Tag Archives: Forbes

Jew of the Week: Larry Ellison

A Mega Philanthropist 

Larry Ellison

Larry Ellison

Lawrence Joseph Ellison (b. 1944) was born in New York and raised in Chicago by his aunt and uncle, who were his adoptive parents. Ellison studied computer programming at the University of Illinois but dropped out following the death of his adoptive mother. He moved to California shortly after, and bounced from one job to the next for eight years before settling at the Ampex Corporation. There, he worked on a project (code-named “Oracle”) to create database software for the CIA. A few years later, he put in $1200 of his own money (and $800 from two partners) to start a new company, Software Development Laboratories. By 1982, IBM started using their program and the company (now renamed Oracle Systems Corporation) was making millions. At the end of the first decade of the new millennium, Ellison was ranked as the highest-paid executive of any company, earning nearly $2 billion. Between 1997 and 2002, he was on the board of directors of Apple. In 2010, Ellison had Oracle acquire Sun Microsystems, another tech giant, for $7.4 billion. The following year, Forbes ranked Ellison the 5th richest person in the world. Aside from business, Ellison is a cup-winning yacht sailor, and a licensed pilot who owns two fighter planes. He has vast real estate holdings, and owns 98% of Lanai, the sixth largest island in Hawaii. Most importantly, Ellison is a huge philanthropist. By 2004, it was estimated that he had donated over $150 million. Since then, he has donated many millions more, including $10 million to the IDF, whom he described as “some of the bravest people in the world”. Most recently, Ellison donated a whopping $200 million to create a new cancer research centre at the University of Southern California. He has pledged to give as much as 95% of his wealth. Interestingly, he has also spent hundreds of millions on anti-aging research, saying that “death makes me very angry”.

Words of the Week

To become old is a grave sin.
– Rabbi Nachman of Breslov

Jew of the Week: Jan Koum

WhatsApp

Jan Koum, creator of WhatsApp

Jan Koum, creator of WhatsApp

Jan Koum (b. 1976) was born in Kiev, Ukraine. When he was 16 years old he moved to California with his mother, having experienced enough anti-Semitism and political turnovers. (His father intended to join them eventually, but passed away several years later before he could do so.) The two survived on food stamps and a subsidized two-bedroom apartment. Koum swept floors at a supermarket to make ends meet. At 18, he started learning programming by himself from a set of used books before enrolling at San Jose University. Soon, he got a job working with computers at Ernst & Young, one of the world’s Big Four auditing companies. By 21, Koum had dropped out of school and was hired by Yahoo to work in its infrastructure engineering. After nine years with the company, Koum quit to do some travelling with fellow employee Brian Acton. Upon returning from their trip, the two applied to work for Facebook, but were turned down. Instead, Koum started thinking about a new iPhone messaging app, inspired by how difficult and expensive it was for him to keep in touch with family in Russia and Ukraine (as well as memories of how his parents avoided using a phone in the Soviet Union for fear of being listened to). The following month, he incorporated WhatsApp Inc. Brian Acton later worked together with Koum to make his vision a reality, together with friend Alex Fishman. WhatsApp became hugely popular very quickly, and became the world’s most popular messaging app. In 2014, Koum’s friend Mark Zuckerberg bought out WhatsApp for $19 billion. This thrust Koum onto Forbes list of the world’s richest people. With his net worth now close to $9 billion, he is among the Top 10 richest US immigrants. Meanwhile, WhatsApp expanded to offer voice calls and document-sharing, became completely free (with no advertising), and now has over 1 billion users worldwide. Yesterday, they launched a new form of encryption, making WhatsApp among the most secure forms of communication available to the public. Koum continues to work on WhatsApp, and on the board of Facebook, and has donated hundreds of millions of dollars to charity. He is also a founding member of San Francisco’s JFE – Jews for Entrepreneurship – an organization that provides opportunities for young Jewish entrepreneurs in the high tech sector.

Words of the Week

From religion comes a man’s purpose; from science, his power to achieve it. Sometimes people ask if religion and science are not opposed to one another. They are: in the sense that the thumb and fingers of my hand are opposed to one another. It is an opposition by means of which anything can be grasped.
Sir William Bragg, Nobel Prize-winning physicist