tv The David Rubenstein Show Peer to Peer Conversations Bloomberg December 26, 2016 9:30am-10:01am EST
david: so, what did your family think? did they say that there's something wrong with this young man who wants to do computers? >> it was considered a little strange. david: have you thought how much better your life would be if you got your harvard degree? what about steve jobs in those days? what was your relationship with him? bill: we were both there at the very beginning. david: you are the wealthiest men in the world -- is that more of a burden? would you fiction or tied, please? david: people wouldn't recognize
me if my tie was fixed. let's leave it this way. all right. ♪ consider myself a journalist. nobody else would consider me a journalist. i began to take on the life of an interviewer even though i have a day job of running a private equity firm. how do you define leadership? what is it that makes somebody take? ick? of the great technology companies in the world and one of the great companies in the world and now you are operating one of the great foundations of the world. how do you compare the challenge of building microsoft and running the bill and melinda gates foundation? bill: they have more common than people might expect. an innovation might be and you stick to it and you build a team behind that. you have setbacks and successes of change.ory
my microsoft work was when i was very young. was 17.d when i and that was my primary focus until i was 53 when i made the transition. for the early part of that, i was maniacal. i wasn't married, no kids and i didn't believe in weekends. until i was 30 i didn't believe in vacations at all. so it was incredibly fulfilling to write the code and beak hands-on -- and be hands-on. i didn't have that breadth of the --ge that would left that would let me play my role at the foundation. i think it was good foundation. after i met melinda and got married and started having kids, i was looking at the world more broadly. thinking about where the wealth could go. and they are equally difficult. you always know you could be doing better.
building the team and thinking about things in a better way. so you see the positive results that you always want -- results, but you always want to do better. david: let's talk about microsoft. you started it in high school and you were driven to do that in computers. you alone? bill: it was a fairly special time. computers, when i was young, they were fairly expensive. and my friend paul allen and i actually snuck into the university of washington when they had computers that weren't being used at night. we were fascinated by what the computer could do. but very few people were getting exposure. we had to go out of our way and we were lucky that we did it all. so when the idea of moving the that intelto a chip would make, and it would make the computer literally millions of times cheaper than the ones
more powerful-- and available to people on a personal level -- then the idea of ok, it would be very different. the software you need and the way the industry would work. we were super lucky to be there when that was happening. david: what is your family think? did they say there was something wrong with this young man who wanted to do computers? bill: they knew i was accessed with computers. that i would skip athletics and go in overnight and leave the house sometimes when they would prefer i wouldn't to go work at night on these things. so it was considered a little strange. and the big moment was when instead of going to part of my senior year, i said i wanted to go work for a company writing software. they were great about allowing that to be my hobby. david: you went to harvard and you dropped out. have you ever thought about how your life could be better off if you have gotten your harvard
degree? out: i'm a weird drop because i take college courses all the time. i love learning company courses and things. i love being a student. and there were smart people around and they fed you and they gave you nice grades that made you feel smart. i feel it was unfortunate that i didn't get to stay there. what i don't think i missed any knowledge. it is whatever i needed to learn, i was in a learning mode. david: in the early days, you were a college dropout and very young looking. did you get taken seriously by businessmen who were older? -- it wassome people like hey, should we trust them? it's weird. we've never seen something like that before. i couldn't rent cars and i had
to take cabs around. i was too young. but as we got a little bit of success, people were fascinated by the deep belief we had in software. david: when microsoft is moving forward, you decide to take the company public in 1986. at that point, you are a millionaire? close to it? bill: close to it. within one year of going public -- there is some fortune 500 cover that says going public made no gates a millionaire. that whole amount of time was amazing because i was hiring people as fast as i could. very goodin steve, is at that. we had a since of urgency that he wants to lead the way. facing with windows that he wanted to do. i was busy and the idea that i could hire so quickly was
fascinating to me. what i was really busy. so if some friend had tried to have had toouldn't much time for them. i was really into building the company. and i was going out and telling people about the magic of software, which was good for microsoft, but it also them understand about the opportunities and the huge changes that software and software plus the internet, would become. i was having fun and it was amazing and i always thought, hey. we are one step away from not leading. we have to keep doing better. david: when you had the famous ibm contract, you won the contract to produce their operating system. why did they let you own it and they had to license it? was that a mistake on their part? it was before graphics interface when you just had text on the screen. be more of a
high-end machine. they didn't see how big this machine would be and their legal department didn't want to take responsibility for the first code. it had a limited license. that it was aood machine and other people would do similar machines so that was advantageous to us. they thought that the hardware was the key and software was just the necessary thing. so they didn't realize the position we had, which is where software, over time, it would be way more important. they would have negotiated probably a different deal. david: you had a fair amount of money for anybody your age. did you splurge and buy a nice car or an airplane or a boat? bought one thing that was a tiny bit of a splurge. my first car that i owned was a
porsche 911. it was used but it was an incredible car. that was when i was in albuquerque, and sometimes when i would want to think it might, i would just drive around at high-speed's. fortunately, i didn't kill myself doing that. david: what about steve jobs in those days? what was your relationship with him? bill: we were both there at the very beginning. a computer that steve wozniak designed and they came and offered it at various computer club meetings. and we went to lots of meetings. but we were colleagues and we were pitching the gospel of personal computing. we were kind of competitors. the time we worked together most mpc came was after the out, steve had a small group at apple that was doing the macintosh.
andhe came to us early on asked us if we would commit research. but we had more projects than apple did and we did the early application software that used that mouse-graphics interface. so it was a huge win for microsoft and apple when it became successful. david: when your mother first said that i would like you to come and have dinner with me and mark arkin huckabee, you didn't and warrensted -- me buffett, you didn't seem interested? bees that is in curing the or a cool piece of software. the idea of looking at curves -- that is why it was so shocking when i met him. ♪
david: so your company grows and becomes successful. at what point to you say, i have made a fair money and i don't need to do this anymore. i want to do something else with my life? 1995, we had the product we always had the greatest staff at engineering but we really emerge as the successful company. so i start thinking about, wow. there is a lot of value here at microsoft. philanthropists. and, historically? during the 1990's, i am thinking about that. my mom tragically passed away the same year i got married in 1994. my dad was volunteering to think about the philanthropy piece.
so i put $20 billion into the foundation. then it became the biggest foundation, at that point. david: you that married in 1994, how did you have time to woo somebody when you are running a company? how much time did that take? she was an employee of microsoft. and we had run into each other in new york city, we ended up sitting together at a dinner. and shen amazing person caught me by surprise, how much that engaged my attention. microsoft stuff i was doing -- we dated on and off for about five years. and then we decided to get married. david: so you have decided that your foundation would focus principally on health in africa
and k-12 education in the united states? is that right? bill: yes. david: how did you come to those conclusions? that those were the two things you wanted to work on? bill: we talked about it, a lot. e decisions of thi we made. we wanted to take one of the huge injustices in the world -- health. we have improved that a bit by doing agriculture and sanitation and other things. then we wanted to take a cause that would help the u.s. be as strong as it could, by trying to help improve educational opportunities, that is our big thing. melinda go into the field. why do you feel you need to go into the field in africa or latin america -- and actually meet people you are giving money to and learn? bill: i have chosen to spend my
time, and melinda spends her time, building the foundation. and it really has an impact. -- i get a lot of enjoyment taking everything i've learned from microsoft and the position i'm in, and helping to drive the strategy and go out and see what is going on. that is my full-time job. and it is a wonderful job. has a your foundation certain life, 20 years after either you or your wife, the last one to live, dies? bill: that's right. managing thee institution, and keeping it excellent, and designing it to solve problems that we can totally solve -- we worked on malaria. this foundation should be able to produce a page in getting rid of that.
all these infectious diseases that so disproportionately hurts the poor and displaying most of the difference y a poor child has a 50%hance -- greater chance of dying than a child in a weahy country -- in 30 years, those problems should have been brought to an end. i'm one of the new problems that philanthropy should go after is that people are alive then and they will do a much better job than we can just writing down guidance. so it is a limited time foundation. >> he lets there be a dialogue. david: when your mother first said he wanted to come to dinner and warren buffett would be there, you were not interested. why was that? bill: i thought he bought and sold securities, and that is not curing a disease or a cool piece of software. and the idea of looking at
volume curves and -- it doesn't invent anything. so i thought that my way of looking at the world, when i wanted to figure out and what he looked at, that there wouldn't be much intersection? and that is why it was so shocking when i met him. he was the first person to ask me about software and software pricing and when i looked at ibm with their strengths, they would overwhelm microsoft and what was and how couldn software change the world? and he let me ask him about why to invest in certain industries and he was clearly a broad thinker. so it started a conversation enrichingeen fun and and an incredible friendship, that was completely unexpected. david: he thought you had a play bridge? how to pay,ady knew
our family had done it. it was a chance to spend time with warren buffett so i renewed that. things that we did in our hours to goof off together. warren buffett gave up on golf a few years ago so my primary excuse to play golf is gone away. so i'm not golfing much now. warren buffett called you one day and said, by the way. i'm going to give you most of my money. were you surprised when he said he wanted to give you most of his money to your foundation? bill: it was a complete surprise. the best investor and he built this incredible company and he was giving me advice on all the things i was doing and i was learning so much from hi but his wealth was devoted to a was inion that his wife
charge of. and tragically, she had passed away. he had to think that his initial plan wouldn't make sense and much to my surprise, he decided that a part of the 80% of it,ittle over would come to our foundation. so it was a huge honor and a huge responsibility. an incredible thing because it let as raise our level of ambition beyond what we would have done without that. the most generous gift of all time. started with warned and melinda, the giving pledge. what is that about and how does it work? bill: warren buffett was brainstorming with us about how to figure out what to do. they help serve
giving up thehout diversity of what they did. so they did dinners with people who are already doing amazing philanthropy and talking about built and fixed causes. not that they would give to the quality and but the how early people get engaged would be enhanced by people getting together and making a public commitment to give the maturity of their wealth away. david: you are the wealthiest man in the world for 20 years or more, how does it affect your life daily? do people come up to and ask for money? do they expect you to buy things? do you get tired of it? ♪
responsibilities. when microsoft develops a new piece of software, are you able to talk to the software engineers in the same level that you could 20 years ago? bill: i am nowhere near at the same level of hands-on as i was. , this evolution of being an individual performer and then a manager and then broad strategy, you have to get used to the fact that you don't have as much. but i try to understand enough about software that the trade-offs we are making about what features we are putting in and what the basic design should be, i still enjoy those discussions. even today at microsoft, we talk --ut ok, what is the next how can windows be better? how will the interface change when we have handwriting and those things? so i am able to produce of eight. but it is a way more complex deal than -- i couldn't actually write all the code myself. onid: when somebody turns
their computer today, they have to have three finrs usually and they put a finger on control, alt and delete. it seems awkward to do that and have thatople have to mechanism to turn on the computer? bill: most computers nowadays have moved away from that. but the idea is that we knew there was logic and the keyboard that could create a unique signal that would bypass the software it was running so we can know that it was really starting over. anarly, that ended up being awkward piece of user interface. if we had to do it over again, we wouldn't do it. it is between microsoft and ibm and it ended up being that way. it has kind of become the poster child of -- hey, couldn't you have made this simpler? >> we love bill.
we love bill. david: the wealthiest man in the world for 20 years or more. how does that affect your life daily? bill: fortunately, people know that the wealth is dedicated to the foundation. so they have ideas that are in the foundation, infectious disease and then it is super interesting. talking to those people. i have the benefit of going out and meeting interesting people and sharing my views and getting a lot of attention. that's a benefit. when i'm out with the kids, it can be a tiny bit of a drawback because you don't get as much privacy as you would like, but overall, my success has allowed to get more done and to build partnerships and work with great people. how do you deal with it
when you go shopping question mark or do you not go shopping? bill: i shop and i go the theater. david: do people come up to you for selfies? bill: they can, and that is pretty quick people are nice about it. david: everybody who is wealthy with children, people have to train their children how to live with that and how do you get them involved in philanthropy? bill: the key focus is helping them enjoy learning and getting a great education. careershem will pick that aren't related to software or philanthropy. in their own out direction. and they will be great in their own way. whatever it is that they picked to do. so we have chosen that they will have enough wealth that they but we arebe poor, not going to keep billions of dollars and have that defined their life.
the vast majority of the wealth is dedicated to the foundation. and so far, they are great kids. enjoy learning about what we are doing in africa and that may shape where they go with their lives, but it will bup to them. david: when people look back on what you have done 20-30 years from now, what would you like people who say that bill gates achieved? bill: i don't think it is important for me to be remembered specifically. i do hope that infectious disease is largely eliminated. having to talk about it. so people can focus on other issues. that will a great thing. if our work helps to improve u.s. education, that would be a huge, great thing. most important is that people who really know me, my kids, they feel i am a good father and gave them an opportunity to go and create their own life.
♪ announcer: from our studios in new york city, this is "charlie rose." charlie: welcome to the program. we begin this evening with two supreme court justices in conversation at the new york bar association. we talked to ruth bader ginsburg and sonia sotomayor. justice ginsburg: i thought of myself in those days as a teacher. my parents thought that teaching would be a good occupation from me. because women were broken there and women were not welc
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