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Idea Man

A Memoir by the Cofounder of Microsoft
Narrated by: Sean Runnette
Length: 12 hrs and 42 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (404 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

By his early 30s, Paul Allen was a world-famous billionaire - and that was just the beginning. 

In 2007 and 2008, Time named Paul Allen, the cofounder of Microsoft, one of the 100 most influential people in the world. Since he made his fortune, his impact has been felt in science, technology, business, medicine, sports, music, and philanthropy. His passion, curiosity, and intellectual rigor - combined with the resources to launch and support new initiatives - have literally changed the world. 

In 2009 Allen discovered that he had lymphoma, lending urgency to his desire to share his story for the first time. In this classic memoir, Allen explains how he has solved problems, what he's learned from his many endeavors - both the triumphs and the failures - and his compelling vision for the future. He reflects candidly on an extraordinary life. 

The book also features previously untold stories about everything from the true origins of Microsoft to Allen's role in the dawn of private space travel (with SpaceShipOne) and in discoveries at the frontiers of brain science. With honesty, humor, and insight, Allen tells the story of a life of ideas made real.

©2011 Paul Allen (P)2011 Penguin

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Best autobiography

There is far more to Paul Allen's story then "just" co-founder of Microsoft. His multi-faceted interests span life. Told in a compelling, yet intimate voice, this is the most interesting autobiography I have ever read.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Andy
  • Westport, CT, United States
  • 12-03-11

an interesting journey

Two part book. First, an inside look at the journey of a curious kid from his days mixing household chemicals in the basement through his co-founding and eventual departure from Microsoft. Second, a primer on how not to go shopping after hitting the jackpot.
Sadly, no mention of the egregious "patent troll" behavior by Vulcan, especially on small and growing tech start-ups.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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The part about Microsoft is good

Any additional comments?

Great account of Microsoft's early years. Too bad it is only a third of the book. The rest is about Allen's other activities, which are not so interesting.

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  • Dustin
  • Walton, KY, United States
  • 12-02-11

Pretty good

This biography was a mixed bag. The parts about Allen's relationship with Bill Gates before Microsoft, and about his time working at Microsoft, were great. It really makes you realize how intergel Microsoft was at the time. They were involved with so much, listening to Allen talk about it was almost like reading Fire In The Valley. It was like hearing a complete early history of personal computers. When Allen finishes talking about Microsoft he gives his take on the computer industry, and it's pretty awesome to hear his perspective on the industry today. I really enjoyed these parts of the book. With that said, the beginning, before Allen meets Gates, and the parts about owning a basketball team and the non-tech investments he made after Microsoft were incredibly boring. I couldn't take it and ended up skipping these chapters. Finally near the end he starts talking about his tech investments. This part wasn't bad, but his involvement with his tech investments are never as interesting as his involvement with Microsoft. It really makes you wonder if he was as passionate about these investments as he was about Microsoft. Overall I'd say if you're into tech like I am then reading this is a no-brainer... you'll just end up skipping the boring parts like me. The parts I mentioned that were interesting are well worth the price tag.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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jesus h christ...

can't believe it took me this long to finally read this. worth every minute.

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RIP Paul Allen & Thank You!

Paul Allen had an amazing life and it was fascinating to read about it in his own words. While most are familiar with Paul's contributions as the cofounder of Microsoft, I thought it was even more interesting to hear about his vast philanthropic endeavors. Their are a lot of great autobiographies / biographies, but this is near the top of my list (along with Shoe Dog).

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Paul Allen was a visionary

I live in Seattle we knew Paul Allen owned the Seahawks and Blazer and was Co-founder of Microsoft. however after listening to this book I believe Mr Allen was an extraordinary visionary. More so than Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. he just did it without the spotlight. I believe after listening to this book you will agree.

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Great Book

This was a great book and Paul Allen was a good man! This book was a good telling of the history of the Personal Computer and Paul's life.

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Would rate 6 stars if I could

I may be a little bit biased because I am both a programmer and a huge NBA fan. It felt like the book was written specifically for me. I loved the deep dives into how they made all the different technology work at Microsoft, learning about the history of computing, and especially the behind the scenes of what it’s like buying and running NBA team. The narration was fantastic as well. I only wish I read this while Paul Allen was still living (may he Rest In Peace)

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Never knew I had so much in common

Great listen. I liked him before and now I think we were brothers from a different mother.

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  • Peter
  • 10-21-19

A great man

Paul Allen was a great man in his field who also contributed so much in many other areas, too. This is his well-narrated story of how he rose to such great heights alongside Bill Gates at Microsoft, as well as achievements elsewhere. This is a
really nice audio book which I enjoyed. He will be greatly missed.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 08-10-19

Pessimistic at points

There were too frequent technical names of the hardware, which shadows the storyline sometimes. Too many times 'I' instead of 'we', and at some stages it felt that he wasn't happy with his fortune :/ God bless him.

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  • Mark M
  • 07-21-19

Much more than just microsoft

I came to this book anticipating most of it to be about Microsoft, the subject I got the book for. I wanted a perspective on its start from the other co - founder. This was engrossing as Mr Allen kept diaries so had great detail of the very early days programming late at night but it skimmed over fairly quickly his involvement in the company's latter days as he grew apart from Bill Gates.

The second half of the book I didn't know what to expect as I didn't know about Paul Allen's other interests and achievements. The starting chapters to this second half, post the big topic of Microsoft, about sports ownership failed to grab me much but the chapters on music, the mind (the ultimate computer has he says), space flight, the start of cable internet and exploration by yacht went together very well. These were equally engrossing and showed what Paul Allen's many other legacies were that had developed from his post Microsoft business investments.

If you just came to this book about Microsoft you will really like its start up story but please hang around for the bigger picture of a private but engaging man.

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  • James
  • 05-12-19

i could not stop listening

Excellent, loved it, RIP Paul Allen. Software is eating the world now and many have benefited from their rise.