Steve Ballmer Speech Transcript – NPower Detroit

Remarks by Steve Ballmer
Chief Executive Officer, Microsoft Corp.
NPower Detroit
August 29, 2002

STEVE BALLMER: I want to thank all for the kind words and particularly Mayor Kilpatrick for those wonderful words.

To me this is a real fun day. I am a strong believer, an absolutely strong believer, in what positive transformation technology can bring to society. And we benefit as a company from that, we benefit as a society from that and at the same time it’s important for our company and others to give back and to make sure that organizations, people who may not be as fortunate, still have access to, as we say, the kinds of things that are really going to help them realize their potential on a go-forward basis.

And this ribbon cutting, I guess we would say, for NPower here in Detroit, it does have extra special meaning. This is my hometown. I was joking around a little bit earlier, this is kind of a tough week, the University of Washington playing the University of Michigan and let’s just suffice it to say it’s probably better for me relative to most of my friends in Seattle that I’m not in Seattle this week. (Laughter.) You know, you could take the Detroiter out of Detroit but you can’t take Detroit out of the Detroiter and so it is a particularly fun thing for me to be back in my hometown for this ceremony.

It’s particularly fun to be in this building. Actually, when I was a kid growing up in Oak Park, our next-door neighbor, the dad came to the Penobscot building every day to his law firm. I’ve never been in this building until today, but it was sort of this very prestigious place when I was a kid growing up and just everything is extra fun.

I want to talk about, I could call it our mission but what I really think is the mission for the information technology industry. As a company we grew up talking about putting a computer on every desk and in every home, and there’s not a computer on every desk and in every home today; far from it. On the other hand, the promise of technology has broadened and the benefit that we can see people getting is more obvious than just the computer.

We talk today about our company and our industry needing to work to enable people and businesses everywhere in the world, all people and all businesses everywhere in the world to realize their full potential.

Mission statements, when I first became CEO of Microsoft I thought, ah, they’re kind of fluffy stuff that every company has and nobody pays attention to, and I realized after being in the job for a little while our people really paid attention to our old mission statement, a computer on every desk and in every home and we worked really hard, because when you stop and think about it people want to know what their contributing to. And it’s different; when a healthcare company tells you they want to save lives, that’s something they can do uniquely.

It’s not our company; it’s really our industry that can uniquely pursue this mission, because these computers, this software, they’re kind of magic. They’re tools that extend the productivity and the creativity and the imagination of the human mind, either for each of us as individuals or for groups of us whether we’re in non-profit organizations or businesses and so it’s really important, particularly when you read a mission like this, block out the word Microsoft and just say mission for the information technology industry.

And when you frame it this way it becomes doubly important to really ask the question of how do you make sure that whatever the stuff is that’s going to do this, it’s got to get the richest and the poorest, it’s got to get to the profit and the non-profit, it’s got to get to the Americans and the non-Americans. It’s just got to be everywhere in the world, and any divide that exists is really unacceptable.

As a company we feel like there’s a particular responsibility for us to help push that out, whether it’s to workers to overcome the employment divide. It will be hard to work in this country, quite frankly, if you don’t understand how to work a computer. If it’s not already today, it certainly will be over the next several years because it’s the lifeline to the information.

Businesses: One of the most gratifying things that happens to me still to this day is when somebody who’s a small business owner comes up and says, “We couldn’t have computers before the PC. We couldn’t look like a big company before the PC. And now we can.” And I get a kick out of it and it still happens and people still don’t take these things so totally for granted that that gets lost.

Students: You know, access to information to learn new things, the computer is a fundamental source and that’s one reason why we as a company and the Gates Foundation, Bill personally, me personally, we’ve been very active in trying to help push computers into I won’t just say schools but into schools and into other public facilities where younger kids, no matter whether their families have the wherewithal or not, have some access to get familiar in literacy and access to the information of the world, because it is really amazing.

And in communities you want to make sure that the non-profit organizations aren’t left behind. If all these things are going to help everybody realize their potential, we’d better help the non-profits so they can go contribute and help broadly in the community at large.

We take the responsibility seriously but we also know we can’t solve all problems. You know, people say, “Oh, you guys are real profitable, you’ve got all these resources,” and we could give away all we’ve got and not scratch on the digital decade problem and probably are shareholders would think that was a little over the top, but we certainly have a special role to play in showing leadership, contributing money, contributing time, contributing energy.

You know, this year we’ll give something over, what, between software and cash it will be over a quarter of a billion dollars that we donate to charity. Most of it comes in software but we put out real cash dollars. We’re the fifth largest giver of all companies in the United States. We’re the number one technology company in terms of gifts. And I’m talking about our company. I’m not talking about what our employees do. I’m not talking about what Bill and others do personally, because we believe it is important to really push down this front.

We pick a few things because you can’t do everything. We’ve been active in the Boys and Girls Clubs because we think that’s a great way to get out in front of kids. We’ve been active with the NPower group because we think that’s a leveraged way of contributing in a way that stands out broadly to non-profit organizations. We’ve been active through a program called Working Connections with community colleges, particularly community colleges serving less affluent and less developed parts of the economy.

The one I’m most excited about probably is the stuff we’ve done with the Boys and Girls Clubs on a systematic basis, but then as I travel the country I see little things, little projects that our people get excited about and go do.

I was in Washington, DC probably four years ago, maybe even five years ago now and I went to a housing project in the city where our folks had done some work to put computers into, what do you call it, the shared space, the lobby kind of space to help people get some computer training and education and folks who were unemployed could come study, et cetera. And we were at the first graduation for people who had come through this program. And this lady walked up to me and she says, “I learned Microsoft Access and I have a job now and I’m an Access programmer.” I didn’t admit to her I can’t write any Microsoft Access programs myself, but she was talking to me about this and that and she got a couple of her friends involved and now they were Access programmers and she was so excited. It was her first job and it was a good job. It was a job that pays real money. And it was so gratifying because it was a small thing that happened through a non-profit, people get some skills and, man, there are jobs out there and they’re available.

I had an ongoing e-mail dialogue with this woman for about the next three or four years, usually with her telling me things she didn’t like in our products or various help desk questions that she wanted to make sure I could rout to the appropriate person, but it’s that kind of stuff where you see it work, you see the kind of contribution that the company, that individuals can make and how those things pay off.

I want to talk a little bit about non-profits, because non-profits are on the other side of the digital decade, by and large. Non-profits they get limited budgets. It’s hard to go to your board of directors, frankly, generally at the start and say, “Yeah, I want to spend it all on computers.” That doesn’t seem to be very direct in the delivery of value for most non-profits. But if you take a look at the tools people need, they need to go get grants, they need to manage information, they need to manage money, and computers are really at the core. And that’s why we think this NPower concept is so important in helping to stimulate and support non-profits in their use of technology.

Things aren’t where they need to be today and as a company we try to give not only money but of our time to support NPower. We were involved in the founding back in Seattle, not surprisingly, the community that our company is headquartered in, but I had the privilege of launching the New York NPower maybe a month or so ago and now the NPower here in Detroit and in Michigan more broadly.

We’ve made some donations to NPower. We kind of started the thing with a $25 million donation that set up the national organization. But the structure of this thing is designed to work and operate and focus locally. We think there will be about 13 NPower affiliates around the country by the end of 2004, but I’m actually quite optimistic with what I might call the entrepreneurialism that we’ve seen that this concept will be broad.

I think the work here in Detroit will be particularly important. It’s Detroit. It’s Ann Arbor. It’s Grand Rapids. It’s the state of Michigan. And in a sense, particularly some of the other programs like City Connect Detroit and other things that people are trying to do to reach out and get grants, I think there’s a particularly active role I expect NPower to be able to play here in the Detroit area.

These are the places where NPower has operations so far: Seattle because we’re there, which is kind of an obvious one, San Francisco because it’s a tech center, Portland because it’s nearby, Detroit because there was a lot of oomph and drive, New York kind of makes sense, Atlanta, big city, and I still haven’t figured out why there’s one already in Indianapolis and I won’t try that. (Laughter.) Not to take anything away from Indianapolis but it seems out of place on that list. (Laughter.)

What I’m here to do really today is to announce the partnership between Microsoft and NPower here in Michigan. In addition to our two companies, there are many tech geeks, as the mayor kind of — I don’t know if you used the word geek or I ad libbed; that might have been my addition, and I apologize to all voters who might have taken my statement offensively — but there are a lot of technical people in the room from partners of ours who want to contribute. We have a lot of partners here locally in Detroit who provide IT services, et cetera, and they’re active and interested in getting involved in NPower and in non-profit organizations here in the Detroit area.

And one of the reasons we invited them and wanted them to be here is so that there’s a way that they have to engage so if they want to give of their time and energy and efforts, whether it’s to a community project here in the city of Detroit or whatever it is, that they can do it.

From the standpoint also of technology companies it’s good to have an organization like NPower because there are a lot of people who want help. And we’re not actually set up to respond but now we can say, “Hey, why don’t you go to NPower? We’ll work with you but we can work with you through the context of the NPower organization.”

And I gave a speech earlier today at the Detroit Economic Club and believe me I got a bunch of business cards that I’ll be passing along of people who need help and support here in Michigan.

There are already activities that have gone on here in the Detroit area, which I think are exciting, some work with the Ellington Light Project, which is an arts organization here that NPower has helped. Virus vaccination day: NPower mobilized a set of tech resources and workers here to go out, much that the city of Detroit has had to do on its own computers, and get out there and vaccinate the computers that exist today inside non-profits against viruses. I talked about City Connect Detroit. But my goal here is just to highlight we’re early but there’s always stuff happening, happening, happening and I think that is incredibly important.

What’s the call to action? We have two basic communities here. To the non-profits I say you’ve really got to embrace these technologies. They will extend your potential to do what you want to do. Between yourselves and NPower we’ll help you learn how to write a technology plan that can go out and get funding and be appealing to somebody that says, “Yeah, that make sense; I’ll give you some money.” And we’re going to work with NPower to help you on the technical side of your underpinnings.

And to the businesses that are represented in the room today you should ask how you can help: money, time, energy; all of those things can help and with NPower in place here in Detroit there’s a way for you to put some skin in, in a way that won’t feel just like a bunch of random motion to go help the non-profit organizations that are important to the community here in Detroit to succeed at least by having the right technology infrastructure.

All non-profits have a lot of things they need to do. As an industry, though, I think we have the unique responsibility to help to make sure that non-profits have the technology resources they need to really serve the community in an incredibly important way.

What I guess I’d like to do now is the ribbon cutting for NPower here. I don’t see any ribbon, so no ribbon — no ribbon? We’re going to do this the new fashion way. Mayor, perhaps you’ll help me cut the electronic ribbon here for NPower Detroit. I’ll bring it up. There we go. And I’ll let you just press the enter key there and we will cut the ribbon for NPower here in the city of Detroit. (Laughter, applause.)

Thank you very much.