Bill Gates: Entrepreneur

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"Bill Gates is a modern business phenomenon: the greatest of the cyber-tycoons. His is not simply a story of technical brilliance and enormous wealth; it is one of remarkable business vision and an obsessive desire to win. It is also about a leadership style that is radically different to anything the business world has seen before." Dearlove, D. (1998)

William Gates III was born in Seattle, Washington, US, on October 28, 1955. His father, William Henry Gates (II) Jr., was a lawyer while his mother, Mary Gates, was a school teacher. At a very young age, Gates showed a lot of intelligence. At primary school, he was particularly fond of Maths and Science. Since his childhood, he was enjoyed reading business magazines. Noticing his eagerness to learn, his parents enrolled him in Lakeside Preparatory School at the age of 12. Here Gates saw a computer for the first time in his life.

Gates, along with his friend, Paul Allen , used to spend hours in front of the computer. Sometimes he spent the whole day in the computer room reading computer books and magazines and developing computer programs. Gates was so obsessed with the computer that he often missed his classes and never did his homework on time.

In late 1968, Gates and Allen, along with two other schoolmates, formed a group called the 'Lakeside Programmers Group'. Gates and Allen had visions of solving practical problems through the use of computers. They got an opportunity in 1971 when Information Sciences Inc. recruited them to develop a program to manage their payroll system.

Gates and Allen soon got many opportunities to prove their computer skills. In 1972, they started their own company called 'Traf-O-Data.' They developed a portable computer that allowed them to do analysis and prepare reports. This made them a sum of $20,000.

An entrepreneur has to have a persuasive style and possess good communication skills. This was a key factor in one of the turning points in Gates' career, when at 25 he persuaded IBM to let him keep the rights to the DOS operating system he had created for them. Rather than purchase it outright, IBM made the decision to licence DOS from Gates thinking the software would soon be replaced. Gates and Allen were the first to realise the potential of their DOS program, and knew that it would become more valuable than IBM had ever considered.

Entrepreneurs often have a characteristic trait of deviating from what is considered normal, and Gates having only completed 1 year of his university education dropped out to concentrate on the formation of his new business venture, while his friends continued with their education.

Risk taking and the management of that risk is key to the success of any entrepreneur and Gates deciding to leave his education to pursue a vision represents a great risk for a 19 year-old with his future hanging in the balance. Risk does not necessarily have to take the form of a financial gamble, as in this case it was his own future that he decided to base his decisions on. Being extremely confident and passionate about his ideas, there was no stopping Gates.

Gates saw the potential in selling software at a time when the market focused on selling the hardware. His desire to be paid for the time he spent on developing helped the shift of personal computing from a hobby to an essential part of every business. Gates lead the market in bringing personal computing to every home.

Some of the traits an entrepreneur exhibit are similar to those of normal businessmen, entrepreneurs seem to come up with good ideas, which they carry out better than anyone else. The have flair and the vision to identify niche opportunities and are able to secure to build an infrastructure and to keep the business alive until it has the chance to make a profit.

It was not just the formation of Microsoft in 1975 that sets Gates apart from other entrepreneurial figures. It's the whole style of management and leadership style he...
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