Monthly Archives: February 2008

Bill Gates Rolls in an Escalade

Kind of last minute I heard that Bill Gates was delivering a speech at the University of Texas campus to a crowd of only computer science students. I’ve already seen Steve Ballmer speak, so now I wanted to see Gates.

Problem was only current computer science students had admission to this speech, which is bad since I’m neither a computer science major nor a student….but there’s ALWAYS a way around those little rules.

A little recon showed the admission “ticket” was simply an inch wide, hot pink wristband that CS students stood in line for hours to get. They were making this almost TOO easy! After a quick trip to Office Max for some different shades of pink paper and double-stick tape, I was going to cut the paper to an inch wide and double-tape the ends to make a bracelet. However I quickly realized that two standard-sized wristbands put together looked like the real thing. Even easier.

So a strip of scotch tape plus two hot pink wristbands and voila…

…instant fake Bill Gates admission pass!

So I walk in the Texas Union Ballroom, flash the wristband and they let me in. It was a packed house, and I literally had to sit in the LAST seat at the very back.

One of the first things he did was show the (very well done) “Bill Gates’ Last Day at Microsoft” video that’s supposed to be a spoof of “The Office” ….in case you haven’t seen it:

He then gave his speech which was mostly about how software and philanthropy can help each other, it was pretty interesting stuff.

Some stuff I found interesting:

  • He was actually a really charismatic and good speaker. I was pleasantly surprised by this.
  • Instead of water at the podium, he drank a Diet Coke.
  • He never bashed Apple or Google, and in fact spoke very highly of both.

So of course I wanted a picture with him, unfortunately since this was so last minute I didn’t have a great plan to get one. As the richest man in the world, he is probably also the most bothered man in the world, so I knew his security would be really high, and since the Obama/Clinton debate was taking place at UT the following day, the whole campus was on high alert already.

So after the speech I went around the back of the Texas Union where the VIP’s leave from, and spotted his entourage. There were two vehicles which looked associated with him: one red Cadillac Escalade and one black Chevy Tahoe.

Three “normal” looking guys were standing around these cars which were obviously positioned for a quick escape out of the building. The guys were obviously his security detail…all looked tough but were dressed to blend in the crowd. It didn’t quite work, since it was three strong guys dressed in similar, gray North Face jackets. There were also several police officers positioned by the doors where he would exit from. I tried casually walking through the doors several times just to push my luck but was stopped each time.

It was funny because one of Gates’ guards looked a lot like Tim Ferris!

Once his security guys got the word Gates was leaving, they re-positioned the red Escalade right against the stairwell and opened the doors. Right then, Gates and two other guys walked down the stairs together as his security guys stood in a flanked position to block any access to him. I was about 10 feet away from Bill Gates when one of the security guys (who I was chatting up earlier) stopped me. I asked, “Is there any way I could get a quick picture,” to which he replied, “Sorry man, not today.” By the time he finished his sentence, Gates and the two other men hopped in the backseat of the Escalade.

Two of the security guys jumped in the front driver and passenger seats and drove off with the third security guy trailing them in the black Tahoe. Judging by the tires, windows and side-profile of the opened doors, none of the SUV’s looked armored.

I snapped this quick picture right as they were leaving. That’s Bill Gates sitting by that window (can’t really see him through the tint).

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Al Carey – CEO of Frito Lay

Somehow I forgot to post this, but sometime last year (circa September 2007) I went to go see Al Carey, the CEO of Frito Lay speak on the University of Texas campus.

I go to a lot of these things, and for the most part I don’t post anything about them, but this one definitely deserves mention. I say this because he was actually an interesting CEO to listen to! Most big time CEO’s that come speak basically give a one hour promotional speech about their company….but it’s not entirely their fault.

The student groups that bring the speakers say, “Hey (insert name here), come to the University of Texas and say words for an hour.” If I had to speak for an hour given such a vague subject matter, I’d probably talk about something uninteresting for an hour also. They also select a HUGE auditorium where the front row of the audience is at least 25 feet away from the speaker. This causes the whole thing to seem very un-personal.

I thought that’s what this speech would be also, but was pleasantly surprised to find otherwise. For the speech, I wanted a more memorable picture with Mr. Carey, like the one with me and the CEO of Gibson Guitars, or the Herb Kelleher with booze & cigarettes picture. While I wasn’t dressed very well, I did come prepared with a big bag of Fritos so I could get an interesting picture. Long story short, I lost my camera a few days before, so I was using an old camera with a crushed screen…so I couldn’t see the pictures as they were taken. I ended up getting two awkward looking pictures:

Me eating out of the Fritos bag:

HA! He was more than happy to take the photos, and even re-do them due to technical difficulties. I was also happy to hear him give a pretty good speech which the audience ate up! Unlike a lot of other CEO’s who end up inadvertently boring the crowd with information about how great their company is, he knew he was speaking primarily to college students, and therefore tailored his speech to what he thought college students were interested in. It worked great, and the audience enthusiastically asked questions all throughout.

He also just seemed down to earth and interesting. He spoke confidently, looked like he was having fun up there, didn’t hide behind the podium and usually walked right at the edge of stage, close as possible to the audience.

Like many CEO’s I’ve seen speak, he never came into the company with the intentions of going all the way to the top. He just did his job and did his job well. He also spoke very highly of several bosses who simply gave him a chance and challenges when he first started. In fact that was a big part of his speech….simply give the new blood in the company A LOT of responsibility and creative leeway (if they want it) and see what happens. He says more often then not they exceed all expectations.

He gave a great example of how a small group of brand new, young marketing employees wanted to take control of the entire Frito Lay Superbowl campaign (their largest, most expensive and important campaigns). He let them “do their thing” which was an interactive internet campaign where users submit homemade commercials for Fritos, and the winning video would be aired live at the SuperBowl plus a bunch of other prizes. The winning video had a budget of $8.00 and was featured on a $1.5 million SuperBowl ad. Frito Lay product sales went up 18% as a direct result of the campaign! When you consider that sales are in the BILLIONS of dollars, an 18% increase is massive….all because of some young marketing kids who took a risk.