I just finished reading Paul Allen Idea Man: outstanding memoir of the co-founder of Microsoft with Bill Gates. Paul Allen is a billionaire philanthropist whose passion goes from technology, science, space, art, music, sport and LIFE.
I knew more about Bill Gates. And my reading of Idea Man helped me discover Paul Allen’s greatness in crafting ideas, making things happen in the world you and I are living today.
This book helps me better understand the information revolution for the last 40 years. Paul asked himself a few basic questions which led to his bright ideas and business ventures: “where is the leading edge of discovery headed?’, “what should exist doesn’t yet?” and “how can I create something to help meet, and who might be enlisted to join the crusade?”.
This was in 1969. Paul just met Bill. Physicist Gordon Moore just asserted that chips will double in capacity without raising cost which will become the Moore Law. And this paves the way for ordinary people to have their own computers in their homes and in their offices. This is a time of fundamental change. Computers cease to be the chasse garde of government, corporations and universities.
To make this possible, there should be a language accessible to anyone. And the simple language known at the moment was the BASIC (Beginner’s All Purpose Symbolic Instruction Code).
Paul discovered his calling. He wants to be a programmer. His partnership starts with Bill whom shows three qualities, Paul said. He was really smart, really competitive, really really persistent… able to laugh at himself in almost any circumstance”.
They became buddies and never stopped thinking about the next business opportunity which led them to TRAF-O-DATA which became later Microsoft.
Microsoft grew tremendously with a group a young people excited about the future, having fun and searching for the next big thing. They believe software and the programming langyage is more important than the machine and the hardware.
Paul said that Bill was more assertive that himself and managed to have 64% of the company and 34% for him. Paul thought his partnership with Bill was based on fairness but Bill puts himself in a position to grab as much as possible of the pie.
Microsoft doubled and tripled in size each year. The partnership diluted. Paul stated that Bill became rude, different. He decided to resign from the day to day operations on June 1, 1982.
Paul mentioned his relationship with his parents who hold him to high standards, to treat people honorably, to stand by your word, and to do something you love.
He had to face some personal challenges: cancer. He was thirty and diagnosed with lymphoma with a fifty-fifty chance to live. He said the business was hugely important but did not define him.
Paul left Microsoft to exploit his new freedom and to pursue new adventures. Life is short, he said, and there was so much out there to do.
He invested in sports buying the basket ball team Portland Trail Blazers led by Clyde Drexler. The team is in the final playoffs against the Chicago Bulls of Michael Jordan. And Paul affirms Bill gates and Michael Jordan as the most competitive human beings he knows.
He also entered the national Football League with the Seattle Seahawks.
Paul Allen is also known as the Space man with his project SpaceShiftOne to travel people in Space. I personally visited the Kennedy Space Center with my family in Florida, I can say this is a trip I’d like to do. I hope tickets will be on sale some day.
Paul is also a musician. He plays electric guitar Rock n roll. He recent venture is the Human Genome Project which aims at studying the human brain. This brain institute conducts researches on neuro-science and to understand the genetic basis for happiness, love, compassion, memory; and how to face mental ailments such as from Alzheimer and Parkinson to depression and schizophrenia.
Paul Allen is more about significance than success. He’s more what he will leave behind for the betterment of humanity.
Paul Allen Idea man is a must read.
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