larry would often talk about how smart he [Larry] was, how dumb everyone else was, and how he [Larry] should be running everything.
- At Oracle, he once told his team to shoot for 100% market share.
3) Hard work:
- Larry was a very hard worker. He dropped out of college, taught himself how to code, and got a job as a computer programmer.
- "I had all the disadvantages necessary for success." – Larry Ellison. Disadvantages provide the fuel for hard work. Larry was adopted (similar to Steve Jobs and Paul Le Roux), which could be a major factor in his ambition and desire to prove himself. He grew up in the South Side of Chicago, which he said makes you want to move somewhere better.
4) Look at every statue in your city, you'll find no statues of committees:
- One former executive at Oracle said the only person making decisions was Larry.
- One former executive jokingly said that he thinks Larry's succession plan for Oracle is to find a way for him [Larry] to run Oracle from his [Larry's] grave after he's dead.
5) Great artists steal:
- Larry stole the name "Oracle" from a project he was working on at his job at Ampex. The project was for the CIA and was codenamed "Oracle". (A different source says this might not be true and Ellison came up with the name Oracle himself.)
- Larry got the idea for Oracle's product from an obscure IBM research paper on relational databases (information put into a database in a way that makes it easy to search and find key information). IBM didn't understand how revolutionary the idea was, but Larry did: "I thought we could beat IBM to market because IBM didn't believe in their own idea."
6) Get attention:
- One former Oracle executive said that Larry is a provocateur.
- Oracle makes sure its branding is prominent and sponsors big events.
- Larry made an appearance in Iron Man 2 and was referred to as "the oracle of Oracle".
7) Recognize patterns:
- Larry identified tech as a big trend early on.
- He identified startups as a vehicle for success.
- He acquired many other businesses when the market was right.
8) Business strategy:
- Aggressive sales.
- Selling (and getting revenue for) products that are 3 years from release.
- Ellison admitted to hiring private detectives to dig up dirt on Bill Gates (because Gates was his biggest rival in the tech executive space & Ellison wanted to be #1).
- Oracle did a hostile takeover of PeopleSoft (Oracle got sued by US gov but Oracle won).
- In 5 years he spent $34 billion acquiring 52 companies.
- Hire people that you respect and enjoy working with every day.
9) Read history, biography, and philosophy:
- There will be hard times even after you're successful: Oracle V6 was a buggy failure. The stock price fell and Oracle almost went bankrupt.
- Ellison read about Thomas Edison, Napoleon, Ayn Rand's philosophy of Objectivism, Sam Walton, John von Neumann, and others.
10) Don't take the traditional path:
- Larry dropped out of college, bought a car, and moved to California to start a career as a coder.
11) Personal life:
- Larry is bad at relationships – he's had 4 marriages (similar to Elon Musk, who's had 3 marriages).
- He was mediocre in school.
- He was always ambitious and curious.
- He races yachts and won the America's Cup in 2010 and 2013.