It’s well understood that building a business takes patience, dedication and a lot of hard work, but most people still underestimate how much obsession it can require.
Sequoia founder Michael Moritz has revealed an early anecdote from Microsoft founder Bill Gates’ life which displays his passion while building Microsoft. “This is around the 1980s..I was in Seattle working on a story on Microsoft for TIME,” Moritz recalled at a talk at Stanford.
“This is when Microsoft was still private and still quite small,” Moritz says. “And Bill Gates gave me a ride to the airport. But the radio was missing in his car. There was a big gaping hole in the dashboard,” he continued.
Moritz asked Bill Gates what had happened, and whether his car had been broken into and his radio stolen. But Gates said no — he himself had taken his car radio out. Moritz asked him why he’d done so.
“I drive from my home to the office, which is 7 minutes and 32 seconds,” Gates told him. “And then I’ll drive from the office to the airport, which will also take some time. If I have the radio, I’m afraid that I’ll switch it on and I won’t be thinking about Microsoft,” a young Bill Gates said.
“That’s obsession,” Moritz told his Stanford audience.
Bill Gates’ passion paid off. Microsoft went public a few years later in 1986, and by 1995, he was the richest person in the world. He continued working at Microsoft and retained the title of the world’s richest person till 2017, when his philanthropic efforts meant that he was pushed further down the list. And even when he isn’t actively involved, Microsoft continues to grow, and is currently the second most valuable company on the planet. And a large part of its early success was because of having a founder who ripped out his car radio to make sure he thought about running it all the time.