Learning from Bill

I read this piece in Business Insider that said that Mark Zuckerberg's role model growing up was Bill Gates. That totally makes sense. And he's surely going to have to make a lot of the same calls that Gates had to make.

I was so moved by this that I recorded a 20-minute podcast.

It's pretty long-winded. So here's a summary.

1. Bill Gates often said that he had learned the lessons from previous generations of tech leaders. I think this meant that he planned to embrace the next layer of change in tech as it came online, instead of trying to ignore it as Ken Olson, the founder of DEC did.

2. When the time came, in the early-mid 90s, he stuck to his plan. The web was the change. Much of that is documented in the early days of Scripting News.

3. Bill's approach was Embrace & Extend, which wasn't exactly what he did.

4. The way I see it, he tried to turn the web into a feature of Office.

5. And they were so powerful at their peak, which was approximately 1995, that they did a lot of damage to the web. I was horrified to see this, begged him not to do it, of course to no avail.

6. The web didn't need to be conquered by Gates & Company, and in the end it wasn't.

7. But it was eventually conquered by Zuck! In that way I imagine he feels much as Gates did re Olson. But his time on top will probably be as short-lived as it was for Gates.

8. To really learn the lesson from Microsoft would be to not fight when the next change happens. Don't try to be what you were in the beginning when you're running a mega-company. It won't happen. That's the lesson of Microsoft. Gates appeared to think he could be as agile with a huge company under him as he was when he was starting up.

9. The lesson -- it probably wasn't even true for Bill himself, and encumbered with a huge company, it was totally utterly impossible. BigCo's can only be one thing. Good at scale with money and services. Cleverness is the province of upstarts.

10. Imho the one current leader in tech who gets this is Bezos. He's factored his BigCo limits in from the beginning. His tech aspirations are huge, but consistent with the abilities of large corporations.

11. I would have been much more impressed had Zuck said Bezos was his role model.

Posted: Thu, 12 Sep 2013 16:42:22 GMT