Bill Gates isn’t budging from his longstanding position as the richest person on earth. With a net worth of $87.4 billion, Gates is $20 billion richer than the next-wealthiest person — Spanish fashion titan Amancio Ortega — according to Wealth-X data from our new ranking of the 50 richest people in the world.
Gates made his billions building juggernaut software maker Microsoft, but his main venture these days is giving it all away through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which he and his wife set up in 2000 as a vehicle for managing their charitable causes, like eradicating infectious diseases and hunger.
The Financial Times wrote that “through the stroke of pen on cheque book, Gates probably now has the power to affect the lives and well-being of a larger number of his fellow humans than any other private individual in history.”
How did the world’s wealthiest man get to where he is today? Gathered from 20 years of interviews, these quotes show how Gates went from computer geek to software titan to history-shifting activist all while building a multi-billion dollar fortune.
Original reporting by Drake Baer and Steven Benna.
'It's pretty amazing to go from a world where computers were unheard of and very complex to where they're a tool of everyday life. That was the dream that I wanted to make come true, and in a large part it's unfolded as I'd expected. You can argue about advertising business models or which networking protocol would catch on or which screen sizes would be used for which things. There are less robots now than I would have guessed.'
'Most of our competitors were one-product wonders ... They would do their one product, but never get their engineering sorted out.
'They did not think about software in this broad way. They did not think about tools or efficiency. They would therefore do one product, but would not renew it to get it to the next generation.'
'We had really bet our future on the Macintosh being successful, and then, hopefully, graphics interfaces in general being successful, but first and foremost, the thing that would popularise that being the Macintosh.
'So we were working together. The schedules were uncertain. The quality was uncertain. The price. When Steve first came up, it was going to be a lot cheaper computer than it ended up being, but that was fine.'
'Steve and I were very different. But we were both good at picking people. We were both hyperenergetic and worked superhard. We were close partners in doing the original Mac software, and that was an amazing thing, because we had more people working on it than Apple did. But we were very naive. Steve promised us this was going to be this $499 machine, and next thing we knew, it was $1,999. Anyway, the Mac project was an incredible experience.'
'The world rarely sees someone who has had the profound impact Steve has had, the effects of which will be felt for many generations to come. For those of us lucky enough to get to work with him, it's been an insanely great honor. I will miss Steve immensely.'
You know, even when we wrote down at Microsoft in 1975, 'a computer on every desk and in every home,' we didn't realize, oh, we'll have to be a big company. Every time, I thought, 'Oh, God, can we double in size?'
'Playing Bridge is a pretty old-fashioned thing in a way that I really like. ... I do the dishes every night — other people volunteer, but I like the way I do it.'
'Owning a plane is a guilty pleasure. Warren Buffett called his the Indefensible. I do get to a lot of places for Foundation work I wouldn't be able to go to without it.'
'Fine, go to those Bangalore Infosys centres, but just for the hell of it go three miles aside and go look at the guy living with no toilet, no running water ... The world is not flat and PCs are not, in the hierarchy of human needs, in the first five rungs.'
'It's an elusive concept. There's a certain sharpness, an ability to absorb new facts. To walk into a situation, have something explained to you and immediately say, 'Well, what about this?' To ask an insightful question. To absorb it in real time. A capacity to remember. To relate to domains that may not seem connected at first. A certain creativity that allows people to be effective.'
'Eradications are special. ... Zero is a magic number. You either do what it takes to get to zero and you're glad you did it; or you get close, give up and it goes back to where it was before, in which case you wasted all that credibility, activity, money that could have been applied to other things.'
'The most important work I got a chance to be involved in, no matter what I do, is the personal computer. You know, that's what I grew up, in my teens, my 20s, my 30s, you know, I even knew not to get married until later because I was so obsessed with it. That's my life's work.'
'You have to have a certain realism that government is a pretty blunt instrument and without the constant attention of highly qualified people with the right metrics, it will fall into not doing things very well.'
'You know, development sometimes is viewed as a project in which you give people things and nothing much happens, which is perfectly valid, but if you just focus on that, then you'd also have to say that venture capital is pretty stupid, too. Its hit rate is pathetic. But occasionally, you get successes, you fund a Google or something, and suddenly venture capital is vaunted as the most amazing field of all time. Our hit rate in development is better than theirs, but we should strive to make it better.'
'The market does not drive the scientists, the communicators, the thinkers, the government to do the right things. And only by paying attention to these things, and having brilliant people who care and draw other people in, can we make as much progress as we need to.'
'Our modern lifestyle is not a political creation. Before 1700, everybody was poor as hell. Life was short and brutish. It wasn't because we didn't have good politicians; we had some really good politicians. But then we started inventing -- electricity, steam engines, microprocessors, understanding genetics and medicine and things like that. Yes, stability and education are important -- I'm not taking anything away from that -- but innovation is the real driver of progress.'
'If I think something's a waste of time or inappropriate I don't wait to point it out. I say it right away. It's real time. So you might hear me say 'That's the dumbest idea I have ever heard' many times during a meeting.'