Oracle hosted its Founder2Founder event during Oracle OpenWorld 2017, which brought together founders from Oracle’s global startup program, founders from Oracle acquisitions, and from throughout the Valley, for an intimate gathering at Larry Ellison’s residence. More than 45 guests were raptly engaged as the original founder sat down for more than 90 minutes of conversation and stories.
Among the many topics was how years ago, while starting Oracle and struggling with financial statements, Ellison hired the pizza delivery guy on the spot because he was an accounting major at UC Berkley. “I was literally like, ‘You are an accounting major, can you make sense of this balance sheet?’ He could, and I said ‘Okay, you want a job?’ And hired him right there.”
“It was fascinating to hear someone move so quickly between the most complex technical topics, to the rawness of his own founding experience, to practical advice for startups today. I’m sure that none of the startup founders in attendance will forget it anytime soon,” said Derek Andersen, CEO of Startup Grind.
The conversations ranged from advice on how to scale your company to microbiological and molecular science to dangerous dinosaurs.
“I like learning and getting better at things,” said Ellison. “I love competing—and I love winning.” He went on to say making Oracle even more successful and proving any naysayers wrong is top of mind, joking that he thought about bidding on the giant Tyrannosaurus Rex fossil exhibit in the American Museum of Natural History and putting it in the Oracle lobby. “Yeah, a dinosaur. But a very dangerous dinosaur.”
“Forty years later, he is equally determined, focused and passionate—and it’s a great testimony to one of the greatest success stories ever in business,” said Reggie Bradford, Oracle senior vice president and global head of the startup ecosystem program. “The founders from our global startup program were elated and couldn’t stop talking about how Larry was so genuine, energetic, wise, and utterly entertaining.”
A few other gems from Larry include:
- You can’t do everything. I used to think I was good at everything. Turned out not to be true.
- Find people that are good at the things you’re not good at. Empower them.
- No one is going to work for you if they don’t think you have their interest at heart.
- Steve Jobs was crazed sometimes. It’s okay to be hard on people if they see all you want to do is win.
- Startup life is Darwinian—there are many ways to die.
- Some companies are great ideas, but the leader can’t hold onto the people. Some good ideas die and are born again in another mind or company.
- Scaling from 15 to 50 people was brutal. If you can get to 50 employees it’s much easier to get to 500.
- Looking at the data gets you better results. That’s why the machine is learning.
- Early products are more like projects.
- In the early days we thought the customer is not that smart, and we’re the smart ones. We were completely wrong.
- Life is the pursuit of happiness.
- I like learning and getting better at things. I love competing—I love winning the quarter, month, year.
- Oracle is a collection of projects.
“We see Larry in keynotes, but to experience him firsthand was amazing and eye-opening,” said Charlie Davies, cofounder of iGeolise, and a member of Oracle’s Bristol-based startup program. “He is so energetic and authentic—and clearly brilliant. That was an amazing evening. What a cap on an excellent Oracle OpenWorld experience.”
Michael Hickins is a director of strategic communications at Oracle.