A business synonymous with computers, Microsoft was created by the renowned Bill Gates in 1975. The man behind the household name is one of the wealthiest people in the world according to Forbes, second only to Amazon founder Jeff Bezos who just recently surpassed Gates. Gates proved that all you need to make your dreams a reality is passion, hard work and, perhaps, a shabby garage. Microsoft was born from humble beginnings in Gates’ garage in his home in Albuquerque, New Mexico with good friend Paul Allen. There was little physical space, unsophisticated instruments, technology and few resources, but they made it work. Little did Gates know what they would accomplish together.
So how did he do it? Let’s start at the beginning. Born in 1955, Gates was raised by parents who encouraged competition. Growing up Gates was known to be curious, intelligent and, of course, obsessed with all things technology. He surrounded himself with books so much that his parents banned them from the dinner table. He learned how to hack when he was merely 13 and in school spent hours on the computer teaching himself how to code. This is where he met and bonded with Allen over their interest in IT. Allen became instrumental in the conception and development of their lucrative software. In school Gates got banned from using the computer as he was caught hacking, and he even admitted to using the school scheduling software to put him in classes with more girls. You have to admire his efforts!
First he created a traffic-based startup which failed, but served as practice for his future endeavours. He attended Harvard University but soon dropped out to work on a startup idea he had, which we know today to be Microsoft. Later in life he returned to Harvard and finally obtained his degree. During his time in college he wrote a computer language for the Altair computer company, which he then sold and used the money from it to start Microsoft. His inside knowledge and experience of testing software and the commercialisation of IT was vital to his success in the early days. Gates and Allen received help in the form of a collaboration with IBM (International Business Machines Corporation). Gates even resold a language to them that he originally bought from someone else and retained the copyright.
Of course, every company has to start somewhere, and Microsoft was no different. With little investment capital and sheer determination Gates worked endless 16 hour days for over 5 years to make the software a success. He claims that he personally checked each line of code that was inputted. His hard work paid off when Steve Jobs asked him to design software for Apple. When Gates made his Microsoft announcement, he had not yet finished the product. Allen left the company when he sadly fell ill, leaving Gates solely at the helm of the lucrative ship. Gates quickly became the youngest ever billionaire. It is not often with company founders stay at the forefront of the business throughout the years, but Gates has stayed during every stage.
Later he started his third startup, Corbis, a company that specialises in digital imaging. For almost two decades he was the richest man on the planet and has been on the Forbes list of richest people since 1986. The Seattle man has been the epitome of the software industry for the last 30 years and his reign shows no signs of stopping. Microsoft was an extremely frugal company. Gates put all of their profits back into the business, and created an endless cycle of internal upgrades and steady releases of new products. It is well known that it was not until the 1990s that the Microsoft team stopped flying coach. The only lavish purchases Gates made was out of necessity. Gates bought a private jet in 1997 when security issues were created as a result of his fame. The company was also one of the first not to give its profits to shareholders but to put it back into the company, in the belief that it would provide higher investments. They paid their first dividend in 2003.
Microsoft has well-known shortcomings and flaws, but it is still the most widely used software. Why is this? Its market leadership is a spectacle to be seen. Gates introduced the world to the first personal computer. He has a monopoly in this area of the market and created an empire. The company was his life, giving him success and financial security, and also love. He met his wife Melinda there, who was working as an executive. In 2000 he made the decision to step down as CEO, giving the position to a good friend. Gates always kept his friends by his side and brought them up with him, and even found love at Microsoft. His staff viewed him as approachable, and loved that he wanted to hear their ideas. Was this the key ingredient to his success?
In 2014 he left the position of chairman, and today owns less than 1% of its shares. Nowadays he is a philanthropist who has started the Bill and Melinda Foundation, one of the biggest non-profits organisations in the world. Gates is committed to donating his hard earned money to those in need, and fights to end world poverty. He also donates to schools, especially the history departments. He stated that he wants to donate half of his wealth over his lifetime. His main piece of advice for those wanting to find success in IT is to read programs created by others, and learn from their work as he did.