I wrote in an earlier blog about the time I met and interviewed Bill Gates, the brains behind Microsoft.
I cornered Gates outside a back door at the Omni in Atlanta in 1991, where he had just delivered a speech at Comdex. Leaning on a bike stand, Gates riffed for 20 minutes on the future of technology and how, technology-wise, we had just seen the "tip of the iceberg" and that the next 20 years would "change everything".
Bulls-eye. With the Internet, GPS Systems, mass commercialization of cell phones, the iPod, and Google, among other barrier-crashers, Gates was right on the money.
The interview also confirmed what many had said before me. Bill Gates is an unassuming guy who you would never guess is the wealthiest person in the U.S.A.
I was thinking about that interview when I read that Gates has been surpassed as the wealthiest person in the world. The latest Forbes magazine "wealthiest people" rankings shows that Mexican telecom tycoon Carlos Slim is the new numero uno, wealth-wise.
(A side note: Is that a great name, or what? Would you want to play poker against a guy named Carlos Slim, even if he wasn't the wealthiest guy in the world? Not me.)
According to Forbes list of the richest people on the planet, Gates' fortune now stands at $59 billion, according to the Forbes list. gates has accumulated $7 billion more than his Berkshire Hathaway BFF, Warren Buffet. The Oracle of Omaha's has seen his net worth slow down a bit, at $52 billion.
Slim's net worth now clocks in at about $62.9 billion, according to Forbes.
But the biggest story coming from the Forbes' rankings, at least to me, is how computer and telecom names dominate the list. First there is Slim, owner of Mexico's largest telecom company. Then there is Gates, founder of Microsoft. According to Forbes, Comdex founder Sheldon Adelson ranks third behind Gates and Buffett. He's followed by Oracle chairman Larry Ellison. Google's Sergey Brin and Larry Page rank fifth and sixth, respectively. Build-to-order PC magnate Michael Dell checks in at number 8 on the list.
Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen failed to crack the top ten, ranking 11th with a net worth of $16.8 billion. Steve Ballmer, the software maker's current CEO, ranks 16th with personal wealth of $15.2 billion, according to Forbes.
What's the lesson here? I'd say that it has become only too apparent that the path to obscene wealth runs along the technology superhighway. 100 years ago it was names like Ford, Getty, Mellon, and Vanderbilt, from the auto, oil, and banking industries, respectively. While those sectors are still around and formidable today, they are mere pikers when matched up against the wealth generating powers of computers and high technology.
The Forbes list wil no doubt make the rounds of the prestigious business schools. Many business majors straddling the fence will look at that list and think "hmmmm . . . maybe it's not widgets for me, after all."
That's a good thing. After all, the seeds of the next Microsoft or Apple could well be planted with such an epiphany.