Software company Oracle kicked off a five day IT conference in San Francisco with keynotes from several executives, including co-founder and CEO Larry Ellison, who reminisced on the company's humble beginnings.

As the database maker approaches its 30-year anniversary, Ellison walked attendees down memory lane Sunday evening, recounting the firm's steps and missteps through its three-decade history, including financial difficulties.

We were trying to get a loan, so they said send in your financial statements, Ellison explained. Though he later admitted no one in the company understood balance sheets, it quickly found a solution in a local pizza delivery boy who was studying accounting at U.C. Berkeley.

He said he wouldn't quit college, but he'd help us do our books, the executive recalled to nearly 42,000 registered attendees. We said take whatever you need [for pay], we'd never know.

Then known as Software Development Laboratories, the company had just $2,000 pooled by its four founders: Ed Oates, Bruce Scott, Bob Miner, as well as the current chief Ellison. It now has over 70,000 employees and $18 billion in annual sales.

The evening, dubbed Sunday Night Live, precedes a nearly weeklong showcase of Oracle partners and customers, including keynotes from Intel, Dell and HP executives. The night also included live sketches depicting Oracle behind the scenes, as well as a description of its philanthropic efforts from the President and CFO Safra Catz.

Though Open World is a celebration for the company and its partners, investors may not have much to celebrate after last week's stock sell-off. On Friday Oracle was down nearly 5% to 19.36 following an even more dismal performance Thursday, when the shares had tumbled nearly 8%.

The company felt pressure from the sub-prime housing meltdown that shook the financial sector in recent weeks as some analysts speculated the ripple may affect Oracle, which provides software to many Wall Street firms.

We estimate that some 2.2% to 5.6% of [Oracle's] overall revenues are discretionary purchases by North American financial-services firms, analyst Charles Di Bona of Sanford Bernstein said to clients. If 30% of those discretionary purchases are eliminated, we estimate [Oracle] would lose $200 million to $300 million of revenues through the balance of [fiscal 2008]

Redwood Shores, Calif.-based Oracle will hold an analyst meeting on November 14 where further details are likely to be extracted.

For now, festivities span Nov. 11 to Nov 15, and highlight the company's successes and innovations. How-to sessions for using Oracle products, vendor showcases, and a concert featuring Billy Joel, Lenny Kravitz, and others will also convene.

City officials estimate the event will inject $80 million into San Francisco's local economy as giant tents temporarily annex the roads to the city's convection center.