Friday, September 02, 2011

The Idea Man

Who really was the engine behind Microsoft?? Was it Bill Gates, brutal CEO Steve Balmer or maybe co-founder “The Idea Man” Paul Allen?

After just reading Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen’s memoir, “Idea Man,” I think that maybe the reason Microsoft has lost its way is that Allen hasn’t been the foil to Bill Gates…
Original Microsoft Team
Original Microsoft Team Revisited
What I found most engrossing is Allen’s candour, about himself and the company.

He writes: “I left Microsoft a quarter century before Bill did, and we’ve both had our signal triumphs since then but in certain respects, neither of us has been quite as good alone as we were together. I missed Bill’s laser focus on competition in the marketplace, his ability to execute my ideas and keep me from getting too far ahead of what was doable. And I’d like to think that Bill missed my ability to divine where technology was headed and my knack for meeting its trajectory with something big and original.”

Of himself, he is equally revealing. He was a 29% shareholder of AOL and after differences of opinion he sold his shareholdings for a tidy profit. However, by selling his stake in America Online too early, he missed out on a “$40 billion bonanza” as AOL soared prior to the Dot Com Bust..

Allen lost $2 billion on his ill-conceived investment in Charter Communications, a Cable Television company. He says he was distracted by being an investor in 140 companies at the time and blinded to reason by pursuing a dream that was too early. Also a lead investor in DreamWorks, he sold early and pocketed $500 million profit. However Allen believed his investment would have done better if invested in fixed deposits at the bank. What a problem to have… complaining about a $500 million profit – I should be so lucky.

Read my full book review at The Maverick Spirit 

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