Entrepreneur's Hall of Fame: Bill Gates
Born 1955, Bill Gates is the Chairman and CEO of Microsoft Corporation, the world's largest computer software company. Microsoft was co-founded with Paul Allen in 1975 and has become the standard for PC operating systems and software for personal and business use. Microsoft controls over 80% of PC operating systems, the programs that control the way a computer works.
Bill as an entrepreneur has reached the status of wealthiest individual in the world. Some sources believe that Mr. Gates is striving to become the world's first trillionaire! Bill Gates is one of the rare entrepreneurs with the skills to take a company from start-up to corporate giant.
"The past twenty years have been an incredible adventure for me. It started on a day when, as a college sophomore, I stood in Harvard Square with my friend Paul Allen and pored over the description of a kit computer in Popular Electronics magazine."
Entrepreneurship at an early age
Born the son of a lawyer (father) and teacher (mother), William Henry Gates was a middle child in a well-to-do family in Seattle, Washington. He was always a highly motivated child. By some accounts, he was the equivalent of today's "nerd" playing with computers while other kids played with each other. His interest in the computer started with an early tele-type machine through a time-share program. Gates learned BASIC (programming language) and earned the right to use the machine as a trade-off for maintaining the equipment. He met Paul Allen a 10th grade electronics buff to learn more about the hardware and programming. While Gates was a "techie", he possessed the very unusual gift of insight and most importantly vision for what the hardware would require to provide "utility" to the masses.
After several years of learning and thinking he graduated the private Lakeside School and then went on to Harvard. He dropped out of Harvard to pursue his passion to create the "operating software" for computer hardware companies. In 1972 with Paul Allen they created Traf-O-Data, a company that sold a computer to analyze traffic data. Their eyes then came upon a microcomputer called the Altair offered by MITS Computer and began to provide programming languages. At one point as the consummate entrepreneur, he attempted to sell software to a company that he didn't even own!! in order to get the business. From the Altair, Gates saw the personal computer as the future.
Key thoughts for entrepreneurs
Microsoft operating systems of DOS and MS-DOS reside in more than 80% of the hundreds of millions of PC's in use today. The company is involved in over 200 products spanning not only computer related products and services but also education, entertainment, news (MSNBC) and much more.
In 1975, revenues were $16,000 with 3 employees. In 1976, revenues were $22,000 with 7 employees. Both years posted losses. Many companies would have quit after 2 years.
Bill Gates is one of the "rare" entrepreneurs with incredible vision and the ability to grow a business to astounding levels. In the mid-70's Bill believed that in time every desk would have a computer as a tool.
If you look at the person as an individual you will realize the type of driver he is. He is consumed by the notion of returns and making money. Gates hires the best and brightest and rewards employees well. The company has made thousands of millionaires. He tries to keep his hands in as many vital aspects of the business as possible yet provides the work groups the latitude to work and create.
Microsoft has experienced some tremendous backlash on many fronts including bugs from the release of products, missing product release dates and more. But companies built to last with motivated individuals learn from mistakes and use the feedback to build better products. Such organizations even learn how to accept, generate and use feedback!!! Microsoft has taken collaboration within work-groups to new levels from experience and a willingness to adapt to changing environments. Managing a company through at times a 600% growth rate is an incredible accomplishment.
Microsoft and Bill Gates have many friends and foes but the power and magnitude of the computer industry and the ways most of us live our lives are forever altered by this man's achievements. The spawning of thousands of other companies around Microsoft as well as entire industries have changed the way we do business and live our lives.
Books about and written by Bill Gates:
Business at the Speed of Thought : Succeeding in the Digital Economy by Bill Gates
Bill Gates Speaks : Insight from the World's Greatest Entrepreneur by Janet C. Lowe
Business Masterminds: Bill Gates by Robert Heller