21 Insightful Quotes From Bill Gates

7 minute read

Bill Gates’ personal net worth — an estimated $80 billion — rivals the GDP of Ecuador and tops Croatia’s.

The Bill & Melinda Gates foundation, which he and his wife set up in 1997, gives away nearly $4 billion a year.

In 2013, The Financial Times wrote that “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 grew from startup nerd to software titan to history-shifting activist.

On the Journey So Far

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.

Rolling Stone, March 13, 2014

On Why Microsoft Succeeded

BBC, June 19, 2008

On Collaborating With Apple Early On

AllThingsD, May 31, 2007

On Microsoft’s Growth

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?’

AllThingsD, May 31, 2007

On Enjoying the Less-World-Changing Stuff

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.

Reddit, February 10, 2014

On Success

Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking they can’t lose.

The Road Ahead, 1995

On His Guilty Pleasure

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.

Reddit, Feb. 10, 2014

On the Role of Technology

Fine, go to those Bangalore Infosys centers, 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.

The Financial Times, Nov. 1, 2013

On Why He Wants to ‘Eradicate’ Diseases

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 Financial Times, Nov. 1, 2013

On the Role of Money

I’m certainly well taken care of in terms of food and clothes … Money has no utility to me beyond a certain point. Its utility is entirely in building an organization and getting the resources out to the poorest in the world.

The Telegraph U.K., Jan. 18, 2013

On His Life’s Work

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.

AllThingsD, May 31, 2007

On Government

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.

Rolling Stone, March 13, 2014

On Development Versus Venture Capital

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.

Rolling Stone, March 13, 2014

On the Value of Unhappy Customers

Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.

Forbes, March 4, 2014

On Competition

Microsoft has had clear competitors in the past. It’s a good thing we have museums to document that.

Infoworld, Oct. 1, 2004

On His Place in the Universe

It’s possible, you can never know, that the universe exists only for me. If so, it’s sure going well for me, I must admit.

TIME, Jan. 13, 1997

On Intellectual Property

Intellectual property has the shelf life of a banana.

Seattle Post Intelligencer, July 7, 2011

On Being in Business

Of my mental cycles, I devote maybe 10% to business thinking. Business isn’t that complicated. I wouldn’t want to put it on my business card.

Playboy, July 1994

On the Limits of Capitalism

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.

TED Talk, February 2009

On the Importance of Innovation

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.

Rolling Stone, March 13, 2014

This article originally appeared on Business Insider

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