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Larry Ellison
Larry Ellison
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Larry Ellison Interview (page: 3 / 5)

Founder & CEO, Oracle Corporation

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  Larry Ellison

You seem to thrive on a certain kind of balance between work and play.

Larry Ellison: I think there are two things that are important in life, and that's self-discovery, and your relationship with others. I spend my entire life in those two areas. What is play? What is work? Is work something you get paid for and play something you don't? I put a lot of work into my flying, and a lot of work into my sailing. I used to play tournament chess, I put a lot of work into that. They were all forms of exploration. I put a lot of work into my job, where I get paid. They're all in pursuit of the same thing: self-discovery, the discovery of my own limits.

Larry Ellison Interview Photo
The best thing about my life is the people I get to meet these days. If there's any advantage to celebrity, it's getting to meet absolutely wonderful and fascinating people. Walter Cronkite and I went out sailing on Sayonara. We went from being casual acquaintances, to doing business, to being friends. He's an extraordinary man, he's lived an extraordinary life. I could sit for hours just listening to him and his wife tell stories.

Michael Milken is actually singled out as the symbol of evil and greed in the 1980s, but he's one of the most humane and gifted men I've ever met. Michael has raised more money for cancer research than any other human being on earth. He's been dedicated to education for 20 years, but because of someone's political advantage, they decided to put him in jail for crimes that no one else has done time for before or since. It's not terribly fashionable to be a supporter of Michael Milken, but I'm honored to have him as my friend. I think he has made incredible contributions to humankind already, with a lot more coming up.

There's a long list of wonderful people that I've met, and wonderful relationships that have enriched my life. There's the balance between self-exploration and building relationships with others. Those are the important things in life. Winston Churchill said, "You don't make a living by what you get, you make a living by what you give."

If we live intelligently, we devise a strategy to pursue happiness intelligently. There should be a guide book to the intelligent pursuit of happiness. There isn't such a book, but there should be. More than anything else, that's what all of us need: a guide to how to pursue happiness intelligently. Jefferson guaranteed our right to do it, but he didn't give us a map.

I think we should think of altruism -- giving -- as a strategy for happiness. Forget the morality of it all. "It's the right thing to do." Instead, think of it as something totally in your self-interest. If you can help others, you will feel great. The more you can help, the more intelligently you can help, the bigger lever you can get on the world to make it better, the better you will feel about yourself. The more joy you will experience. That is the road to bliss. That is the intelligent pursuit of happiness. That is what we should do. That is my argument for giving, not simply that it's the right and moral thing to do. It happens to also be that, but I don't find that as persuasive as that it is the road to happiness.

[ Key to Success ] Vision

What are you like as an employer?

Larry Ellison: The corporation's primary goal is to defeat the competition in the marketplace. My primary function is to make Oracle successful, to make it a good and interesting place to work, because we don't want people to leave.

This is America, people can change jobs, and people like to work with other intelligent and interesting people. They like to do interesting things. We have fantastic salary scales; I think we're the highest paying company in Silicon Valley. We have wonderful benefits, all of these things, but again, don't mistake any of that for altruism. That is in our interest, to retain our employees. Their job, my job, is to build better products than the competition, sell those products in the marketplace, and eventually supplant Microsoft and move from being number two to number one. That is our reason for being.

[ Key to Success ] Vision

Oracle is the number one software company in the world for providing technology to manage information. But we're only the number two software company overall. Microsoft is the number one software company. But right now we're living at the dawn of the information age, not the dawn of the PC age. So we're wonderfully positioned to pass Microsoft and become number one. That's my job. The personal computer was designed as a stand-alone device. There was no Internet around in 1981 when the PC was invented. There weren't a lot of local area networks in schools and government agencies back in 1981, but the world has changed.

There are networks everywhere: around the world, in offices, in schools, in major government institutions. So why not have computer networks that are similar to television networks or telephone networks? A television network is enormously complicated. It has got satellites and relay stations and cable head-ins and recording studios. You have this huge, professionally managed network, accessed by a very low-cost and simple appliance, the television. Anyone can learn how to use a television. Ninety-seven percent of American households have televisions. Ninety-four percent of American households have telephones. The telephone: again, a very simple appliance attached to an enormously complex, professionally-managed network. Why shouldn't the computer network be just the same?

[ Key to Success ] Vision

How did you become involved with relational database programming?

Larry Ellison: Relational database technology was invented by a guy by the name of Ted Codd at IBM. It's based on relational algebra and relational calculus. It is a very mathematically rigorous form of data management that we can prove mathematically to be functionally complete. This work was done in the early seventies by an IBM fellow by the name of Ted Codd. He published his papers, and really, based on those publications, Oracle decided to see if we (we were four guys) couldn't beat IBM to market with this technology, based on the published IBM research papers. And in fact we did.

[ Key to Success ] Preparation

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