Entrepreneurship Lessons from Paul Allen

Nov 1, 2018

I, like many around the world, was saddened to hear of the recent passing of Microsoft founder, Paul Allen.  As a lifelong Pacific Northwest resident, I have much to thank Mr. Allen for ranging from the Microsoft products I have used throughout my life, including the WORD I am using to write this blog article, to the Seattle Seahawks, Portland Trailblazers, and Seattle Sounders I loyally support as a sports fan to the Experience Music Project (EMP) Museum, my wife, Janette, & I were founding supporting members of in 2000.  I am also thankful for the quality life employment in Mr. Allen’s companies has provided to friends and their families for many years.  I have never worked for Microsoft, although I did have a serious discussion with Mike Negrin about joining the company’s international sales division in 1990, a path not traveled with mixed feelings in hindsight.

My favorite Paul Allen story is from his high school days.  It is a story that epitomizes the vision, passion, and entrepreneurial spirit that existed in Paul before he was one of the richest men in the world being able to execute his dreams in tangible form like few others have been able to achieve.  The story relates to his use, along with Bill Gates, of the computer science lab at the University of Washington at all hours of the day, often after midnight to before the sun rose, gaining experience with computers in the infancy of their being accessible to the public and starting down a path to a date with destiny that would change how we all communicate, work, and live. Here is a version of the story from a University of Washington publication:  https://magazine.washington.edu/feature/before-paul-allen-funded-uws-computer-science-labs-he-got-kicked-out-of-them/  I love this story because it conveys in an iconic manner a story I have heard many times from successful entrepreneurs as the President & CEO of the Pacific Northwest’s oldest business brokerage firm, IBA, of vision & passion motivating entrepreneurship not financial opportunity.   The most successful entrepreneurs start with an idea and execute it because they identify a need. Add many, many hours of thought, effort, failure, and innovation to translate the vision to a deliverable product or service.  If product or service delivered resonates with the market, dollars almost always follow superior execution in America’s free market economy with its limitless ladder of financial opportunity.  The story of Paul Allen & Bill Gates is case evidence of this possibility. It is not a myth.  It happened and happened in the lifetime of most everyone reading this article.  It is a story that has been repeated countless times in the Pacific Northwest and America.

It is our pleasure at IBA to often be participants in the last chapter of an entrepreneur’s story.  We take great pride in helping successful business owners turn their vision & performance into a liquidity event where blood, sweat, and tears are turned into a comfortable retirement, a legacy estate, the ability to spend time with family & friends, and/or the ability to pursue a passion of travel, non-profit leadership or participation, or pursuit of the next big idea as an entrepreneur.  Paul Allen also got work/life balance correct.  He achieved and then he exited to do his own thing whether it was playing the guitar or cruising the San Juans in his yacht.  The reality is that once you get past a certain financial point (which varies greatly from individual to individual), time & freedom become more valuable assets than more money.  If you are reaching that point in your life, the professionals at IBA would welcome the opportunity to provide an overview of the services we provide our clients desiring to sell their businesses.  I am confident that early in the conversation based on our knowledge, experience, and high professional skill set you will find why IBA has been the preferred business brokerage firm for entrepreneurs in the Pacific Northwest since before Paul Allen started Microsoft.

IBA, the Pacific Northwest’s premier business brokerage firm since 1975, is available as an information resource to the media, business brokerage, and mergers & acquisitions community on subjects relevant to the purchase & sale of privately held companies and family owned businesses.  IBA is recognized as one of the best business brokerage firms in the nation based on its long track record of successfully negotiating “win-win” business sale transactions in environments of full disclosure employing “best practices”.