04:10 AM

People Watch: On meeting Bill Gates at the urinal

by Doug Millison for SiliconValleyWatcher.com

Heard the one about the men's room encounter between Bill Gates and Joe Kraus, founder of Excite.com during the dot-com boom and more recently of JotSpot?

Silicon Beat recently re-blogged a story Kraus told in his own blog (it's called Bnoopy). His fateful encounter with Gates came when Microsoft was negotiating to buy the Excite.com Internet portal. (Remember portals?) Kraus writes:

During one of the negotiating sessions (with the good cops), Vinod and I took a break to hit the bathroom. Vinod pushes open the bathroom door and there, standing slightly hunched at the urinal, was a small man dressed in a sweater. "Holy shit" I said to myself. "It's Bill Gates."

Imagine you're facing three urinals. Bill taken the right-most. Vinod takes centerfield and I'm out in left.

Vinod looks over at Bill.

"Hey Bill".

Bill looks back at Vinod "Hey Vinod, who are you here with today?" (today? now is that a telling question or what.).

"I'm here with the Architext guys. This is Joe Kraus".

Let me pause this dialog to say two things right now.

1. what is the appropriate bathroom etiquette? I had a massive internal struggle. Do I reach over the urinal barriers to extend a handshake to Bill? What would he do if I did?

2. I had complete urinal performance anxiety. I had not been able to pee up to this point. Nothing was happening in the presence of the man who brought us greatness like Microsoft Decathlon and the Blue Screen of Death.

What did I do? I said hello and then stood there silently not knowing what to do or say.

Shortly thereafter, Bill finished up, backed away from the urinal, washed his hands and left.

"Bye Vinod."

I should have shaken his hand.

I'd like to think I would have washed my hand first. But, I've never had that go for the, er, jugular instinct that is the hallmark of the successful Silicon Valley entrepreneur.


Potty Talk, at Bnoopy, 29 September 2004. (Silicon Beat recently re-blogged the anecdote.)

Silicon Beat


Media Watch: JotSpot's the golden boy today, Silicon Valley Watcher, 6 October 2004