As a child, Larry Ellison’s adoptive father repeatedly told him he was good for nothing, according to Fortune.
Today, Forbes estimates Ellison’s net worth at $54 billion, making him the third-richest person in the US.
Before he founded Oracle, the database software firm that made his fortune, Ellison grew up in a working-class Chicago family of Jewish immigrants.
“I was raised on the South Side of Chicago,” he said in an oral history for the Smithsonian Institution. “I remember Look Magazine called it the oldest and worst black ghetto in the United States.”
When Ellison was born in 1944, his mother was unmarried, according to a profile in Fortune. She gave him to relatives to raise, and Ellison never met his biological father.
He dropped out of college twice — first from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, then the University of Chicago — before moving to California and working odd jobs.
In his oral history, he recalled, “I never took a computer science class in my life. I got a job working as a programmer; I was largely self-taught. I just picked up a book and started programming.”
When Ellison landed a programming job at Ampex Corporation, one of his responsibilities at the company was building a database for the CIA, Business Insider’s Madeline Stone notes. In 1977, he and two coworkers left Ampex to start a database management company of their own.