Paul Allen, an entrepreneur from the tech world

Paul Allen co-founded Microsoft, the hugely successful software company, along with Bill Gates. Today he is a successful businessman with shares in large Internet and entertainment companies that he controls from his firm, Vulcan Northwest Inc.

Allen was born on January 21, 1953 in Seattle, the son of a teacher and a librarian. He completed his high school studies at Lakeside, a school that was precisely one of the first ones to have access to a computer, and there he met Bill Gates, a boy two years younger than him. In 1969, Allen, Gates and two other students founded a company in which they, for an entire year, they committed to testing computer equipment from the Computer Center Corporation. They did it without pay, just to have access to the computers.

Microsoft begins

Later, Gates entered Harvard, while Allen started his college studies at the Washington State University. However, both dropped out of school, and in 1975 they founded Microsoft (originally spelled MicroSoft), with the development of an operating system for the Altair 8800 PC. The company then began its career by selling a BASIC language interpreter.

Allen was instrumental in buying the QDOS operating system, which cost $50,000, and was the basis for the future Windows operating system. Microsoft got a contract that made them responsible for the development of the OS of IBM’s revolutionary PCs. This was without a doubt the impetus they needed.

However, by 1982, Paul Allen, at age 29, was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Disease, which forced him to distance himself from Microsoft to undergo a serious treatment. In 1983 he had to leave the company. Nevertheless, he remains a partner of the software giant with a major stake.

A successful businessman

In 1986 Allen founded the firm Vulcan Northwest Inc. in Washington, which helps fund projects and companies. Allen has earned the fame, through his firm, of being one of the most successful venture capitalists in Silicon Valley. He holds stakes in more than 50 companies in sectors such as technology and entertainment. Entertainment Properties Inc, Experience Music Project, First & Goal Inc., Vulcan Ventures Inc, and Clear Blue Sky Productions are just some of them.

He is also the owner of the NFL Football team Seattle Seahawks. Some time ago, Allen sold several of Microsoft’s shares for about $8 billion. Part of such a fortune was used to invest in young and promising companies in the Internet sector such as Click2learn, Priceline, Net Perceptions and many others.

He was one of the first to bet on AOL when no one knew it and AOL boss Steve Case was desperate not to end up working as a sweeper in the old streets of the Bronx. Other famous companies that benefitted from Allen’s magnanimous monetary contributions in Silicon Valley included Metricom and Dreamworks.

One of the few mistakes that Paul Allen admits to is not investing timely in eBay.com, one of the most successful, thriving and profitable companies in the Internet sector. Vulcan Ventures, Allen’s firm, is always keeping a close eye -and wallet- on where the best opportunities are. Not only does it fund new and promising startups, but it also buys shares in companies that are already listed on the US stock market. The experience and success of Allen in recent years is quite an eyeopener for more than one investor in the United States.

Scene from Paul Allen Interview at CHM
Image courtesy of Don DeBold at Flickr.com

When Wall Street gets the news that Allen plans to invest in a particular company, private investors, who are not at all slow, try to get in the business because they trust blindly in the entrepreneurial instinct of Bill Gates’ former business partner. Depositors in the US and in other parts of the world know that Allen, Gates, and Co. are true machines when it comes to doing business and making money. Every time that any of these characters makes a move, Wall Street’s speculative machinery is set in motion and it is not uncommon to see prices skyrocket and go through the roof. Experts and analysts call this the “Paul Allen factor.”

Allen’s investment strategy focuses on companies with future technology. Allen is convinced that the next boom will take place in the interactive sector. And this will happen as soon as the digital infrastructure based on glass fiber, with optical transmission opportunities, is completed and readily available. Already in 1990, long before Wall Street analysts discovered the growth potential of firms working in the field of digital communication, Paul Allen held shares in them. And as long as the Internet revolution and technological advancements in the field of communications are going strong, the greater will be the value of his investments.

About his fortune

In the early 2000s, before the beginning of the fall in stock markets, Bill Gates’s fortune amounted to about $85 billion. At that time, Paul Allen had about $40 billion in his bank accounts.

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