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Bill Gates Memorized Employees’ License Plates to Track Them at Work

Co-founder of Microsoft Bill Gates during a visit to the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine in Liverpool, England, on Jan. 25.
Dave Thompson-Getty Images Co-founder of Microsoft Bill Gates during a visit to the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine in Liverpool, England, on Jan. 25.

"Eventually I had to loosen up"

Bill Gates used to have the license plates of his employees’ cars memorized so he could track when they arrived and left work.

The Microsoft cofounder revealed some of his former business tactics in a wide-ranging interview on BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs program. “I knew everyone’s license plate, so I could look out in the parking lot and see when did people come in, when were they leaving. Eventually I had to loosen up, as the company got to a reasonable size,” he said.

Gates, who is the richest person in the world with a net worth of $87.4 billion, said he worked weekends and “didn’t really believe in vacations” during his early years leading Microsoft. He admitted he was “a little more intense than most people at the time but “no more intense than Steve Jobs,” who cofounded Apple.

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Gates also told the BBC that he and Paul Allen, who later became a co-founder of Microsoft, rigged their high school’s scheduling software so Gates would be the only boy in all-girl classes. “It wasn’t that I could talk to them or anything—but they were there,” he said. “I think I was particularly inept at talking to girls.”

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