Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg are among the richest people in America. Gates is the thought leader and co-founder of software Microsoft and is known for his contributions to global health and climate change. Although he and now-ex-wife Melinda French Gates have been spurred by some controversy over the way Gates responded to claims of infidelity, they still make contributions to their foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Mark Zuckerberg is the mastermind and creator of Facebook, but – like Gates – he had his own controversies surrounding the social media platform. Critics have scrutinized and denounced Facebook’s handling of user data, especially in the dissemination of disinformation and misinformation, as Business Insider reports. The multi-billionaire defended his platform, saying that Facebook has a very big advantage as it can connect people from all over the world. In addition, Zuckerberg is committed to ensuring that everyone in the world has some kind of internet connection. “If the first decade started the process of connecting the world, the next decade helps connect the people who aren’t already connected and see what happens,” Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO, told Time.
Between the successes and the controversies, Zuckerberg and Gates clearly have some common ground. How is their relationship behind the scenes?
Mark Zuckerberg calls Bill Gates his ‘hero’
Mark Zuckerberg was just 2 years old when Bill Gates founded Microsoft. Gates, of course, went public with his software and made millions of dollars off it, per CNBC. A young Zuckerberg watched Gates’ success and achievements and eventually followed his example and created his own thing that made billions of dollars.
“Growing up, my hero was Bill Gates,” Zuckerberg said in a 2013 interview with Bloomberg. “There are companies that define themselves by how they do things… and there are companies that define themselves by making a tangible difference in the world. Microsoft did that.” As for the man behind the company, he added, “I have a lot of respect for him [Gates] Therefore. He drove it forward and it was an incredibly inspiring undertaking during the time he did that.”
Zuckerberg also mentioned in 2018 that he admires Gates’ ability to make Microsoft “mission-focused,” stating per Vox, “It was a company that had a clear social purpose.” Aside from the tech space, Zuckerberg also mentioned that Gates, the almost twice his age, is also a mentor to him in philanthropy. Noting that he will follow Gates’ decision to start early, he said, “The idea that if I want to be really good at it in 10 or 15 years, then [my wife] Priscilla and I really need to start working on that now.”
Mentoring turns into a partnership
The two digital masterminds had to cross paths. In March 2020, Vox reported that Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg were meeting to discuss the development of a drug to treat COVID-19 called the “COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator.” “Pidemics introduce a paradox to the world,” wrote Mark Suzman, the CEO of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, in a statement on the foundation’s website. “Viruses like COVID-19 spread quickly, but the development of vaccines and treatments to stop them has been slow. If we are to protect people, especially the most vulnerable, from outbreaks, we must find a way to resolve this paradox: accelerate research and development and slow the spread.”
In October 2021, pharmaceutical company Merck was attempting to seek approval for emergency use of its COVID-19 drug called “molnupiravir,” according to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. But another COVID-19 treatment — Pfizer’s Paxlovid — had been approved by the FDA in December 2021, according to Yale Medicine. The pill is used for mild cases of the virus and can only be prescribed. According to Fierce Pharma, both molnupiravir and paxlovid are inexpensive, but in terms of benefits, paxlovid is the best way to go.
And while Gates and Zuckerberg’s efforts to help develop a COVID-19 pill may be over, both have made a ton of money during the pandemic.