Shalom Life | January 31, 2015

Jewish Hall of Fame: Paul Allen

The co-founder of Microsoft, Allen also founded Vulcan Inc., and currently owns two major sports teams

By: Caitlin Marceau

Published: August 20th, 2014 in Business » World

Jewish Hall of Fame: Paul Allen

Since the dawn of time, Jewish people have contributed greatly to various fields, from sports to entertainment to politics to porn. With our Breakthrough Jew feature, we recognize those who are up and comers in these various industries, identifying those great innovators and leaders in the contemporary world who are making a mark on society that will last a lifetime.

With the Jewish Hall of Fame, we recognize the remarkable advancements members of our community have made on today's society. These are people who have truly changed the world, and have earned the respect and praise of the members of today's younger generation.

ShalomLife’s Jewish Hall of Fame is our ongoing tribute to the greatest Jews who have ever lived; be sure to catch us weekly with our latest inductees, and tweet us @ShalomLife with your suggestions.

Check out last week's inductee into the Hall of Fame here.

Hall of Fame Member: Paul Allen

Born: January 21st, 1953, Seattle, Washington

Born on January 21st, 1953, in Seattle, Washington, Paul Allen was destined for greatness. This future co-founder of Microsoft was raised by his mother, Edna Faye, and his father Kenneth Sam Allen, who was an associate director of the University of Washington libraries. His parents enrolled him at Lakeside School, a private educational institute, and at the age of fourteen he met someone who would profoundly help change his life; Bill Gates, who was then only twelve years old.

While at school together, the pair began to learn their programming skills on their school’s shared Teletype terminal. It was during this time that both boys developed their interest for computers and software design.

Upon graduation, the pair split up but remained friends. Gates attended Harvard University, while Allen attended the University of Washington. However, two years after his university career began, Allen dropped out to work as a programmer for Honeywell, located in Boston, putting him near one of his dearest friends, Gates. He eventually convinced his friend to drop out of Harvard and in 1975 Microsoft was born.

Originally, Allen and Gates had intended to create software for personal computers that were just beginning to hit the consumer market. However all that changed when the programming pair were approached by IBM in 1980 as asked to supply their new line of Intel 8088-IBM PCs with disc operating systems (DOS). Unable to produce them themselves, the pair approached Tim Paterson, then an employee at Seattle Computer Products, to purchase a Quick And Dirty Operating System (QDOS) that he had written. Securing a deal between all parties involved, Microsoft acquired the QDOS that would eventually run on IBM’s computer line. It was through this deal that Microsoft’s wealth began.

In 1983, Allen left Microsoft upon being diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease. He underwent radiation treatment for the illness for several months. It was during this time that stocks in Microsoft grew, and although Allen was no longer working for the company he still had an investment in it. Not long after turning thirty, Allen became a billionaire through Microsoft.

In 1986 Allen decided, thanks to his entrepreneurial mind and love for technology, to establish Vulcan Inc. The company’s aim was to find and analyze potential investments. It was through Vulcan Ventures that Allen founded Interval Research in 1992. His goal was to begin a “wired world,” where people could access and do just about anything online.

From 1994 to 1998, Allen made a wide variety of investments to encourage society’s move to an online infrastructure. Companies Allen backed included America Online, Teluscan, Starwave, and many other tech and communications companies. He also became the owner of the 7th largest cable company in America at this time. Allen has also invested in several new media groups. In 1999 he hoped to fund POP.com, which would have produced television quality content for viewers online. Unfortunately that venture failed to lift off, so Allen decided to invest in Oxygen Media, co-founded by Oprah Winfrey.

Allen also has a wide variety of interest and hobbies. A sport’s fan through and through, he currently owns the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks, the NBA’s Portland Trailblazers and is a co-owner of the Seattle Sounders FC. He’s also a generous philanthropist, investing money into medical research, forest conservation, community service, and has even opened interactive museums.

In 2013, Vulcan Productions, a production company of Allen’s, announced that it had signed on as production partner for the documentary Pandora’s Promise. The film aims to openly discuss climate change, and other environmental issues, which are dear to Allen’s heart.

Valued at over $30 billion, we are proud to induct this Microsoft co-founder, media mogul, and philanthropist, into this week’s Jewish Hall of Fame. Allen himself, as of August 2014, was declared the 55th richest person in the world, with an estimated net worth of $16.2 billion.

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