Bill Gates says tech companies ‘deserve rude, unfair, tough questions’

Bill Gates believes tech firms “deserve” the kind of scrutiny they got during Congressional hearings last month, and that the late Steve Jobs was a “genius,” he told the Armchair Expert podcast.

“If you’re as successful as I am or any of those people are, you deserve rude, unfair, tough questions,” the Microsoft founder told host Dax Shepard. “The government deserves to have shots at you,” Gates said. “That type of grilling comes with the super successful territory. It’s fine.”

Gates was referring to the July 29th hearing before the House Judiciary Committee where the CEOs of Apple, Google, Facebook, and Amazon were questioned about their business practices as part of an ongoing antitrust investigation.

During the wide-ranging podcast interview, Gates talked about his foundation’s work on vaccines and what it was like starting Microsoft, but also spoke about what it was like being a celebrity of sorts; he says the idea of tech entrepreneurs being famous in popular culture took some getting used to. “It was crazy because I was nerdy and not very sociable, then to be rocket-shipped into this realm of ‘what does he say about this, what does he say about that, what he says is semi-interesting’ was like, whoa, what happened.”

As for his late rival, Gates said he was not as “tough” as Steve Jobs, but admired how Jobs turned Apple around when he returned to the company.

“Jobs was a genius, what he did, particularly when he came back to Apple… no one else could do what he did there. I couldn’t have done that.” Gates admitted he envied the late Apple CEO’s charisma. “He was such a wizard at over-motivating people— I was a minor wizard so I couldn’t fall under his spell— but I could see him casting the spell,” Gates joked. “I was so jealous.”

Gates even spoke about what he considers to be a few of his personal shortcomings. “I’m not that great socially, I don’t know how to cook and I’m very embarrassed I don’t speak any [other] languages fluently,” he said.

For those who haven’t listened, the Armchair Expert podcast has kind of a geeky fan tone to it (for example, cohost Monica Padman asks Gates his favorite color at one point. It’s blue), but the format may actually have allowed Gates to relax a bit; he admits to sharing Shepard’s affinity for Diet Coke, for instance, says he meditates using Headspace, and that he’s a big fan of the movie Spy Game, starring Brad Pitt.

To hear a less-formal version of Bill Gates, you can check out the podcast here.

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