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If you like Bill Gates's story, you might also like:
Timothy Berners-Lee,
Jeffrey Bezos,
Stephen Case,
Michael Dell,
Lawrence Ellison,
John Hennessy,
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Pierre Omidyar,
Larry Page,
George Rathmann,
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Ted Turner and
Oprah Winfrey

Bill Gates's recommended reading: A Separate Peace

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Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

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Bill Gates
Bill Gates
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Bill Gates Interview (page: 7 / 7)

Co-Founder and Chairman, Microsoft Corporation

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  Bill Gates

What are you most proud of achieving? We know you're not done achieving yet, you're amazingly involved in global health and philanthropy, but if you had to look back now, what would you say you're most proud of?

Bill Gates: Microsoft was at the center of the personal computer revolution, and particularly the creation of a software market where you went out to lots of companies, and encouraged them to write software for different applications, mundane applications, wild applications. That idea that you would encourage people to be creative, and build software, and there would be a whole industry around that. Microsoft believed in that, and no one else did, and so we got that going. And that's led now to where you have all these great choices, and it just keeps getting better and better. And it's because of the volume of machines out there, it can be sold very, very inexpensively. So that whole bootstrap, getting the industry going, making it personal, making there be lots of software, that's what we are the most proud of.

[ Key to Success ] Passion

What does the American Dream mean to you? Do those words have resonance in your own life?

Bill Gates: I think the American Dream is kind of a global dream now, that young people can come up with new ideas and create companies that make a contribution, not just jobs, but whatever their innovations that they bring about. Capitalism is this unbelievable open system that if you combine it with good infrastructure, good education, the creativity that we find for people who have had those chances is always going to surprise us. It's always going to come up with new seeds, new medicines, new software, new movies, things that make the world a better place.

[ Key to Success ] The American Dream

Could you tell us briefly talk about your vision for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation? Early on you gave a great deal to libraries and schools, now global health seems to be a larger focus.

Bill Gates: The Foundation got started in the late '90s, with my dad -- encouraging me -- an executive named Patty Stonesifer, who'd left Microsoft, were helping out. I was still very busy, our kids were very young, but we got going. We put computers in libraries in many different countries, including the United States. We did some scholarship things. We were learning about reproductive health and population issues. And that kept growing, and we met people who knew about vaccines. So it was a part-time thing. Global health was a bit over half; the U.S.-focused libraries, scholarship education work was over a quarter; and it was a final piece that relates to other things to help the poorest, other than just health things, things like finance and savings. And you know, it grew. And then I saw that I could make a unique contribution there, and created a transition plan that was four years in the making. So now I'm full time at the Foundation and playing a role of being the Chairman and traveling a lot. So it's equally challenging, it's very fulfilling. It's taking these resources that I'm lucky enough to have, because of the success of Microsoft, and giving those back to the society in a way that can have the biggest impact.

Bill Gates Interview Photo

In your priorities for the Foundation, discovery is one of the first. That's interesting, because it is kind of a parallel to Microsoft. So even in the area of medicine, and vaccines fighting malaria and so forth, you're still focused on discovery.

Bill Gates: Absolutely. We need new vaccines, we need cheap vaccines, we need vaccines that are easy to deliver, even in the poorest places, where something like having refrigerators is tough to do. And it does connect to my experience at Microsoft of finding great scientists, making sure they understand the problems that are important, getting them focused on those things, having milestones, even if there are setbacks, and making sure that -- if the possibility is still there -- that they get the proper backing. This is something that governments don't do much of. They fund a lot of the great delivery -- the foreign aid is very, very important -- but on the discovery side there's been a deep under-investment. Whether it's a malaria vaccine, tuberculosis vaccine, about 20 different diseases that -- if things go well -- we'll have vaccines for most of those within the next decade. So the Foundation is really taking the lead, financing that scientific work, and already some have been discovered. Some are getting out there, but there's a lot more still to be done.

Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us today.

Bill Gates: Yeah. It was fun to talk about it.

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This page last revised on Sep 23, 2010 11:02 EDT
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