Larry Ellison, The Amazing Success
Story of Oracle's Founder

larry ellison, the amazing success story of Oracle's Billionaire CEO
Photo by Oracle PR / CC BY

You may not have heard about Larry Ellison but you may certainly have heard about Oracle. This multi-billion software company was started by this billionaire. Ellison is currently the 5th richest person in the world with a net worth of $49 Billion. You may not know this, but the movie Iron Man was based on the life of this man. The next time you watch the Iron Man movies again, try and spot Oracle signs and building. You may also spot him doing a cameo appearance in Iron Man 2.

A Difficult Childhood

Born in the Bronx, Larry Ellison had a difficult childhood. His mother was only 19 years old and single, so she gave Larry to his uncle and aunt to raise. Moved to Chicago, Ellison grew up in a small two-bedroom apartment. He found out that he was adopted when he was 12 years old. Around this time, his adoptive father lost his business due to the Depression and started working as an auditor. Rebellious and independent-minded, Larry Ellison showed an aptitude for science. 

After dropping out of the University of Illinois, he transferred to the University of Chicago before dropping out a semester later. This constant changing of schools caused his adoptive father to believe that Larry would never learn anything with his life. Instead, Ellison began to learn about computer programming. After saving up enough money for gas, Ellison decided to move to Berkeley, California. He switched jobs frequently for eight years before working on a mainframe system with Amdahl Corporation. 

The Creation of Oracle 

By 1977, Ellison decided to create a company with his co-workers, Ed Oates and Robert Miner. They named their new business, Software Development Labs. After reading a paper about a Structured Query Language, Larry started working on a range of new projects.

His company was hired by the CIA to build Oracle. They completed the project one year early and used the remaining time to figure out commercial applications. This relational database management system (RDBMS) was named Oracle as well. By 1981, IBM chose to adopt Oracle and Oracle's sales doubled. For the next seven years, sales doubled annually. This success with Oracle led to Ellison renaming the business Oracle Company. 

Oracle Goes Public

In 1986, Oracle finally went public. The initial public offering served to raise $31.5 million. By 1990, the company reported its first losses due to years of overstated revenue. This caused the market capitalization to drop by 80 percent and pushed Oracle to the edge of bankruptcy. To keep the company solvent, Ellison fired top level employees and brought in more experienced managers. Larry Ellison used this change as an opportunity to step back from management and focus more on product development. Oracle 7 was released in 1992 and the company's fortunes started to improve. 

Throughout the 1990s, a range of financial institutions, retail businesses and automobile companies turned to Oracle for database programs. Due to this, Ellison was encouraged to find business applications for Oracle online. As ecommerce sites grew, net profits increased. In one quarter in 2000, the profits jumped by 76 percent. This caused Larry Ellison to surpass Bill Gates as the world's richest man at that time.

Starting in 2004, Ellison worked to increase Oracle's market share by acquiring a range of other companies. After purchasing Sun Microsystems in 2009, Oracle became the biggest software company in the world. Larry Ellison has served as the president of Oracle from 1978 to 1996 and brief time periods as the Chairman of the Board. Since the early beginnings of Oracle, Ellison has been the company's only CEO.

Lessons from the life of Larry Ellison

  • He was adopted and his real parents was not with him in his childhood. Yet he was able to rise above this difficulty and became successful.
  • When your business is facing bankruptcy and difficulties, be willing to keep within your budget.
  • Find good and talented employees and talents to help your struggling business.
  • To grow fast, a business should acquire companies that will benefit them.

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"If I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants." Isaac Newton

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