Ellison's helping hand to hi-tech start-ups

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The Independent Online

Larry Ellison, the flamboyant head of software company Oracle, who was last week challenging Bill Gates as the World's Richest Man, is to give would-be billionaires a leg up.

The 55-year-old, who is worth around $49bn, plans to launch an initiative to give dot com entrepreneurs a full range of Oracle products and services in return for a small equity stake.

Oracle will act as a "business angel", dealing with companies that have no ,or little, funding. The plan could just bring the sort of riches and lifestyle the software tycoon has come to enjoy. While the clean-living Mr Gates prefers to give chunks of his fortune to charity, Ellison spends his wedge on boys' toys. His prized possessions include a fighter jet and a giant motor yacht.

The new Oracle initiative complements a $500m venture fund, set up earlier this year to invest in dot com companies searching for second round funding.

Alan Laing, a senior Oracle executive who will manage the venture, said: "We will offer the full breadth of Oracle services: software, implementation and consultancy. The companies can either pay or give us equity."

Asked how many stakes Oracle could build up, Mr Laing said: "It is unquantifiable. It's limitless."

The company had planned a simple software for equity deal, but Mr Laing said a decision was made last week to broaden this as "dot coms also need advice on how to take a product to a market".