Bill Gates and Elon Musk, despite having quite a few things in common, represent very different corners of the tech universe. Yes, they're both extremely influential entrepreneurs and billionaires, but their public images could not be more dissimilar.
Both are also passionate about seeing electric vehicles become mainstream. In fact, in a recent interview with YouTube influencer Marques Brownlee, Gates said that "if you had to name one company that's helped drive that, it's them," referring to Tesla's success in the advancement in EVs.
It was what Gates said next that seems to have gotten under Musk's skin. That would be Gates's revelation he'd recently purchased a Porsche Taycan. "I have to say it's a premium-priced car, but it is very, very cool," Gates said. "That's my first electric car, and I'm enjoying it a lot."
The Taycan has been an apparent sore spot for Musk since it was announced last year. He tweeted about it at the time (though that effort backfired), and doesn't seem to have let go of those ill feelings. Yesterday he responded to Gates' purchase:
My conversations with Gates have been underwhelming tbh-- Elon Musk (@elonmusk) February 18, 2020
Look, I've never had a conversation with either man, but I pay pretty close attention to both. My long-distance observation is that while Gates may be the polar opposite of Musk in terms of personality, it would be hard to describe someone with that kind of brainpower as "underwhelming."
Bill Gates is about as cerebral a figure as anyone in the tech universe. And he's far less a showman than someone like Elon Musk. The Tesla CEO is certainly a brilliant entrepreneur, but definitely has a tendency to seek attention--positive and negative.
Despite a few high-profile examples when it's gotten him in trouble, it has mostly worked for Musk. Which, by the way, is a good lesson for all of us: Stick to what works. Don't let the fact that someone bought a competitor's product get in the way of the fact that he also gave you credit for making it possible.
Especially since, as I pointed out earlier this week, the Porsche--while a worthy competitor--actually helps Tesla expand its market. It helps raise the profile of EVs overall, and brings them further into the mainstream.
Surely, Musk knows this, which means the only reason I can think of for him making the remark is that Gates's choice bruised Musk's multibillion-dollar ego. That's not even a dig at Musk--sensitivity is really common for founders. It can also be a big mistake.
Instead of getting bent out of shape, recognize a compliment for a compliment, and don't let your competitive spirit cloud your judgment just because it might highlight another company's product. When you're already winning by this much--in life and in business--there's really no reason to get upset just because the other team managed to score a goal.