2/23/13

I don't go on Reddit too often, but I do find some of the "Ask Me Anything" (AMA) threads to be really interesting, especially when someone like Bill Gates is answering the questions.

Everyone's favorite billionaire answered Reddit's questions last Monday, and in true AMA fashion, came across as much more down to earth than we'd expect. Some of his answers are surprising, and being that he's not discussed often on WSO, I figured it'd be good to bring up some good points from someone who is extremely successful outside the world of finance.

Firstly, here's a link to the full AMA.

And now, let's get to some good questions and answers!

Q: Since becoming wealthy, what's the cheapest thing that gives you the most pleasure?
BG: Kids. Cheap cheeseburgers. Open Course Ware courses...

Not sure if Bill is getting his cheeseburgers at In-N-Out -- because if so, that's kinda cheating -- but I enjoyed this answer a lot. Interesting to see someone like Bill Gates, who is undoubtedly very smart and extremely accomplished, talk about OpenCourseWare being something that interests him so much. If I were sitting on $65bil, it's hard to see myself wanting to learn new things through college-level courses online...but to each his own!

Q: I'm not Bill Gates, but he has made a huge positive influence. Many wealthy people I know point to Bill Gates as their idol. Not for his Microsoft days, but for his philanthropy. He also simultaneously killed many of my friend's hundred million dollar trust funds after their parents discovered that Bill was only leaving $10 million for his children.
BG: I definitely think leaving kids massive amounts of money is not a favor to them. Warren Buffett was part of an article in Fortune talking about this in 1986 before I met him and it made me think about it and decide he was right. Some people disagree with this but Melinda and I feel good about it.

First of all, whoever is asking this question (or, more accurately, simply making this statement...) is in a very strange situation, having "many" friends who had HUNDRED MILLION DOLLAR trust funds...what? Do you have have many friends with trust funds that large? Anyway, interesting to see Bill make the argument that leaving kids with a lot of money is a detriment -- probably true, although I doubt he's leaving his kids completely poor either. Then again, I guess a million bucks ain't exactly what it used to be.

Q: What do you do for fun? I find it hard to fathom how someone like you can just disconnect. Disconnect from the emails, calls ,the media. All of it. What would be your definition of a chill and fun day?
BG: I love playing tennis. I am an avid bridge player (a card game if you have not heard of it - it was more popular in the past!). I like to tour interesting things with my kids like power plants, garbage dumps, the Large Hadron Collider, Antarctica, missile Silos (Arizona),... I read a lot and watch courses (online or the Learning Company)..

I'm a bridge player myself, and find it hard to believe that Bill had to explain that it was a card game in his answer (really, no one plays bridge anymore!?). Must be nice to just be able to visit the Large Hadron Collider like it's no big deal, though.

Q: How was your relationship with Steve jobs? I always hoped that y'all were really good friends and competitors.
BG: He and I respected each other. Our biggest joint project was the Mac where Microsoft had more people on the project than Apple did as we wrote a lot of applications. I saw Steve regularly over the years including spending an afternoon with him a few months before he tragically passed away...

I always imagined Bill and Steve getting into fist-fights. It'd be tough to use a Windows Phone and not get into a fight with an Apple supporter.

What do you guys think of Bill Gates? Did anyone read this AMA last week? Are you guys still waiting for a Lloyd Blankfein AMA?

Comments (17)

2/21/13

Best part:
Q: What's your worst fear for the future of the world?
A: Hopefully we won't have terrorists using nuclear weapons or biological weapons. We should make sure that stays hard.
I am disappointed more isn't being done to reduce carbon emissions. Governments need to spend more on basic energy R&D to make sure we get cheap non-CO2 emitting sources as soon as possible.
Overall I am pretty optimistic. Things are a lot better than they were 200 years ago..

Some random comment: I'll only get one chance in my life to say this to Bill Gates, here we go.
"We should make sure that stays hard."
That's what she said.

2/21/13

I read and enjoyed it. Those things are pretty sweet.

2/21/13

One day I'll be rich enough to afford to be a Democrat... One day.

In reply to BTbanker
2/21/13

BTbanker:
One day I'll be rich enough to afford to be a Democrat... One day.

I loled
In reply to BTbanker
2/22/13

BTbanker:
One day I'll be rich enough to afford to be a Democrat... One day.

Pretty sure this is a line from a Boston Legal episode, albeit a great line

2/22/13

I think one of the best one's was:
Q: Do you guys really use Bing? I mean seriously...
BG: Seriously Bing is the better product at this point. Try the challenge. I am biased but the work to make Bing better has been amazing.

So humble and it really shows that he believes in Bing.

This AMA was one of the best ones since the Snoop Dogg AMA

In reply to SuccessfulEfforts
2/22/13

MFFL:
BTbanker:
One day I'll be rich enough to afford to be a Democrat... One day.

Pretty sure this is a line from a Boston Legal episode, albeit a great line


I think I got it from GS elevator, or something.
2/22/13

He said he will leave his kids $10 mil each. Certainly not chump change, but pretty underwhelming compared to his $65 bil. Enough to live modestly the rest of your life or maybe get a start up going.

In reply to Zargo
2/22/13

Zargo:
He said he will leave his kids $10 mil each. Certainly not chump change, but pretty underwhelming compared to his $65 bil. Enough to live modestly the rest of your life or maybe get a start up going.

Define "live modestly"...living off $10mil sounds like a walk in the park, but then again my needs are slightly above that of IP.

"An intellectual is a man who takes more words than necessary to tell more than he knows."
- Dwight D. Eisenhower

Check out my blog!

2/22/13

IAMAs are awesome. Pretty much the only thing I read on Reddit. We should as a forum collectively try to get hedge fund managers to do them. (aka, I request Bill Ackman and you all vote my request up until Bill's PR person sees it and he does it) Then we can all make fun if Icahn together.

By the way the best IAMAs I've read are Neill DeGrasse Tyson's ones (He has 3)

2/23/13

I don't think Bill Ackman has time to do an IAMA he is busy reading filings. I think it would be a bad idea to have hedge fund managers to do it because there would be many people who would only talk about the superficial topics.

In reply to BTbanker
2/23/13

BTbanker:
One day I'll be rich enough to afford to be a Democrat... One day.

As a HF manager once said, "You'll never get rich wanting to get rich. You'll get rich by giving people what they want."

-What can you offer?

In reply to DonVon
2/24/13

DonVon:
Zargo:
He said he will leave his kids $10 mil each. Certainly not chump change, but pretty underwhelming compared to his $65 bil. Enough to live modestly the rest of your life or maybe get a start up going.

Define "live modestly"...living off $10mil sounds like a walk in the park, but then again my needs are slightly above that of IP.

If you can make 1% interest off that $10mil then you've got $100,000; assuming these kids are relatively intelligent and hardworking they can put in a 9-5 somewhere and come out with another $100,000. That's more than enough to live more than modestly in most places.

Plus one of the kids is going to get the house.

2/24/13

Also, Reddit (which operates largely through mob mentality) is currently not very favorable towards bankers/finance in general. I think you may have a tough time getting enough support for an AMA of that type.

In reply to nardar
2/24/13

nardar:
Also, Reddit (which operates largely through mob mentality) is currently not very favorable towards bankers/finance in general. I think you may have a tough time getting enough support for an AMA of that type.

I'm actually a big fan of Reddit, I know some people on WSO aren't. That being said, it is borderline astonishing how little they understand. You would never hear them, "laypeople", lecturing Neil DeGrasse Tyson on astrophysics, "because that's his job and he's the best in his field at it," but when convenient they assume the knowledge of the world's most complex system (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Complex_system) to the point of expertise and having 100% confidence in explaining flaws within the financial system, despite not knowing how it even works. So they grant that Tyson knows significantly more than they probably ever will, due to intensive study, a lifetime of experience, raw talent, and deep passion for his field, but they won't grant others in other fields that same respect. It's very frustrating and I think it would be very difficult to get questions across to hedge fund managers and BB CEO's that are actually worth their time and expertise to answer. It would be insulting to these guys, who literally have all but dedicated their lives to these companies, to have to come on and deal with "Wall Street is so evil!" from 18 year old kids who simply don't even know what the financial system is, why it exists, or why it's important.

edit: It does seem like most people commenting on Reddit bias towards a STEM background, and also bias towards males in their 20's, which I think explains a lot. I've been on the site for years, and it seems that these guys truly feel they are worthwhile and contributing something to the world, and are generally frustrated and underpaid, while they see finance guys "shuffling paper," "getting paid too much," and "not even doing anything beneficial." Furthermore, let's be completely honest, for most of you business majors (most), I'd probably be willing to bet you didn't spend much time interacting with those engineering students. So it's not like there's much interaction between the two "types" being discussed in the first place. Unfortunately, it seems they see the world as being significantly black and white. They feel that they are actually creating solutions to problems in the real world, with real innovations - manipulating material resources in a way that makes things more efficient and solves problems we face.

But ask them what money really even is, and I can almost guarantee (from experience) that they will try to give you a definite answer. But then try explaining to them that there can be a difference between money and solid currency. Ask them if they agree that financial resources are even a thing. What happens when you try to explain to them that you are trying to do the same as them - manipulate resources in a way that allows our economic system (our system of payments, of transacting with each other, of borrowing and lending money, of creating ways to more efficiently finance things, of swapping resources, of hedging risk and optimizing risk away from companies, etc, etc, etc, etc) to function and they lock up. All of a sudden, "there's just something wrong with that." They don't want to acknowledge that those projects they work on simply wouldn't happen without people financing it. Those innovations they desire so much could not exist without significant financial resources being dedicated to them in a way that is not wasteful or inefficient. So while they seem perfectly fine with manipulating and using up tons of resources that they can feel with their hands, and can justify wasteful projects "in the name of science," the second you manipulate and use up financial resources "you're just a lazy elitist shuffling paper around and manipulating the system for your own gain." (Not realizing, by the way, the finance people generally work a lot harder than engineers post-graduation.)

I'll stop rambling, but yeah. Just a huge disconnect between how the most upvoted users on Reddit think the economic and financial system works versus how it actually works. It's partially our fault for not having a centralized or decent source to help explain these things, and it's partially their fault for showing a complete lack of willingness to learn about it and an astounding amount of stubbornness when confronted with evidence to the contrary - from my experience, at least.

2/24/13

pretty solid rant. while there is truth to some things being over simplified, I don't think a traditional fiance job is even in the same league of anything STEM in terms of pure intellectual horse power required. That said, finance is challenging in its own right and you can't really compare the two.

In reply to ke18sb
2/25/13

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