Paul's Biography

Paul Allen has a question. And if you ever meet him, you’ll hear him ask it more than once.

What should exist?

What if we don’t have to accept the world as it is? What if we played the long game for the future, instead of pursuing short-term rewards? Asking “What should exist?” is Paul Allen’s world.

It was the question he asked as a sci-fi- and music-loving kid growing up in the outskirts of Seattle. It was what guided him as the co-founder and idea broker for Microsoft, which set off the personal computing revolution. And it’s what has led him to spearhead a range of efforts from improving ocean health to tackling global warming to saving endangered species and researching the human brain.


Mr. Allen’s philanthropy also encompasses history and the arts.

An avid guitarist, his love for the music of Jimi Hendrix inspired him to found MoPOP, which explores the ideas and risks that fuel pop culture. He founded the Flying Heritage & Combat Armor Museum, a collection of rare WWII aircraft and artifacts restored to working condition, and the Living Computer Museum + Labs, a collection of restored vintage computer equipment. He believes the greatest value of art is created when it is shared widely, which led to his founding of the Seattle Art Fair and Upstream Music Fest. He is chairman of Vulcan Productions, an award-winning media company that develops and supports media projects that help audiences understand and respond to challenges facing the world around them.brain-institute

Since 2003, Mr. Allen has invested more than $500 million in brain research, primarily through the Allen Institute for Brain Science. The institute is dedicated to uncovering the mysteries of the brain and has created valuable data, knowledge and tools for researchers that are openly shared through the Allen Brain Atlas portal. He also founded the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence and the Allen Institute for Cell Science.

As he explores new frontiers in science, Mr. Allen is also pushing planetary boundaries. He funded SpaceShipOne, the first private spacecraft to carry a civilian into suborbital space and safely home again, a historic triumph that in 2004 captured the Ansari X-Prize. In 2011, he founded Stratolaunch to develop an air-launch platform to make access to space more convenient, reliable, and routine.

Equally committed to earthly challenges, Mr. Allen gave $100 million to fight the West African Ebola epidemic in 2014. His gift was the largest private donation in the world focused entirely on this deadly plague, and served as a catalyst to greater involvement from governments and other donors around the world.

Mr. Allen is the proud owner of two of the greenest teams in sports—the NBA’s Portland Trail Blazers and the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks. He is also part owner of Seattle’s major league soccer team, the Sounders.

All told, Mr. Allen’s philanthropic contributions exceed $2 billion. As a member of the Giving Pledge, he remains committed to giving away the majority of his fortune.