William Henry Gates was born on 28 October 1955, in Seattle, Washington. As the principal founder of Microsoft, Bill Gates is one of the most influential and richest people on the planet. Recent estimates of his wealth put it at US$84.2 billion (Jan. 2017); this is the equivalent of the combined GDP of several African economies. In recent years he has retired from working full time at Microsoft, and has instead concentrated on working with his charitable foundation “The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.”
His father parents William Gates Sr, was a senior lawyer, and his mother, Mary, served as an executive for a major bank. The family were wealthy but, remembering the challenges of the Great Depression, they encouraged their children to work hard and take nothing for granted. Aged 13, Gates attended the private Lakeside school. It was here that Gates had his first introduction to computers. He taught himself to programme in Basic, making a simple ‘Tic-Tac-Toe’ game. Gates enjoyed the process of working with computers and arranged with a company Computer Center Corporation (CCC) to spend time on their computers – learning source code, such as Fortran, Machine Code and Lisp.
„We reflect on and review each strategy annually, and make adjustments to our implementation plan toward achieving our goals.“
In 1973, Gates enrolled at Harvard, where he studied mathematics and computer science. However, Gates was more interested in pursuing his own coding, and when he saw an opportunity to found his own company, he dropped out of Harvard without finishing his course.
Bill Gates founded Microsoft in 1976 when he formed a contract with MITS (Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems) to develop a basic operating system for their new microcomputers. In the early days, Bill Gates would review every line of code. He was also involved in several aspects of Microsoft’s business such as packing and sending off orders.
The big break for Microsoft came in 1980 when IBM approached them for a new BASIC operating system for its new computers. In the early 1980s, IBM was by far the leading PC manufacturer. However, increasingly, there developed many IBM PC clones; (PCs produced by other companies compatible with IBM’s). Microsoft worked hard to sell its operating system to these other companies. Thus Microsoft was able to gain the dominant position of software manufacture just as the personal computer market started to boom. Since its early dominance, other companies have struggled to displace Microsoft as the dominant provider of computer operating software. Programs like Microsoft Word and Excel have become the industry standard.
Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
Guided by the belief that every life has equal value, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation works to help all people lead healthy, productive lives. In developing countries, it focuses on improving people’s health and giving them the chance to lift themselves out of hunger and extreme poverty. In the United States, it seeks to ensure that all people—especially those with the fewest resources—have access to the opportunities they need to succeed in school and life. Based in Seattle, Washington, the foundation is led by CEO Dr. Susan Desmond-Hellmann and Co-chair William H. Gates Sr., under the direction of Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett.
HOW WE WORK
To bring about the kinds of changes that will help people live healthier and more productive lives, we seek to understand the world’s inequities. Whether the challenge is low-yield crops in Africa or low graduation rates in Los Angeles, we listen and learn so we can identify pressing problems that get too little attention. Then we consider whether we can make a meaningful difference with our influence and our investments, whether it is a grant or a contract.
All of our strategies—more than two dozen across the foundation—have emerged through this process of identifying what we want to accomplish for people and where we can have the greatest impact. Once we commit to an area of need, we define our major goals and identify a clear path to achieving them.
HOW WE WORK WITH THE FIELD
The issues we engage in are wildly disparate, but they share the characteristics of being deeply rooted, dynamic, and complex. None will be solved easily and quickly, and none will be solved through our efforts alone.
We do all of our work in collaboration with grantees and other partners, who join with us in taking risks, pushing for new solutions, and harnessing the transformative power of science and technology. We strive to engage with our grantees and partners in a spirit of trust, candid communication, and transparency. Our collective efforts also depend on the support and resources of governments, the private sector, communities, and individuals.
HOW WE DEVELOP STRATEGY
In each of our divisions, we develop goals and strategies before allocating resources and making investments. We continually collect and share data on our progress, reflect on lessons learned, and make course corrections as needed. Essential to this process is ongoing dialogue with our grantees and partners—which is embedded throughout our strategy lifecycle.
At this stage of the foundation’s growth, our divisions and strategies are already in place. We reflect on and review each strategy annually, and make adjustments to our implementation plan toward achieving our goals.
HOW WE MAKE INVESTMENTS
Within each strategy, which has an allocation of resources, we collaborate with grantee and partner organizations to develop proposals that align with our strategic priorities and the organization’s focus and capabilities. An important part of this process is reaching agreement on what success will look like for the investment.
We use a standard four-phase process to develop all of our grants and contracts. The duration of each phase depends on the complexity of the project as well as the capacity and geographic location of the prospective partner.
WHERE WE WORK