Happy Birthday Paul Allen: The ‘Idea Man’ Who Co-founded Microsoft

Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen at a news conference Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2011, in Seattle. Allen and  Burt Rutan announced Tuesday they're building a giant airplane and spaceship to zip people and cargo into orbit, but unlike traditional rockets and government spaceships, the new commercial spaceship will drop from a high-flying airplane instead of blasting off from a launch pad. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

“Any crusade requires optimism and the ambition to aim high.”

Paul Allen and Bill Gates can be regarded as the two faces of the same coin; Paul despite being a recluse, is famous for his squandering lifestyle and parties while Bill practices a sober lifestyle. The ever enthusiast, Paul met Bill Gates while they were studying at Lakeside School in Seattle. Gates a Harvard dropout and Paul a Washington State University dropout, shared common passions and goals. The tech crazy teens founded Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) in 1965, in New Mexico.

Always a fighter, Paul was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma disease in 1982 and underwent several months of radiation therapy. As the company grew, he became a billionaire at the age of 30 but soon left the company following a rift with Bill. He also disliked the new recruit, Steve Ballmer, once he returned from radiation therapy.

Bill and Ballmer were keen on diluting Paul’s stakes in the company to which he retaliated. “Unable to stand it any longer, I burst in on them and shouted, this is unbelievable! It shows your true character, once and for all” recalls Paul in his book- Idea Man: A Memoir by the Co-founder of Microsoft. The book went on to become New York Times best seller.

“I’m a private person who prefers a low profile.”

Later, in 1986, Paul founded Vulcan with his sister and business partner, Jody Allen. Vulcan was made of every little detail that Paul had dreamt of, ranging from Vulcan Real Estate to Vulcan Aerospace, with a vision to tackle world’s toughest challenges. Paul is often referred as the ‘idea man’ and the ‘bitter billionaire’. He is a sports fanatic and owns the NBA’s Portland Trail Blazers which he bought in 1988 for $70 million. He also owns a stake in Seattle Sounders FC soccer team.

Full Name: Paul Gardner Allen

Born: 21 January 1953 at Seattle, Washington, United States.

Net Worth: $17.9 billion

Paul has a variety of passions ranging from pop music, guitar, sports, and aviation to reverse engineering the brain. Owner of several lavish bungalows and an open-hearted philanthropist’s extravagant life has many unheard facts:

  • Books were his best friends–  Paul’s father Kenneth was a librarian at the University of Washington. When Allen accompanied his father to the library, under his father’s supervision, he got engrossed in books for hours.
  • With an investment of $100 million and an aspiring idea of developing technologies that will shape the future, Paul Allen along with David Little founded Interval Research Corporation in 1992. But Paul had to shut down his venture in 2000 due to its commercial failure.
  • During the decade-long run of Interval Research Corporation, it filed 300 patents. Paul has filed Patent infringement lawsuits against dozens of companies including Apple, Yahoo!, Youtube, Google, Facebook, Netflix, AOL etc.

“You look at things you enjoy in your life, but more important is what you can do to make the world a better place.”

“As a species, we’ve always been discoverers and adventurers, space and the deep ocean are some of the last frontiers.”

  • As a visionary and a philanthropist, Allen donated $100 million to fight Ebola virus in Africa, which was the largest individual donation of 2014. He has also funded SpaceShip-One, first private aircraft to send a civilian into space which earned him Ansari X-Prize in 2004. He has also preserved WWII planes in working condition at his Flying Heritage Collection in Everett.


  • In 2016, Allen is aiming for a test flight of world’s largest plane designed to launch satellites in lower-earth orbit under Stratolaunch Systems.
  • Allen, being a pop music lover funds the EMP Museum in Seattle which houses the existing pop culture artifacts. If one wants to experience vintage computers, then head to Allen’s Vintage Computer Museum housing computers as large as cars and as old as the 1960s.
  • He is also an Emmy Award winner for his Vulcan Production film company that won it for Rx for Survival- A Global heath Challenge. Vulcan Production, a subsidiary of Vulcan, is Paul Allen’s vision for storytelling which impacts our present and future.
  • He is also a member of Giving Pledge along with Bill Gates and Warren Buffet. His philanthropy amounts to $1.5 billion to date and he pledges to donate a majority of his money in charity.

“The possible is constantly being redefined, and I care deeply about helping humanity move forward.”

The post is a part of a B’day Series where we celebrate the birthday of renowned personalities from Tech Industry, very frequently. The series includes Entrepreneurs, C-level Executives, innovators or a renewed leaders who moved the industry with his exponential skill set and vision. The intent is to highlight the person’s achievements and touch base the little known, but interesting, part of his life. You can see the list of all earlier celebrated tech personalities, including Mark Zuckerberg, Marissa Mayor, Sean Parker, Andy Rubin, Julian AssangeSir Richard Branson, Sergey Brin by following this link or subscribe to your daily newsletter.

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