Seattle Reporter Todd Bishop has lit up the internet (well, the geek blogosphere) with his splash on Bill Gates’ stealth startup, bgC3.
This, Bishop suggests, is not an attempt to build another Evil Empire/Great American Dream (delete as you see fit) but rather a science think tank. Such a plan would be in line with Dollar Bill’s recent philanthropic ambitions and in many ways these dwarf the scale of building the most powerful software on the planet.
It was F. Scott Fitzgerald who said that “there are no second acts in American lives” but in IT that can be quickly disproved, and Gates himself has already shown a remarkable capacity for self-reinvention. As well as having serial desktop hits with DOS, Windows and Office, he helped build a huge server software company with the launch of Windows NT and then Exchange and a PC/console games business to rival Sony and Nintendo, as well as sundry other successes such as SharePoint in content management.
Not content with matters Microsoft, Gates also managed to spin out a web travel giant in Expedia and built up Corbis , now one of the world’s biggest image libraries. He also controls Cascade Investments, a company that has stakes in a broad range of companies, including one of Microsoft’s many sparring partners, Red Hat .
Gates is not alone in feeling confined by having just one multibillion-dollar organisation at his disposal. His old rival Larry Ellison has funded and helped manage software-as-a-service firm NetSuite , hot storage firm Pillar Data and educational toy maker Leapfrog. He even owns a leg of Salesforce.com, a company that competes with both NetSuite and Oracle in some ways.
All this octopus juggling is not even new, though. After becoming IBM’s top salesman Ross Perot left to start EDS, quit for Perot Systems and then in 1992 decided to run for US president. He failed, however, so maybe there is a limit to vaulting ambition after all.