A small tech company launched in Albuquerque, New Mexico might
never have become Microsoft, the global giant, if not for a
question Warren Buffett posed to Bill Gates in the early 1990s.
In a January conversation
between the billionaire philanthropists to celebrate
their 25 years of friendship, moderator Charlie Rose asked
the pair what surprised each of them the most about one another.
Gates eagerly fielded the question.
“One of the first questions he asked me was, hey, Microsoft is a
small company, IBM is this huge company, why can you do better?
Why can’t they beat you at the software game that you’re
playing?” Gates told the audience at Columbia University.
That was in the early 1990s, several years before Microsoft would
hit its peak as the largest company on the planet. (Adjusted for
inflation, the company’s 1999 valuation of
$837 billion eclipses Apple’s current market value by about
Throughout those early years, Gates and his co-founder,
Paul Allen, had spent much of their time thinking only about how
to make the software as good as can be. No one, Gates or Allen
included, had really thought to focus on gaining a competitive
edge in the market.
Quickly, Gates started incorporating the idea into his thought
process. “I always — every day I was thinking about, okay, what
advantage do we have, what do we do?” he said.
Throughout most of the 1990s, Microsoft gained its edge over
competitors through easy-to-use interfaces in home computers,
notably with its Windows operating system. It began tapping into
a non-technical customer base that other companies largely
ignored. And by 1995, Gates had alerted its employees to the
“Internet Tidal Wave,” as his internal memo dubbed it,
setting the company on course to dominate how people surfed the
Web for years to come.
He and Buffett, a businessman 25 years Gates’ senior, also began
talking more about the ways finance related to the technology
industry Gates was building with Microsoft.
“I didn’t understand banking, why some get ahead and some don’t,”
he said. “And so I found somebody whose model was rich enough
that it helped me understand things that I really wanted to know
and we could laugh about things that were a surprise to us.”
Even today, Gates said, the relationship he shares with Buffett
is one built on curiosity — though oftentimes it’s Gates doing
“I’d say his humility and his sense of humor really stood
out in this incredible way,” Gates said. “I mean, he enjoys what
he does and he shares that with other people. And even when I ask
questions that are pretty naive, that he’s probably been asked 50
times, he’s very nice about it.”
via Tech Insider http://ift.tt/2lmn1Nx