Bill Gates: Being The Second Wealthiest Man In The World

    Bill Gates, Chair of the Board, Breakthrough Energy Ventures speaks with Economic Club president David M. Rubenstein on Monday June 24, 2019.

    Bill Gates: Being The Second Wealthiest Man In The World

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    For about 20 years or so. You've been the wealthiest man in the world. But because you've given away so much money. Recently Jeff Bezos became wealthier. Do you think if you had stayed in college and gotten your college degree. I mean you don't feel inadequate now because being only the second wealthiest man in the world is that right.

    No I mean it's a sign that I haven't given the money away fast enough to drop out of the top 10. You know the market's been strong.

    Actually the market has been strong Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) is up 35 percent this year. So to what do you attribute that.

    The company is doing super well such in ad dollars. A great CEO. You know the whole dream of the importance of software has really come true. The five most valuable companies in the world are these technology companies. Microsoft has a good share of that. I get to spend about a sixth of my time now over at Microsoft.

    So recently you said that the biggest mistake you've made professionally. Was that Microsoft should have had the android technology. Why was that the biggest mistake.

    Well when you're in a field you know we were in the field of doing operating systems for personal computers. We knew the mobile phone would be very popular and so we were doing what was called Windows Mobile. We missed being the dominant mobile operating system by a very tiny amount. We were distracted during Irene and trust trial. We didn't assign the best people to do the work. So it's the the biggest mistake I made in terms of something that was clearly within our skill set. We were clearly the company that that should have achieved that. And we didn't. We allowed this Motorola design win and therefore the software momentum to go to Android. And so it became the dominant non Apple mobile phone operating system globally.

    But today your market cap is the highest in the world. You're the only company over a trillion dollars. So how much better could you have been.

    Well. Market cap is only kind of an indirect thing that in a imperfect way will reflect what the company is doing. Microsoft would be far more valuable if we had won. The global operating system competition. Android is a huge asset. For Google.

    Recently I had a chance to interview your wife Melinda who with you as the co-chair of the foundation that you've set up. I'll talk about that a moment. And she described how you met and she said that you approached her in a parking lot and you asked her for a date and you said in three weeks we could have a date. And she said that wasn't spontaneous enough. And then she gave you her number and then you called her right away and said How about dinner tonight. Is that spontaneous enough. And is that true or is that apocryphal.

    That's close to true. I. I had a dinner that night that got done at about 10:00 so I called her up and said Okay let's meet. After 10:00. Which apparently that was spontaneous enough.

    So I worked out.

    Yeah it did.

    OK. So let's talk about what you most want to focus on today which was breakthrough energy and what you're doing in the climate change area and everyone I think knows that you've set up a foundation we'll talk about it later but your two main areas of focus are K12 education and states in health care in the least wealthy parts of the world. Recently you've decided to make another effort not necessarily through your foundation but through breakthrough energy to try to do something about climate change. Why are you so worried about climate change.

    Well the climate change is a problem that gets worse every year. And yet what you have to do on a global basis is very dramatic and reshaping the entire physical economy that we have. The greatest suffering from climate change will be farmers in poor countries. That is the droughts the floods the heat will cause the problems we already have of malnutrition and deprivation to get substantially worse. And so it's a very complex problem and it's a problem that fits where I see my value added which is looking at something through the lens of innovation not just the R and D part but the creation of products and the deployment of products. And so helping educate people about okay what what are the sources of these greenhouse gases and how do you get on a path of innovation.