The Oracle of Oracle - PCC - ebook

Admired as a visionary leader and brilliant business mind, feared as a ruthless and formidable competitor, and loathed as an egomaniac with an explosive temper, Oracle founder and CEO Larry Ellison has emerged as one of the most controversial figures in a sea of brilliant, eccentric Silicon Valley luminaries. But for such a high-profile character, Ellison maintains an enigmatic air, and his superachieving, multimillion-dollar company remains a rarely studied entity. Now, The Oracle of Oracle goes behind the scenes to uncover the breakthrough ideas and winning strategies that have propelled Oracle's phenomenal growth and breathtaking success. The book walks readers through Oracle's fascinating history since its relational database hit the market in 1977, identifying and explaining strategies such as: * Forge ahead and fix weaknesses--lessons from the early 90s when Oracle derailed, but was nursed back to health. * Grow the Oracle way--by making new products, not acquiring new companies. * Crush the competition--it's not enough to succeed; all others must fail. * Sales today make markets tomorrow--tap into the sales force to develop products, promote a vision, beat competitors. The Oracle of Oracle is an intriguing, illuminating read for entrepreneurs who wonder what it takes to build a world-class company from scratch...for managers and executives who want to integrate Oracle's philosophies and culture into their own...and for business readers who relish an up-close report from the battle zones of the software industry.

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Chapter 1The Oracle Story

Three Founders

Key Thoughts

"I have always had difficulty with conventional wisdom. Teachers would say certain things--and I wouldn't necessarily believe what they had to say. Just because they said it, and they were experts, and they were in authority did not automatically mean they were right."

Larry Ellison

With that kind of approach to education, it comes as no surprise that Larry Ellison (born August 17, 1944) didn't exactly excel at school. In fact, Ellison dropped out of school twice--after two years at the University of Illinois and after one semester at the University of Chicago. Thus, with his academic career at an end, Ellison decided to move to California and seek work as a computer programmer in 1966.

Within a year of arriving in California, Ellison was married (to Adda Quinn, a student at Berkeley) and had started doing computer-related work for a number of different companies. He worked for Amdahl Corp. before moving on to Ampex Corp. , an audio and studio equipment company. While at Ampex, Ellison worked with the two people who would become co-founders of Oracle, Edward Oates and Robert Miner.

Edward Oates was a career programmer who had operated IBM mainframes for the U. S. Army before joining Ampex. Robert Miner was the manager of Ampex's programming department. At Ampex, Miner, Oates and Ellison worked together on a project sponsored by the CIA that involved developing software so companies could store and retrieve large amounts of information. The CIA's name for this project was "Oracle"--an ancient Greek term referring to someone with great knowledge and wisdom.

When the CIA decided to cease work on the project, Oates and Ellison decided to move on to other jobs. Ellison was appointed a vice-president at Precision Instrument Company just when the company decided to outsource its software development work. Ellison contacted Miner and Oates to see whether they wanted to form a new company with Precision Instruments as their first client. Both men agreed to the idea, and they incorporated Software Development Laboratories in 1977. Ellison put in $1,200, Miner $400 and Oates contributed $400 to capitalize the new company, which also received an advance of $50,000 from Precision Instruments.

Ellison took on the role of salesman for the new company, while Oates and Miner concentrated on doing the programming that was required. This suited Ellison just fine.

Key Thoughts

"Larry was the prime mover behind this whole thing. He had more chutzpah than the two of us combined."

Edward Oates

Build the gene for success

Ellison's personal life also showed signs of unrest. By 1977, he had already divorced his first wife, remarried (in 1976) and decided to divorce his second wife (Nancy Wheeler). Since his second marriage was in California, Wheeler was entitled to half of Ellison's assets. She settled for $500, since Software Development Laboratories had yet to show any success.

Around this same time, Ellison came across a report published by IBM's Research Laboratory describing a relational database system that would allow customers to store and then retrieve data using just a few simple questions. IBM didn't seem to grasp the commercial value of what it was suggesting, but Ellison most certainly did. To reflect that new focus, the name of the company was changed from Software Development Laboratories to Relational Software Inc. in 1978. Miner, Oates and a new employee were put to work developing a minicomputer version of a relational database software package. Ellison contributed by visiting potential customers to tell them about the new product under development. When the package was semi-finished, they decided to name it "Oracle"--after the CIA product that had originated back in their Ampex days. Interestingly, one of the first clients for the Oracle relational database software was the federal government and the CIA.

Key Thoughts