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  • Lessons From The Past -2: Bill Gates’ Blunder On How He Walked Past A Gold Mine!

4 min readLessons From The Past -2: Bill Gates’ Blunder On How He Walked Past A Gold Mine!

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How often do we hear inspiring stories of entrepreneurs, and their journey to the top? As aspiring young entrepreneurs, we often get inspired with motivational quotes by famous personalities and visionaries, without paying much heed to what went into attaining that goal. By portraying the journies as effortless, we as young entrepreneurs are doing a grave injustice to ourselves. Almost every successful visionary had to go through boulders of failures to reach the ocean of success. This facet holds true even for the most coveted visionaries like those of Bill Gates, Larry Page, Mark Zuckerberg, or even the legendary Steve Jobs. As Winston Churchill quoted “Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm”, every business entrepreneur who wants to invent, create or innovate must be willing to commit mistakes, as long as they learn the necessary lessons from it.

The Tales of Young Entrepreneurs:

Through Pick My Story, we’ve showcased inspiring quotes of visionaries and the works of not-so-reputed entrepreneurs and young entrepreneurs among others, but now, we feel it is time to share some of the blunders famous entrepreneurs have committed and what one can learn from them. Last, we spoke about the mistake Steve Jobs committed, and in this post, second of the series, we speak about how Bill Gates let a priceless opportunity slip through his hands.

One cannot doubt the competence of the visionary genius that is Bill Gates. One of the few young entrepreneurs who revolutionised the world of computing, Bill Gates did the unthinkable. Having founded Microsoft or MS in 1975, he has constantly proved his visionary understanding since the first day. The organisation that oversaw the future with its products and software is still considered to be among the world’s most important companies. Since its inception in 1975, the organisation has pioneered the software space by starting a graphical user interface in 1985 (Windows 1.0) and is also known for having introduced the concept of the internet to the world in 1995 through Internet Explorer that came bundled with Windows 95.
While Bill Gates revolutionised the way one looks at computers, by 2005, he did realise that he just walked past a gold mine without paying much heed to it. Bill Gates had ignored search engines. Larry Page and Sergey Brin founded the Google in 1998, and it was not until 2004 that anyone understood the value proposition that Google was bringing onto the table. Google built a search engine that was innovative, fast and efficient in every facet. The same year, Microsoft introduced MSN search, which unfortunately could not emulate Google in any of the aspects. Microsoft was ignorant and the same could be seen the way they handled their search engine, which wasn’t even their own developed product. MSN made use of the results from Inktomi, a search engine that already existed.
Microsoft was happy with their operating systems and software that they hardly gave any importance to search engine. Around the same time, Microsoft was more focused on making Internet Explorer the number 1 browser among personal computers by overpowering Netscape Navigator. Speak about priorities.
By 2002, Gates did realise that he put all his eggs in the wrong basket, thanks to the staggering growth of Google. The now search engine giant had earned $348 million in revenue that year and a year later, it almost tripled its revenue to $962 million. Such staggering figures would send a sense of envy among anyone, and maybe because of this feeling, Microsoft finally started developing its own search engine. In 2006, Microsoft launched Windows Live Search, but it failed to establish a stronghold against Google. In 2009, Microsoft rebranded it and introduced Bing which was touted to be the first ‘decision engine’. Though Bing could take a small bite of the market, the damage had already been done by Google. To top it all, Bing wasn’t cheap to make. In the fiscal year ending June 2011, Bing cost Microsoft $2.5 billion, much more than what it earned. This entire journey of Microsoft can be best put down in four words: “Google kicked our butts.” – Bill Gates.

Lesson learned:

Back in 1998, no company in the world had more leverage on the online space than Microsoft. But since Gates owed all of his success to software, it isn’t surprising to see how he underestimated the value of a search engine, and how he overestimated the value of Internet Explorer. Only if Gates had prioritised the development of a search engine back then, the world of the internet would have been different today. Like Gates said: “Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking they can’t lose.”
As long as the world is growing, everything around the industry will keep changing. As young entrepreneurs, it is important to keep in mind that no business can remain relevant if it follows the same strategy throughout. So as young entrepreneurs, it is of paramount importance to always be on the lookout for new and innovative things, while having a critical eye for identifying opportunities.

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