How Bill Gates Failed Before He Became Successful

Bill Gates is known today as one of the richest men in the world, a man that every computer addict should be thankful to. The Microsoft co-founder is what many people would aspire to be – successful. But not everyone knows that the very billionaire wasn’t always as successful as he is today. In fact, Bill Gates had to go through failure first before he could reach the top. Thankfully, he was always determined to go for his dream and achieved it, which is why we were all blessed with Microsoft.

Are you curious about how Bill Gates managed to overcome his failures? This post will tell you his life story, failures, and how he was able to live through these and become one of the richest people on the planet. At the end of it, you should also be learning an important lesson from his story.

His Early Life

Bill Gates was born as William Henry Gates III in 1955 in Seattle, Washington. As the son of William H. Gates Sr. and Mary Maxwell, Gates and his siblings were always encouraged to strive for the best and have a competitive spirit. The future billionaire has always shown signs of competitiveness, and he was also very much into reading. When it came to books, he was spending a lot of time reading them.

When he got enrolled at Seattle’s exclusive preparatory Lakeside School, Gates was amazing at most subjects. English, science, and math were easy for him. Later on, Gates became very interested in computers and what they were able to do, mostly because there was a Seattle computer company that gave students some computer time. That’s when he worked on a project that involved writing a program in basic computer language. This would allow a user to play against the computer. In 1973, he graduated from Lakeside, with a wonderful score of 1590 out of 1600.

Dropping Out of College

Not everyone who goes to college ends up finishing it, and Bill Gates, believe it or not, is one of these people. He got enrolled at Harvard University back in 1973. He was going to pursue a law career, but he changed his plans later on, to his parents’ disappointment. In 1975, he dropped out of college. But he didn’t do it because he couldn’t deal with the work he’d have had to do – he did it because he wanted to work on a business with his partner, Allen. The business is what we know as Microsoft.


Many people don’t know, but before getting successful with Microsoft, Gates and Allen had a business partnership known as Traf-O-Data. So, how did this all start?

The two businessmen were friends since Allen was in tenth grade and Gate was in eighth grade. But they were working on computers ever since being together at the Lakeside School. One day, during the summer, Bill Gates started working for a company. This company was specialized in counting the car wheels that rolled over pressure-sensitive rubber tubes, in an attempt to measure traffic flow patterns. There was a specific machine that used to punch a hole pattern onto a piece of paper tape, and this happened once every 15 minutes. Everything had to be done manually, from reading to writing results down. But the process was a total pain to deal with, so Allen and Gates came to the decision that it would be much easier to do it with Traf-o-Data.

Traf-o-Data was their first business. The goal of it was to be able to read information from roadway traffic counters, and then help traffic engineers by creating reports. This worked by having Gates hire some young students from school in order to read paper-tapes, and then copy the data onto computer cards. Each student that did this received 50 cents per tape from Gates.

Then, the two partners used a University of Washington library computer to be able to make some data charts on hourly traffic flows. Later, a machine was built by a third partner, which was able to read the tapes automatically. They had to spend a lot of money for an 8008-microprocessor chip, which would become the machine that helped the business operate.

However, the company didn’t have success, so it had to stop. “Traf-O-Data was a good idea with a flawed business model. It hadn’t occurred to us to do any market research, and we had no idea how hard it would be to get capital commitments from municipalities. Between 1974 and 1980, Traf-O-Data totaled net losses of $3,494. We closed shop shortly thereafter,” Paul Allen said for Newsweek.

Although this was a failure, none of the two businessmen lost their dedication – if anything, they were more dedicated to making Microsoft even better. This was an experience that the two could learn from.

Overcoming the Failure

Traf-O-Data might have been a failure, but Gates and Allen do not regret it. The success might have been limited, yet it was necessary for their Microsoft adventure later on. Microsoft was founded while Traf-O-Data was still a running project, but even after it failed, it still managed to give them something for their big business. Apparently, Traf-o-Data was what helped them gain the essential for making the first Microsoft product later on.

To be more specific, it allowed them to understand microprocessors and how they worked. This was absolutely necessary for their success with Microsoft. Allen declared “If it hadn’t been for our Traf-O-Data venture, and if it hadn’t been for all that time spent on [University of Washington] computers, you could argue that Microsoft might not have happened. In my experience, each failure contains the seeds of your next success — if you are willing to learn from it. Bill and I had to concede that our future wasn’t in hardware or traffic tapes.”

In 1986, Microsoft went public, and over the years, it became one of the most successful businesses in the world, still being at the top to this day. By 1987, it had a great share price rise, which made Bill Gates one of the billionaires of the world. In fact, he was the youngest self-made billionaire.

What Can We Learn from Gates?

From Bill’s story, we can learn that, sometimes, dropping things to pursue our biggest dreams could be the best choice ever. Gates dropped out of college for Microsoft, and it paid off when you look at its success and the money he made from it.

Also, his story can teach us that, sometimes, even the things that we fail in can give us something for the future. You can learn something valuable that you can use to reach success. If Gates and Allen didn’t have Traf-O-Data, they might have not been able to know so much about microprocessors, and Microsoft might have not been what it is today.

Final Thoughts

Bill Gates is truly someone to admire – he pursued his dream which was sparked by a simple interest in computers and the way they worked. Even though he dropped out of Harvard University, he wasn’t a failure – he went after what he believed in and became a billionaire.

You can do it too! If you have a dream that you can’t stop thinking of, but you’re scared of failure, you shouldn’t give up. Pursue it and take a lesson from Gates – failure isn’t the end. It can be only the beginning, which will lead to a successful career later on.




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