My Favorite Bill Gates Story – Agenda Conference 1997

In seeing all the Goodbye Bill stories (like the epic email about moviemaker). I can tell you a ton of stories from 1996-97 when the IE3 team was assembling to kill Netscape..boy if the government knew I existed … I definitely would have been in court. Thank God I wasn’t called to testify. I think Microsoft deserved to crush Netscape .. Microsoft’s competitive strategy execution during that time was brilliant (Will Poole, Joe Belfoire, Scott Berkin, Paul Osbourne and tons of others I can’t remember). Anyway back to my favorite Bill Gates story.

At Agenda conference (like 1997 I think) at the Phoenician in AZ, Scott McNealy was giving a talk trashing Microsoft. I slipped up to my room (one floor up) to download my email on my state of the art 14.4 modem and I see on the TV Janet Reno going live on CNN declaring the Gov’t is going after Microsoft. Anyway I jump downstairs right under my room and decided to get a cup of coffee and wait for the crowd in the middle of the ballroom hallway. Well the doors open and Bill Gates is there..circled by John Markoff, Steve Levy, Walt Mossbert, tos of others… and he backs up and stands right next to me (like one foot away). Now we’re completely surrounded by people -Bill has no where to go. So I interrupt thim and whisper in his ear.. ” hey Bill ..Janet Reno was just live on CNN 5 mins ago – the gov’t is suing you for antitrust violation.bla bla bla..good luck …”… Bill Gates just looks at me deadpanned and looks left looks right and just runs. He grabs Craig Mundie and his posse and bolt…Meanwhile the entire press corps looks at me like “what the F&*k did you say to him. I just smiled. I never saw or spoke to Bill since.

My favorite memory was that I was the first one to tell him the gov’t has officially sued him for antitrust. Bill never came back to the Agenda conference again.

Now he only goes to the D conference.

Personal Note: I have no special relationship to Bill except seeing him over the years before Microsoft became popular then at conferences in the 90s. I have come to admire the guy and have huge respect for what he has accomplished as an entrepreneur and business leader – but most of all I will look at his competitive strategy moves as pure genius.

My history with Bill is as follows: In the early 80’s I was a member of SIGCHI at Northeastern University and I used to sneak away from the keg parties to geek out at the Boston Computer Society events where Bill was always at. He as just another CEO of a startup. Today he’d be at Techcrunch 50 or Demo.. just like that he’d chat with you … very approachable. By the way being a geek in the early 80s wasn’t cool like it is today. sneaking away to pirate lotus, dbase, dos, and then going to the Boston Computer Society meetings wasn’t cool ..

Author: John

Entrepreneur living in Palo Alto California and the Founder of SiliconANGLE Media

2 thoughts on “My Favorite Bill Gates Story – Agenda Conference 1997”

  1. Heading a company like Microsoft! and not being aware of a possible lawsuit by the Fed!!…I can’t believe that. I would expect B.Gates and all in his league to be well informed and be prepared for all this.

  2. hey listening – thanks for commenting. Of course he knew but I was the first one to tell him it was officially announced. You should have seen the look on his face.. then he bolted with his crew.. they all knew.. they huddled and then split around the corner like bats out of hell…

    That was the beginning of a long saga that must have sucked for him. Microsoft has never been the same since… they seem like they are competing with their one leg broken… they still do a good job but it’s going to be hard to compete with Google.

    Google is the new Microsoft…fierce competitors

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