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Bill Gates creates stir with new company

By Carol Eisenberg

October 25, 2008 at 10:05am

Bill Gates isn’t ready to pack it in.

Three months after he stepped down from day-to-day management at Microsoft, the billionaire has started a mysterious new company called bgC3, possibly as an incubator for ideas that could be spun off to Microsoft, or to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Or possibly, just as a place to hang his hat.

No one outside his trusted circle really knows. But the blogosphere has been abuzz since two well-regarded Seattle tech reporters wrote about the new venture this week on Techflash:

State records show that the company, originally called Carillon Holdings, was established in March 2008. It formally changed its name to bgC3 in early July, 10 days after Gates left his full-time job at the company he built into an industry giant. He remains Microsoft’s chairman and continues to work part-time on projects.

The records describe bgC3 as a “holding company” headquartered in Kirkland - a relatively short, picturesque drive from Gates’ home on Lake Washington.

Federal trademark filings provide more clues – describing bgC3 as a think tank, under a generic trademark classification that corresponds broadly to areas including “scientific and technological services,” “industrial analysis and research,” and “design and development of computer hardware and software.”

An unnamed source told Techflash that bgC3 stands for Bill Gates Catalyst, and the “3″ reflects third place, after Microsoft and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The notion of a think tank would certainly make sense for Gates. After all, he is a big thinker who has talked about finding ways to harness technology to solve the world’s health and economic problems.

And he has also participated in brainstorming sessions organized by his friend, Nathan Myhrvold, Microsoft’s former chief technology officer, who heads a company called Intellectual Ventures LLC, based in Bellevue. In fact, Gates is backing at least one of Myhrvold’s projects to build a nuclear reactor that would produce power without the associated risk of nuclear proliferation.

Still, not everyone is convinced that bgC3 is about the Next Big Thing.

The Wall Street Journal’s Business Technology blog suggested that the newly freed mogul simply needed a neutral place to work that was neither Microsoft, nor his foundation.

“When you’re Bill Gates, no matter what you do – even just open an office — there’s an ever-present entourage of people who organize, coordinate and protect your life. Those people need salaries, benefits and whatever else employees get. So what do you do? Set up a legal entity to handle all that stuff.”

Maybe, but we’re betting Gates still wants to set the world on fire.

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