Paul Allen, the Idea Man

“Paul Allen, the Idea Man!”

Paul Allen: Photo by Paul G Allen Family Foundation

The Early Life

Paul Allen, an American business magnate, investor and co-founder of Microsoft, was born on January 21, 1953 in Seattle. He is the son of the associate director of the University of Washington libraries, Kenneth S. Allen and Faye G. Allen. He did his schooling from Lakeside School in Seattle, where he met and became friend of Bill Gates for sharing common interests in computer. On completion of school studies, he enrolled at Washington State University but after two years, he dropped the idea of furthering the studies. Allen began programming in BASIC along with Bill Gates and together, they purchased an Intel 8008 chip for $360 to upgrade a computer so that it could read the raw data from traffic counters and then convert it into a ready-to-use sheet for traffic engineers. Later, Allen, along with Bill Gates and Paul Gilbert created their first company, Traf-O-Data.

The Making of Microsoft

During their work at Traf-O-Data, Allen and Gates learnt how to develop software for computer hardware and this experience and experiments helped them in writing Altair BASIC for the MITS Altair 8800 computer and paved the way to founding Microsoft. In 1975, Allen along with Bill Gates co-founded Microsoft in Albuquerque, New Mexico. They emphasized on selling a BASIC programming language interpreter. In 1980, they reinvented the operating system, Q-DOS and re-named it MS-DOS for IBM’s personal computer. The next, Allen settled a deal for Microsoft to acquire ‘Quick and Dirty operating system’ (Q-DOS) for $50,000 and won the contract to provide MS-DOS to be used as the operating system of IBM’s new PC.

Departure from Microsoft and other Business Ventures

In 1983, when he was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease, he decided to leave Microsoft. Allen was cured by months of repeated radiation therapy. And in 1984, instead of returning to Microsoft, he established another software developing company called Asymetrix Learning Systems Inc. In 2000, he officially resigned from Microsoft and sold 68 million shares keeping 138 million shares for himself. Paul is also the chairman of private asset management company named Vulcan Inc, which he founded in 1986, and holds the same position at Charter Communications. Allen has invested in diverse sectors including in Kiha Software, real estate holdings, media, technology, and content companies. In 1992, he established an online content site Starwave; and in 2003, he founded the Allen Institute of Brain Science.

Allen also has interest in sports. He possesses three professional sports teams: the Portland Trail Blazers of the National Basketball Association that he acquired in 1988 for $77 million, the Seattle Seahawks of the National Football League that he bought in 1997 and the Seattle Sounders FC franchise that started playing in 2009.

According to Forbes 2011, Allen is the 57th richest person in the world with the fortune woth $13.3 billion.

Awards and recognition

PC magazine honored him with Life Time Achievement Award.

In 1999, Paul received the Regents’ Distinguished Alumnus Award from Washington State University and a “Docteur honoris causa” from the Ecole Polytechnique D-Washington.

Paul Allen has been listed in 100 most influential people in 2007 and 2008 by Time Magazine.

In 2008, Paul Allen was honored by the Seattle-King County Association of Realtors for his contribution to nonprofit organizations in the Pacific Northwest and amounting for the fund worth $1 billion.

Paul Allen received a special merit award in 2009 from the Oregon Sports Award program for his contribution to Oregon’s sports.

Philanthropic work

Paul Allen’s contributions count as the “venture philanthropy”. In 1986, he founded The Paul G. Allen Family Foundation through which he gives away $30 million every year. The foundation is involved in diverse activities to bring affirmative changes in the Pacific Northwest, promote child education, promote healthy lifestyle and advance arts. Till 2007, he has already contributed $900 million from his fortune.

He has helped in advancing various projects such as the Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame, Flying Heritage Collection Experience Music Project; and the Allen Telescope Array, a partnership between Berkeley and the SETI Institute and the University of California.

Allen has donated money to the University of Washington and the University of Washington Medical School. Allen has given away $18 million for establishing a library after his father’s name in late 1980s. In 2003, he contributed $5 million to build the Faye G. Allen Center for Visual Arts. In the same year, Allen gave $14 million to the “Paul G. Allen Center for Computer Science & Engineering” In 1997, the foundation donated $3.2 million for prostatitis research. In 2003, Allen, along with his sister Jo Allen Patton, established a non-profit firm named the Allen Institute for Brain Science, which is dedicated to medical research.

Paul Allen Quotes:

“What should exist? To me, that’s the most exciting question imaginable. What do we need that we don’t have? How can we realize our potential?”

“I am very excited to be supporting one of the world’s most visionary efforts to seek basic answers to some of the fundamental question about our universe and what other civilizations may exist elsewhere.”

“In my own work, I’ve tried to anticipate what’s coming over the horizon, to hasten its arrival, and to apply it to people’s lives in a meaningful way.”

“When it comes to helping out, I don’t believe in doing it for the media attention. My goal is to support the organizations that need help.”

“Neil is a proven, talented executive with the right combination of operational, marketing and customer service skills to lead Charter to the next level.”

“A few years down the road, when space tourism is available for everyone, it’s going to be amazing and it’s going make that momentum increase more and more,”

Info Source:, Paul G Allen Family Foundation