Paul Allen‘s new book “Idea Man: A Memoir by the Cofounder of Microsoft” will be published in a few weeks. [HT LA Times] It looks interesting coming from Allen. Check out these magazine and newspaper articles.
* From Vanity Fair, a book excerpt adapted from Idea Man, “THE TECH REVOLUTION – Microsoft’s Odd Couple“. Here are some telling quotes (emphasis added),
- “Where I was curious to study everything in sight, Bill would focus on one task at a time with total discipline.“
- “Shoehorned into about 3,200 bytes, roughly 2,000 lines of code, it was one tight little BASIC—stripped down, for sure, but robust for its size. No one could have beaten the functionality and speed crammed into that tiny footprint of memory: “The best piece of work we ever did,” as Bill told me recently. And it was a true collaboration.“
- “From the time we’d started together in Massachusetts, I’d assumed that our partnership would be a 50-50 proposition. But Bill had another idea. “It’s not right for you to get half,” he said. “You had your salary at MITS while I did almost everything on BASIC without one back in Boston. I should get more. I think it should be 60-40.” At first I was taken aback. But as I pondered it, Bill’s position didn’t seem unreasonable. I’d been coding what I could in my spare time, and feeling guilty that I couldn’t do more, but Bill had been instrumental in packing our software with “more features per byte of memory than any other BASIC we know,” as I’d written for Computer Notes. All in all, I thought, a 60-40 split might be fair.A short time later, we licensed BASIC to NCR for $175,000. Even with half the proceeds going to Ed Roberts, that single fee would pay five or six programmers for a year.Bill’s intensity was nonstop, and when he asked me for a walk-and-talk one day, I knew something was up. We’d gone a block when he cut to the chase: “I’ve done most of the work on BASIC, and I gave up a lot to leave Harvard,” he said. “I deserve more than 60 percent.”“How much more?”
“I was thinking 64-36.”
Again, I had that moment of surprise. But I’m a stubbornly logical person, and I tried to consider Bill’s argument objectively. His intellectual horsepower had been critical to BASIC, and he would be central to our success moving forward—that much was obvious. But how to calculate the value of my Big Idea—the mating of a high-level language with a microprocessor—or my persistence in bringing Bill to see it? What were my development tools worth to the “property” of the partnership? Or my stewardship of our product line, or my day-to-day brainstorming with our programmers? I might have haggled and offered Bill two points instead of four, but my heart wasn’t in it. So I agreed. At least now we can put this to bed, I thought.
Our formal partnership agreement, signed on February 3, 1977, had two other provisions of note. Paragraph 8 allowed an exemption from business duties for “a partner who is a full-time student,” a clause geared to the possibility that Bill might go back for his degree. And in the event of “irreconcilable differences,” paragraph 12 stated, Bill could demand that I withdraw from the partnership.
Later, after our relationship changed, I wondered how Bill had arrived at the numbers he’d proposed that day. I tried to put myself in his shoes and reconstruct his thinking, and I concluded that it was just this simple: What’s the most I can get? I think Bill knew that I would balk at a two-to-one split, and that 64 percent was as far as he could go. He might have argued that the numbers reflected our contributions, but they also exposed the differences between the son of a librarian and the son of a lawyer. I’d been taught that a deal was a deal and your word was your bond. Bill was more flexible; he felt free to renegotiate agreements until they were signed and sealed. There’s a degree of elasticity in any business dealing, a range for what might seem fair, and Bill pushed within that range as hard and as far as he could.“
* From Financial Times, “Where Microsoft went wrong – by Paul Allen“