Paul Allen biography, quotes and net worth

Paul Allen - Toolshero

Paul Allen (Paul Gardner Allen; January 21, 1953 – October 15, 2018) was an American business magnate, philanthropist, investor, programmer, and researcher. Paul Allen was a childhood friend of Bill Gates, with whom he founded Microsoft Corporation in 1975. Together they started a computer revolution with the company. Microsoft grew into one of the largest computer software companies.

Paul Allen biography

Paul Allen was born in Seattle, Washington. His father Kenneth Sam Allen was a librarian and his mother Edna Faye was a teacher. From 1965 to 1971 he attended Lakeside School, a private school.

It was at this school that Paul Allen befriended Bill Gates. Both friends became very enthusiastic about computers. They used the facilities at the school to develop their programming skills. They were also allowed to use the laboratory of the Computer Science Department of the University of Washington, but the pair were later denied access due to abuse of their privileges.

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Friends Allen and Bill Gates then teamed up with classmate Ric Weiland and founded the Lakeside Programming Club. Here they started working on bugs in Computer Center Corporation’s software. They then formed Traf-O-Data to create traffic counters.

Paul Allen and the beginning of Microsoft

Paul Allen was an excellent student and received a perfect SAT score of 1600. He started his education at Washington State University, but dropped out after 2 years to work for Honeywell in Boston as a programmer. He convinced his friend Bill Gates to drop out of Harvard and co-found Microsoft.

The beginning of a new era was thus a fact. Microsoft was founded in 1975 in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The company’s first employee was Ric Weiland, the school friend of the two. Allen came up with the name Microsoft, a combination of microcomputer and software.

In 1980, the company made a commitment to provide a disk operating system to the IBM company, intended for their original IBM PC. Although they hadn’t developed anything at the time, Allen led Microsoft to a deal to buy the QDOS system.

The result of this deal was a contract to supply the DOS that ran IBM’s computers. This was the first step to the success and great wealth of the two founders of Microsoft.

Relationship with Bill Gates

The relationship between Paul Allen and Bill Gates took a turn for the worse when they started fighting over small things. Allen left the company in 1982, just after being diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma. He remained on as chairman of the board of directors. Bill Gates made some attempts to increase his stake in Microsoft, mainly because he did more work in the company than Allen.

Allen and Gates’ relationship recovered in the following years, and the pair remained close friends for the rest of Allen’s life.

In the year 2000, Allen resigned but remained on as a senior advisor. In 2014, he owned more than $100 million in Microsoft shares.

Around the turn of the century, Paul Allen started the Experience Music Project, as well as the Allen Institute for Brain Science, a faculty for brain research. In 2004, he co-founded the Allen Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame with Duncan Patton. He also financed SpaceShipOne, the first civilian venture in space.

He furthermore became a co-owner of Major League Soccer team Seattle Sounders from 2007 onwards. He also owned the NBA teams Seattle Seahawks and Portland Trail Blazers, bringing him even greater fame among sports team fans in the pacific northwest.


Paul Allen sued a large number of technology companies around 2010, including Apple, Google, Netflix, Yahoo and Facebook. He did this for violating patents he had funded more than a decade earlier. The lawsuit was dismissed by the federal court and the appeal was also dismissed by the Supreme Court.

After this period, Allen undertook several more projects, including the launch of the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence in 2013. He was also involved in deep-sea surveys and led several shipwreck surveys of some World War II ships.

The most famous of these was the USS Indianapolis in 2017 and the USS Lexington in 2018. In 2011, Allen published the memoir Idea Man, chronicling the rise of Microsoft and his relationship with Bill Gates.

Philanthropic Activities

In 1986, Paul Allen and his sister Jody Allen co-founded Vulcan Inc., a company with which the pair managed business and philanthropic activities. The Paul G. Allen Family Foundation was also established in partnership with his sister.

During his lifetime, Allen spent more than $2 billion on investments in science, technology and education. He also had a preference for organizations that are committed to nature conservation and art. He furthermore established non-profit community institutions, like the Museum of Pop Culture.

Since its inception, the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation has donated more than $500 million to more than 1,500 nonprofit organizations. In 2010, Allen signed The Giving Pledge, an initiative whose signatories pledge to give away at least half of their wealth to philanthropic causes.

He has received several awards for his philanthropic activities, including the Andrew Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy and Inside Philanthropy’s Philanthropist of the Year.

Allen also played an important role in the construction of microgrids. These are small-scale electricity grids that can operate independently. He did this in Kenya, among other places. The project enabled many of the country’s residents and businesses to use renewable energy. He also founded Off Grid Electric for this purpose and invested in Mawingu Networks.

Personal life of Paul Allen

Paul Allen was viewed as a withdrawn and modest person. Although he had a family, he never married and had no children. The marriage plans with his first girlfriend failed because he felt he was too young to get married.

In the 1990s, he bought Rock Hudson’s estate in Los Angeles and added a studio to the property. After his death, the house was put up for sale for $56 million.

It is known that Paul Allen was a great lover of music. He received his first electric guitar when he was sixteen years old, and was inspired by the music of Jimi Hendrix.

Allen was also a sailing enthusiast. His yacht, Octopus, a 126-meter yacht, was launched in 2013. The yacht was equipped with two helicopters, a submarine, a swimming pool, a music studio and a basketball court, among other things. The ship was known for the annual parties organized on it by Allen. During those parties, performances were provided by Usher and Dave Stewart, among others. The yacht was also used in the search for a missing American pilot and two officers, whose plane disappeared off the coast of Palau. After Allen’s death, the ship was sold for $325 million.

Paul Allen died on October 15, 2018, aged 65, due to septic shock related to cancer.

Paul Allen Net Worth

At the time of his death, Paul Allen’s wealth was estimated at more than $20 billion, making him 44th on the list of the richest people in the world.

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Paul Allen quotes

  1. “Any crusade requires optimism and the ambition to aim high.”
  2. “As a species, we’ve always been discoverers and adventurers, and space and the deep ocean are some of the last frontiers.”
  3. “Continuity is important in sports.”
  4. “Facing your own mortality forces you to re-evaluate your priorities.”
  5. “For the most part, the best opportunities now lie where your competitors have yet to establish themselves, not where they’re already entrenched. Microsoft is struggling to adapt to that new reality.”
  6. “From my youth, I’d never stopped thinking in the future tense.”
  7. “Here’s what the death knell for the personal computer will sound like: Mainly I use my phone/paid, but I still use my PC to write long e-mails and documents. Most people aren’t there yet, but that’s where we’re headed.”
  8. “History shows that you ignore emerging platforms at your peril, because one of them might make you irrelevant.”
  9. “Human beings are fragile things, and for the period of time it takes to get them to Mars and back, you have dangerous radiation from the sun and the galaxy. We have to think about issues like that.”
  10. “I believe in the power of shared data and technology to help build a better future.”
  11. “I choose optimism. I hope to be a catalyst not only by providing financial resources but also by fostering a sense of possibility: encouraging top experts to collaborate across disciplines, challenge conventional thinking, and figure out ways to overcome some of the world’s hardest problems.”
  12. “I enjoy creating new ideas, working on new creative projects.”
  13. “I have to admit, between the Seahawks games and the Blazer games and playoffs games, we’re talking about close to 100 games a year, so I don’t really follow other sports a lot.”
  14. “I remember having pizza at Shakey’s in Vancouver, Washington in 1973 and talking about the fact that eventually, everyone is going to be online and have access to newspapers and stuff, and wouldn’t people be willing to pay for information on a computer terminal.”
  15. “If you have the chance to realize some of these dreams you had as a kid, and you have the opportunity, why not pursue that?”
  16. “If you think about making a difference in the community, my family has always had a strong interest in the arts. I’m always interested in finding ways to innovate… It’s a blend; it’s not a point focus.”
  17. “I’m a very private person that prefers a low profile.”
  18. “In a company where tech decisions were still ultra-centralized, the repercussions of a distracted CEO had to be damaging.”
  19. “In global warming, I think everyone is scratching their heads – are there technological things that can be brought to bear that can make a difference?”
  20. “In my experience, each failure contains the seeds of your next success–if you are willing to learn from it.”
  21. “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.”
  22. “In technology, most things fail. Most companies fail.”
  23. “In the first eight or so years at Microsoft, we were always chained to our terminals, and after I got sick the first time, I decided that I was going to be more adventurous and explore more of the world.”
  24. “Moore’s Law-based technology is so much easier than neuroscience. The brain works in such a different way from the way a computer does.”
  25. “My high school in Seattle, Lakeside, seemed conservative on the surface, but it was educationally progressive.”
  26. “Others might have found us eccentric, but I didn’t care. I had discovered my calling. I was a programmer.”
  27. “Our net worth is ultimately defined not by dollars but rather by how well we serve others.”
  28. “Part of life has to be about enjoying life and having different experiences, especially if you’re with friends and you’re on an adventure on a boat or a submarine – it’s a lot of fun.”
  29. “Recording studios are interesting; a lot of people say – and I agree – that you should have a lot of wood in a recording studio. It gets a kind of a sweeter sound.”
  30. “Some people are great at the pure mathematical things – like Bill Gates, he’s great at math things. He loves to do puzzles. Me, I like to look at an overall landscape and try to figure out, how do you solve a problem?”
  31. “Some people are motivated by a need for recognition, some by money, and some by a broad social goal. I start from a different place: from the love of ideas and the urge to put them into motion and see where they might lead.”
  32. “Some people can vent their anger, take a breath, and let it go, but I wasn’t one of them.”
  33. “Technology is notorious for engrossing people so much that they don’t always focus on balance and enjoy life at the same time.”
  34. “The best museums and museum exhibits about science or technology give you the feeling that, hey, this is interesting, but maybe I could do something here, too.”
  35. “The biggest yacht that I have accommodates a submarine.”
  36. “The brain has this amazing level of almost fractal complexity to it. When you start looking at any part of it in detail, you realize that it’s much more complex than you thought.”
  37. “The brain is the most complex, challenging scientific puzzle we have ever tried to decode.”
  38. “The possible is constantly being redefined, and I care deeply about helping humanity move forward.”
  39. “The promise of artificial intelligence and computer science generally vastly outweighs the impact it could have on some jobs in the same way that, while the invention of the airplane negatively affected the railroad industry, it opened a much wider door to human progress.”
  40. “The star panelist was Ted Nelson, the wild-eyed author of the underground sensation Computer Lib. (Nelson also co-invented hypertext, by which words in one article can link to a related page, a pervasive aspect of today’s Web.) He summed up his wild philosophy in four maxims: “Most people are fools, most authority is malignant, God does not exist, and everything is wrong.”
  41. “The thing you realize when you get into studying neuroscience, even a little bit, is that everything is connected to everything else. So it’s as if the brain is trying to use everything at its disposal – what it is seeing, what it is hearing, what is the temperature, past experience.”
  42. “There are relatively few ideas that you can do just by yourself.”
  43. “There are so many intricacies to our brain that won’t be understood unless we start to look at the system as a whole. All these different details don’t operate in isolation.”
  44. “There’s going to be reversals. You have to be ready, to be philosophical about that.”
  45. “There’s no enjoyment to losing money.”
  46. “To make real progress in A.I., we have to overcome the big challenges in the area of common sense.”
  47. “We’ve had some tough times, but we’ve hung in there.”
  48. “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?”
  49. “What we did was unprecedented, but what is less well understood is that we had no choice.”
  50. “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.”
  51. “You look at things you enjoy in your life, but much more important is what you can do to make the world a better place.”
  52. “You want someone who will challenge you back; sometimes, that’s the way the best decisions get made.”
  53. “You’ve got to enjoy time with your family and friends, and if you’re involved in sports franchises, those peak moments in playoff games. You have to enjoy life.”

Books, articles and publications

  • 2012. Idea man: A memoir by the cofounder of Microsoft. Penguin.

How to cite this article:
Janse, B. (2023). Paul Allen. Retrieved [insert date] from Toolshero:

Original publication date: 01/25/2023 | Last update: 07/09/2024

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Vincent van Vliet
Article by:

Vincent van Vliet

Vincent van Vliet is co-founder and responsible for the content and release management. Together with the team Vincent sets the strategy and manages the content planning, go-to-market, customer experience and corporate development aspects of the company.


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