#33/111: 1,000 Dollars & an Idea

What is it about?

Sam Wyly talks about his journey from a young boy in Lake Providence to a billionaire in Texas. Most of the book is dedicated to University Computing his first company which sold processing time to companies.

Key points?

Quality of the journey: Success isn’t how much money you made, it’s how happy you were. Sam Wyly dropped his job at IBM for starting his own company because he was restless. He gave up his security for uncertainty and debt but he was happy.

Hire complementary people: Although, he made his fortune in software, Wyly wasn’t really into programming but he knew how to sell. Sterling Software, a company founded after selling University Computers for $3.3bn, consisted of over 30 acquired software companies. These companies weren’t really merged into one big company. Rather they existed as own sub companies. Only financial planning, accounting, etc. was centralized.

Be in motion: A problem of IBM and other giants is that the are mostly rigid. This allows small companies/startups to penetrate new markets faster and often these giants are too slow to anticipate change in existing markets. Don’t become a rigid, stay agile.

Size doesn’t matter: The first big acquisition of Sterling Software was Informatics which was valued at $200m. Sterling Software, at this time, valued only about $30m but Wyly wanted to acquire Informatics. Sterling Software acquired Informatics because they raised about $180m in cash from issuing junk bonds. Sometimes size doesn’t matter.


It’s a refreshing book, especially because lots of people think that every successful software company started in California (Microsoft didn’t either, by the way). For readers without a small finance background it is maybe a bit confusing because Wyly talks a lot about financial instruments. All in all, a neat biography about a not so well-known billionaire.