Updated: Oct 4
It is impossible to talk about business success stories in modern history without mentioning Bill Gates, who stands out in an A-list group of the world’s mega-rich and powerful. As a first time billionaire in 1987, with a networth of $1.2 billion, it took him seven years to reach the top of the billionaire’s charts. In 1995, he was proclaimed the richest man in the world for the first time with a networth of $12.9 billion. Today, he is 4th on Forbes’ Billionaires list, with a networth of $132.3 billion.
Through his visionary and innovative approach to business and life, he launched to the pinnacle of industries as the co-founder of iconic organizations, which continue to dominate the present and design the future: Microsoft Corp. and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Born on October 28, 1955, Gates began his adventure with technology and business from an early age. At 13, he wrote his first code, and at 16, he and his friend Paul Allen, who together went on to co-found Microsoft, developed a program called Traf-O-Data. They made almost $20,000 with the program by measuring traffic inflow and outflow, working with the local Governments in Seattle.
This early success in developing and providing solutions to real life problems inspired Gates and Allen to start their company at the time, but Gates’ parents, who wanted him to be a lawyer, had other plans. They wanted him to go to college.
Gates’ ability to sniff out opportunities and work out a solution using his technical skills played a crucial role in his path to becoming a successful businessman. In 1974 whilst at Havard (he admitted to only being there in body and not in mind), he and Allen spotted an opportunity to maximize the potential and value of the world’s first microcomputer—Altair 8800.
The gamble paid off. He finally dropped out of college and Microsoft was born in 1975. Before long (1983), 30% of the world’s computers ran on Microsoft’s operating system called MS-DOS after a deal with IBM. Everything went up and up thereafter.
Despite his incredible successes, Gates’ business life has not been without challenges and even failures. For example, his and Allen’s first product, Traf-O-Data, failed because it was “a flawed business model,” Paul Allen said via Newsweek. “It hadn’t occurred to us to do any market research, and we had no idea how hard it would be to get capital commitments from municipalities. Between 1974 and 1980, Traf-O-Data totaled net losses of $3,494. We closed shop shortly thereafter." Also, in attempting to replicate his success with Microsoft and Windows by creating a market-leading search engine in Bing, Google “kicked our butts”, he said at the 2004 World Economic Forum.
In 2020, Gates made the decision to “step down from both of the public boards on which I serve – Microsoft and Berkshire Hathaway – to dedicate more time to philanthropic priorities including global health and development, education, and my increasing engagement in tackling climate change.”
From the man who is changing the world through technology and philanthropy, here are 3 life and entrepreneurship tips:
Go to science: According to Gates, "the more you can learn the science, the more you will see where the opportunity is.”
Money is a tool: On the subject of money, being one of the richest men in the world, Gates said, “money has no utility to me beyond a certain point. Its utility is entirely in building an organization and getting the resources out to the poorest in the world.”
Do something you enjoy to clear your mind: When asked during an online Q&A on Reddit, Gates said, “I do the dishes every night - other people volunteer but I like the way I do it.”