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Bill Gates made billions off his ideas, but those who worked for him early made millions, too.

My try: simply because of his ideas.

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    You will often see "billions from his ideas" as well; in fact probably more often than off or off of, which are fairly informal. "Bill Gates made a mint off his ideas" would be even more so, adding hyperbole into the mix. – BobRodes Mar 18 '14 at 21:24
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    Your try is correct too. – Jolenealaska Mar 18 '14 at 21:28
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In this case off serves as a preposition indicating the source or cause of something. Bill Gates made billions, and the source was his ideas.

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Off is a preposition (it can also be an adverb or adjective, but in this case it's a preposition) that has to do with separating one thing from another (and fairly consistently so):

I picked myself up off the floor.
I led the horse off the track.

In this case, "to make money off an idea" is fairly idiomatic, having the meaning, as relaxing has said, of the idea being the source of the money. However, even though it's pretty abstract, the idea of separating one thing (money) from another (an idea) is still there.

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I guess off (something) in this context means from something. I have seen this kind of use of the word off.

off - From a particular thing, place or position.

I'm a healthcare provider and I commonly use the phrase an artery off the heart which means the artery coming from/out (of) the heart.

Having this said,

Bill Gates made billions from his ideas, ....

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