Before it was Bill’s turn to take the stage, they had “Bill Gates Trivia” with some of the children of the Microsoft employees who were invited to the event. They asked many questions that I had no idea what the answers were. One thing I didn’t know, was that Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard as a junior, in order to start Microsoft.
Once Bill was introduced, he spent a few minutes talking about Microsoft as a company, and about the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. He then took questions from the employees in the audience. The questions took him all over the place. He bounced flawlessly from questions about Microsoft, to questions about the Foundation, to questions about the economy, to questions about competition in the business world, and about the diseases the Foundation is trying to eradicate. He was very passionate about every area he covered. His passion seemed very genuine. He didn’t seem like he was just trying to say the right thing. Someone in his position often comes across as arrogant; he didn’t.
I appreciated his sense of humor. When talking about some of the ways they are working towards eradicating malaria across the world, Bill said “Mosquitoes are pretty easy to kill. They don’t have any skin.” I couldn’t help but crack up at that! He talked about one thing they are trying to do is along the lines of an invisible fence. Mosquitoes apparently can’t fly higher than 12 ft. high. Imagine an invisible fence that goes 12 ft high surrounding your yard. The “fence” could detect the exact frequency of the beat of a mosquito’s wings, determining it from other insects. The “fence” would then zap only the mosquitoes, allowing potentially helpful insects to live. Here in MN, we could certainly use something like this too, though the ramifications wouldn’t so much be saving lives (as it is in Africa and other parts of the world), as something of a convenience. Of course, developing this kind of technology isn’t cheap.
He talked about how when he started Microsoft, he had good financial advice from a sister who was an accountant, and legal advice from his father who was a lawyer. He had a pretty sizable loan to start the company. That loan was never used, and is still in the bank. Bill Gates’ goal was to always have enough in the bank to pay his entire payroll for a year if all their clients went belly up. To this day, Microsoft has enough money to pay the entire payroll of Microsoft for a year if they suddenly lost all their business (to the tune of $20 billion). This despite all the money also being given for research to eradicate diseases such as polio, measles, and malaria. How many other business owners could take some lessons from Bill Gates and Microsoft?
Since that day, I’ve been learning a bit more about Bill Gates. The more I read about, or hear him speak (thanks to Youtube, TED Talks, etc.), the more impressed I am with him. Here’s a TED Talk by Bill Gates on Teacher Feedback. He’s quickly moving up my list of heroes! Here’s a little reality check from Bill Gates as well: 11 Rules You Will Never Learn in School. If you’d like to see what else Bill Gates is up to, you can check out his web site that has his blog, reading list, etc. at thegatesnotes.com.