Paul Allen understands that relationship strengthening and viral marketing is the industry that requires constant learning how every trend affects decision-making in the family and the community. A platform’s potential to be viral can be pointed to a growing community’s interest and how well they build a discussion towards the platform’s topics on how to innovate lives.
As the Founder and CEO of Soar, Paul fulfills his why of “better way” by helping people unlock their potential through connection and utilizing the wealth of knowledge that has been accumulated over generations. In this episode, Paul joins Dr. Gary Sanchez to discuss how viral marketing is associated with progressing business and how family strengthening is achieved through different factors, not just by initial analysis.
Are you interested in the opportunities of growing your following and seeing opportunities in its early stages? Take part in the discussion and learn more from Paul’s experience.
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Innovating Lives, The Better Way With Paul Allen
If you’re a regular reader, you know that every episode, we talk about 1 of the 9 whys, and then we bring on somebody with that why so you can see how their why has played out in their life. We are going to be talking about the why of a better way. If this is your why, you are the ultimate innovator. You constantly seeking better ways to do everything from the most mundane tasks of brushing your teeth to improving the rocket fuel that powers the space shuttle. You can’t stop yourself. You take virtually anything and want to improve it, make it better, and share your improvement with the world.
You invent things and take what has already been invented and improve that, too. You constantly ask yourself the question, “What if we tried this differently? What if we did this another way?” You contribute to the world with better processes, better systems, and operate under the motto, often pleased and never satisfied. You are excellent at associating and taking from one industry or discipline and applying it to another, always with the aim of improving something. You generally operate with a high level of energy because after all, that, too, is a better way.
I’ve got a great guest for you. His name is Paul Allen. Paul is a mission-driven tech entrepreneur known for Founding Ancestry.com and Soar.com. He founded eight companies since 1990 and led the Global Strengths Movement for Gallup from 2012 to 2017. He is a popular keynote speaker, workshop facilitator, and an advocate for lifelong learning. He teaches how our identity comes from knowing our family stories as well as from our personal strengths. He has spoken in many countries around the world including the US, Canada, UK, Ireland, Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Australia, China, and New Zealand.
Paul taught entrepreneurship for two years at Utah Valley University and internet marketing for two years at BYU. He was an Ernst & Young Utah Entrepreneur of the Year in 2000 and the MarketingSherpa National Entrepreneur of the year in 2008. He is a fellow of the Utah Genealogical Association and was named a Cyber Pioneer in 2010 by the Cyber Law Section of the Utah State Bar. He was the Honored Alumnus of BYU Humanities College in 2016, having graduated in 1990 with a BA in Russian. Paul and his wife Christy live in Kansas City, Missouri. They have eight children and five grandchildren.
Paul, welcome to the show.
Thank you, Gary. I’m so excited to talk to you. I loved your description of the better way. Every single thing resonated with me, so you’ve nailed it with this assessment.
Take us back through your journey. Give us a quick tour of your journey from being that sounds like at BYU to how the heck did you get to Soar.com?
I never want in my young life to be a business person or an entrepreneur. It never even was on my radar. I loved learning and every school subject when I went to university. I changed majors multiple times because every class I took, I’m like, “I want to major in this.” I ended up majoring in Russian, but I started a Master’s degree in Library Science. My entrepreneur journey was started accidentally when I went to a university conference where the president of the university was awarding honors to great faculty researchers and the best teachers in the university. My father was receiving the Karl G. Maeser Research Award because my father invented software in the ’70s and ’80s. It was used by hundreds of manufacturing companies throughout the United States like Lockheed Martin, Caterpillar, Westinghouse, and Boeing. They used his technology for classifying parts and processes to take raw material through manufacturing processes and create higher value.
My dad was a world-famous classificationist and decision tree software developer. He had a team that built the software, but he was the visionary. At the conference that I was at honoring my dad, the president of the university talked about gathering up all the truth in the world and bringing it to students and communities of learners. I was working part-time at my brother’s search engine company. He had a software company called Folio in the ’80s and I was running a Kurzweil $40,000 OCR scanner, and trying to build searchable info bases. We were scanning little bits here and there. This president of the university had a vision for putting all the world’s knowledge at people’s fingertips. I thought, “Why don’t I go do that?”
Two years later, I started a nonprofit with my dad. It didn’t go anywhere. My best friend and I decided our mission for our first company will be to digitize all the world’s most important books in every field of human knowledge, put them on CD-ROM using the Folio search engine, and see how many people we can help with their learning journey. A few years later, we made the Inc. 500. We were making $4 million a year in top-line revenue. At that point, I realized I’m not going ever to go back into academia. I love being an entrepreneur. Some of the coolest people I’d ever met were entrepreneurs. I embraced it finally in ’95 and ’96.
From there, that led to Ancestry.com. Was that your next big venture?
One of the interesting things we realized in the first five years of CD-ROM publishing is that almost everything good is under copyright by author or publisher, and licensing all the best books ever written in every field was impossible. I started spending hundreds of hours in libraries in the old public domain section, the history section, the literature section, and some old science work. We came across genealogical collections of tens of thousands of books containing birth, marriage, and death records data.Connecting families is not just connecting you to your past. It takes on a live, current social context. Click To Tweet
In September of ’95, I went to an internet conference in San Francisco where it hit me for the first time that CD-ROM is going to go away. It’s like this temporary storage and distribution mechanism, but when the World Wide Web is available everywhere, all the world’s knowledge will be stored there. The term cloud computing hadn’t been invented yet, but it struck me powerfully in September of ’95 that we could digitize all the world’s genealogy records, put them on the internet, not pay royalties for any of it, and build the world’s biggest genealogy company, which we started doing in 1996.
Take us through this because when I hear you say that, that sounds overwhelming. “I’ll take all this data and digitize it.” How do you go about doing something like that?
As a twenty-something-year-old, I ran a $40,000 scanner and could scan a couple of hundred pages an hour and edit it. You end up with this pristine searchable database or text-based on a small scale, but digitization of content was happening all over the place. I remember, we had to get nine-track magnetic tapes from the government and we would take data off of that. I don’t go back to the ticker punch card days as my dad did, but more books were being published electronically. It wasn’t necessarily all about digitizing what was done in the past. It was partly about all the birth, marriage, and death records are now digital to begin with. In the late ’90s, cameras became digital.
You didn’t have to go scan all the old photographs. I saw the writing on the wall where the world is heading because the content will start out digitally. That will make it almost free to index it and license it or make it available online. The old content that we knew we have to raise hundreds of millions of dollars or someday billions of dollars would be going into scanning all the world’s microfilm collections, all the records in courthouses, and church archives. That’s why we decided to raise tens of millions of dollars of venture capital was the digitization costs would be enormous. We figured that eventually we could get it done.
How far back did you go before you launched it?
In June of 1996, we put 55 million records on the internet. It was the Federal Government’s nine-track tape. They had a $2,800 reel that we could buy. It was 55 million Social Security records of people who had been deceased. The Social Security administration had reported their birthday and location, their parents’ names, and then how long they obtained Social Security benefits. It was a great starting point for genealogy in the 20th century. That database was sold by dozens of vendors as a CD-ROM collection for $29 or $59. We put it up for free on the internet. Within a year, we had a million visitors a month coming to our website and we started small. We made a promise to our customers that every single day we would publish one small, medium, or a large database of new genealogical records.
We started working with content providers and genealogy societies. For years, Ancestry would add 10,000, 50,000, or 1 million records. Over time, we grew to billions of records. Every day our subscription became more valuable to more people. Especially in ’98, when we came up with a concept called the Ancestry World Tree, where we invited every genealogist in the world to upload their family tree and we would index it all and make it available outside of our paid wall. We were building the Wikipedia of family trees and it was all free. At that point, our growth exploded because we had millions of people uploading their trees and thousands or tens of thousands of connected names in trees that had sometimes taken 10 or 20 years to build. New users would come in and say, “Here are my great grandparents. I can go back ten generations automatically.” That was the tipping point for Ancestry as a successful company. It was user-generated content at scale.
What was your original vision for Ancestry.com?
Basically, to digitize all the world’s genealogy records and put them on the internet. That’s where it started. Where it morphed to was community-generated content. What that morphed to is even more interesting and unexpected. People in the world of business even though Ancestry is worth $5 billion don’t know this next chapter. We morphed our vision from genealogy on the internet to let’s connect and strengthened families worldwide. Connecting families is not just connecting you to your past, but connecting families started to take on a live current social context. I had a dream one night that we built an intranet for every family in the world. Those cousins, aunts, and uncles, second cousins, everyone could gather in private groups, share photos with each other, have a shared calendar of birthdays and anniversaries, upload content like recipes, and even do voiceover IP chats with any relative in the world.
Six years before Skype was invented, we launched MyFamily.com, whereas Ancestry was growing slowly but surely, MyFamily.com is the idea that attracted the first $75 million of venture capital. None of the VCs were interested in the Ancestry thing until they found out that MyFamily.com was going to be photo-sharing for all the families in the world. We had this private secure way for families to share content. It grew to a million users in 145 days. It started growing by 20,000 or 30,000 users a day. Every VC we talked to felt guilty that they weren’t sharing their family, their kids’ photos with their mom or their dad. They weren’t as connected to their living family as they knew they should be and in the long run that everyone values family. In the day-to-day grind, sometimes we lose touch with people.
The money flowed. It was because of that idea that Ancestry raised all the money after the dot-com bubble burst and tragically, MyFamily.com was turned from a free site growing like crazy into a paid site that over the next fifteen years served fewer families every year. It could have been Facebook scale in a way if the investors hadn’t turned it into a $30 a year paid subscription but that’s not what happened. What ended up happening has Ancestry turned into a $1 billion a year revenue company. MyFamily was shut down in 2015.
It sounds like your vision started out as information-based and ended up like a family reunion.
It became about not data but about relationships and connections among living family members. It turns out that family is the most important thing in the world for most humans. There’s about 7% of adults in America that will spend time and money doing genealogy research. The polls we’ve seen show that 95% of people say that it’s important for them to stay in touch with living relatives. Even though family sizes continued to decline when you find a cousin, an aunt, an uncle, a niece, or nephew, staying in touch with them and even connecting to an extended family is a big part of the human experience. People value that. MyFamily.com was popular and had potential than Ancestry.com did.
Have you ever thought about bringing it back?
I started to in 2007. I was a post-Ancestry for a few years and a great social entrepreneur friend of mine sat down and had a social website for college students. I thought, “Why don’t we morph that into a website for families?” We started a company called Family Link. We were a few months into building the replacement for MyFamily.com. When I went to San Francisco and met Mark Zuckerberg, the day that he announced a Facebook platform, he held an event called F8. It’s fate for short. There were about 65 software developers that they highlighted as partners of Facebook. At that time, they only had 24 million Facebook users but they were growing fast. I was teaching internet marketing at a university and I knew all my students were using Facebook. I was using Facebook to test it out. When Zuckerberg announced the platform, I got on the phone call with my lead product guy.
I said, “We’re shifting our company. Instead of building a destination website for families, we’ll build apps for families on top of Facebook.” By October of 2007, we launched our first app. It was called We’re Related. It allowed you to privately share photos with your relatives on Facebook and collaborate on a Family Tree with your other relatives. We started having 15,000 people a day started Family Tree. It was quite remarkable, but we started adding a million users a week with no dollars spent on advertising. We tapped into the Facebook viral loops. Within 2.5 years, we had 120 million users of We’re Related and 10 million users on a little app called MyFamily, which was a little stick figure app that we acquired. We had 130 million Facebook users. In 2010, Mark Zuckerberg on Facebook kicked all the apps off of their platform. It made them undiscoverable and impossible for us to communicate with our 120 million users.95% of people consider being close to their living relatives as more important than spending time and money doing genealogical research. Click To Tweet
Disney had come to us to sell all of our ad space for us because we were the most family-friendly app in the Facebook world. We lost $700,000 in monthly ad revenue and had to lay off 40 people. We tried to resurrect the MyFamily idea. When it was shut down by Facebook, they ended up building some of our key functionality into the Facebook platform. Whereas it used to be, you could only be friends with someone, you were friends with your sister, friends, with your grandma. We had hundreds of different relationship types family, my cousin, my aunt, and my uncle. Shortly after Facebook kicked us off of the platform, they now had all of those different relationship types so that you could define how you were connected to all your relatives on Facebook. It was very disappointing to be kicked off and then to be replaced.
You probably are not a huge Zuckerberg fan?
The swear word in my family when anything ever goes wrong, all of my kids will say under their breath, Zuckerberg.
You started Ancestry.com. It started growing like crazy. How big did it get and then you sold it? Did you approached by another organization that says, “We want this?” How did that happen?
We almost went public in early 2000. I moved to the Bay Area. I lived in Los Altos Hills. We moved our headquarters of Ancestry.com and MyFamily.com to San Francisco. We chose our bank, Merrill Lynch to take us public. We wrote our S-1 and they were saying we were going to be a $1 billion IPO. On the first day after the IPO, we would trade at $1.5 billion because we missed the window. We had hired a new CEO and CFO who wanted to delay the IPO a little bit. Six years later, a lot of our investors were tired. The board of directors chose to sell the company to a private equity fund. In 2009, the company went public finally. It was a nine-year delay from what we thought would be the IPO to when the company did an IPO. At that point, I didn’t own any shares because the private equity fund bought out all the existing shareholders in 2006. I haven’t owned any shares in Ancestry since 2006.
I’m sure it’s still worked out great for you, though.
My friend worked at Gallup and it is one of the world’s best companies around assessments of talent and potential leadership training. They’ve published dozens of bestselling books, but they also do a poll in the United States and a world poll. Gallup has maybe more data about humans in every country and what matters to people than almost any other organization in the world. My friend worked there, and the StrengthsFinder Assessment was one of their biggest selling products, but it would be bundled in books for 15 years or 12 years. They decided to do an eCommerce play maybe and make it available without books, just by the code, and take the assessment. My friend, who I had mentored in early 2000 as a young entrepreneur said, “If you want to make something go viral, like StrengthsFinder, you should bring in my friend, Paul, who’s done it multiple times.”
I started consulting for Gallup in 2012. I fell in love with their assessment. Thought it explained me better than anything I’d ever seen before. I took Gallup’s leadership team to Silicon Valley saying, “How we build this into social networks like LinkedIn, Yammer, Facebook, and Google Plus,” and then Gallop made me a full-time job offer. We moved to the DC area and spent five years, which I cherish every minute and every memory. I gained great knowledge and understanding of people, culture, leadership, surveys, how to find out what people think, and how to do something about it. I consider Jim Clifton, one of the great CEOs in the world. He’s the one that acquired the Gallup polling company from George Gallup’s sons. His father, Don Clifton, is the inventor of Strength Psychology, and the StrengthsFinder Assessment which rolled out a few years before he died in 2003.
I got a completely new view of life and what matters through the Gallup lens. I decided to launch a coaching platform to help everyone in the world who’s taking an assessment to get great coaching after taking the assessment. We invented something shortly after that. It allows us to store billions of hours of teaching, coaching, and training content in the Cloud and then to use AI to play for each listener or learner the very audio clips or video clips from the people that they ought to be exposed to in order to develop their talents, pursue their why, and reach their full potential on Earth.
Soar’s vision is to take all the things I learned in 30 years and weave them together into what you could call a human potential platform. How do you unlock the greatest potential of every human being through discovering their why, their strengths, connecting them to people like coaches and teachers, and then connecting them to the collective humanity’s wisdom and intelligence, hopefully soon stored in the Soar audio and video Cloud, and then available through smartphones or smart speakers? We think about Jarvis as an AI assistant for everyone because everyone’s an Iron Man. Potentially, if you fulfill your purpose, you’ll be the very best version of yourself, but AI could assist you in getting there. That’s the long-term vision for Soar.
You don’t do anything small scale, do you?
I’m not Elon Musk because I don’t invent core technologies. I’m not a brilliant rocket scientist, solar genius, or spaceship person. I’m not into the core fundamentals of physics and things, but I do see how to weave together some ingredients, particularly viral marketing, so that something good and helpful to people could scale to tens of millions or hundreds of millions, maybe someday billions of people. I do see how that plays out. I am a systems thinker and I’m very disparate in my reading, my learning, and listening. I’m not trained in business or technology. I never had a single class in college or a school around technology or business. It’s like this weird, eclectic education that leads me to think differently. From what I understand, there’s a $2 trillion company that says, “You should think differently.” I unwittingly do that.
For the readers that are familiar with the WhyOS, the why, how, and what, Paul and I have spent some time together. We know that Paul’s why is to find a better way as we talked about how he does that by seeking mastery and understanding meaning diving in deep. What he brings is a way to contribute, add value, and have an impact on the lives of other people. As you know his story, you can know that coming to life in the way that he does this. Paul, you said something that I don’t want to let you not expand on for our readers, which was, your friend said, “You got to talk to my friend, Paul, who knows a lot about making things go viral.” The billion-dollar question is, how do you take something and make it go viral?
There are lots of people that talk about viral marketing. Sometimes, people talk about a YouTube video or a TikTok video that gets shared by millions of people so it gets tens of millions of views. I don’t understand video that well. I don’t understand creativity and shooting something funny or that’s touching. I don’t have a lot of creative genes. I can’t draw. I’m not artistic. I’m the opposite of that. I’m an analytics-led person. I love numbers, doing math, and forecasting things in my head. The way I view viral marketing is that you engineer viral marketing into the product experience. Here’s a simple example. If I take an assessment and I take 5 or 10 minutes to answer a bunch of questions, I get a valuable report back.Facebook knew that everything can be social. They reinvented the news, games, banking and everything they do is engineered to be social. Click To Tweet
That could be a good experience for an individual. If the process of taking the assessment includes me telling you who my spouse is, my partner, my parents, my children, or my closest friends and say, “After you take the assessment, we want to share the results with ten people who know you well so that they can add a few positive comments to each item in your report.” If you design it to be not a solo experience but a group experience, out of the 10 people, 5 of them will make a comment. Two of them will say, “I want to take this assessment too. This is pretty cool.” When MyFamily.com was started, the average new user would invite 4.5 family members to join them in their group. If you start a group site and nobody’s in it, then it doesn’t grow.
It’s like you drop it. You leave. If you get 4.5 people in it and one of them happens to be the genealogist of the family or the other one happens to be the photographer of the family, they start posting content and started inviting people. Pretty soon, you have 30 people in your group. That was viral marketing, but it was engineered into the product. It wasn’t an afterthought. It was designed to work that way. Mark Zuckerberg is more than anyone in the world realize that every industry, every product, everything could become social. Facebook’s team tried to reinvent the news and make it social. Reinvent games and make them social. Reinvent cryptocurrency but banking. Every single thing they do is engineered to be social from day one. That’s why they’re affecting billions of people. All kinds of products can be designed to be viral as a core part of the experience.
I don’t think I would have thought of that way. I’m so glad you mentioned that. I would have thought, “How do I create something funny as you said or something different and send it out to everybody I know to see if they’ll send it out to become viral.” You start at the beginning and create it that way so that it becomes a group experience. I love that.
If you watch all the fastest-growing apps of all time, starting with the Facebook world and then the smartphone apps, they all not only do what I’m describing, but they also import data. For example, Clubhouse, which grew to 10 million users in a few months. When you start using it, it asks you to get your contacts and incorporate your contacts into the Clubhouse experience. Now, it knows who everyone you know on your phone. Most of the fast-growing apps either leveraged your Facebook social graph of all your friends on Facebook, your Twitter social graph, your iPhone, or Android contact list. Most people are not privacy-oriented, they say yes.
The company has access to Gary Sanchez knows 1,000 people on his smartphone, and then it makes it easy for them to prompt you later to say, “Would you like to invite these other ten people to come and check this out?” Rather than a one-time viral video share, which doesn’t give you much substance about each user. Sometimes, you don’t even know who the users or viewers are with integrating contact importing, address books, or email lists into the user experience upfront. It makes it that much faster for those apps to go viral.
What other ways than could we make it go viral? You got me thinking about obviously the why discovery and how to make that go viral. I’m picking your brain for all of our readers.
You and I are going to have this conversation down the road. I love the Why Assessment and I love the WhyOS. I want your stuff to scale to a billion people. It will help a lot of people around the world to know their why, their how, and their what. One other way is when an assessment result comes back if you could create a badge or an image that would be shareable on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter. It’s different than the mechanism I described where you’re asking for feedback and input from people that know and love you. In this case, it’s just social media posts and it could say, “Everybody, here’s what I discovered about my why, my how, and my what. Click here to get your own Why Assessment.” Maybe there’s a light version that’s free, people can register, and take that.
There’s an official rich version that’s combined with a coaching session. Let’s say I posted in 5,000 people see it, 50 click on it, and 5 sign up. That’s viral. That was again engineered into the product experience. At the end of the product experience, you created a sharable, or it could be them holding a photo of a report, a smiley face, or whatever and then posting the photo of themselves. It could be all things but you would test all different outputs from the assessment that might be fun for people to share. I actually, know of an assessment. I won’t tell you which one it is, but I’m confident that if I ever could license this assessment, we would get a billion people to take it within 1 or 2 years. It’s different than what you’ve done or what other psychological assessments are. It’s a relationship assessment. I won’t go into more detail but it would be crazy viral.
Your mind is always thinking that way and you’re always looking for, “I get what you’re doing, but how can we bring this to the world?”
My first marketing book that I bought in ’95, ’96 was called Guerrilla Marketing Online Weapons: 100 Low Cost, High Impact Weapons for Online Profits and Prosperity. Those hundred rules, I studied them over again. How can we use these to get customers to do word of mouth? Every time an Amazon box ships, everybody sees the Amazon swoosh. That’s a guerrilla marketing tactic. It’s not viral marketing as much as it’s a guerrilla marketing tactic. You look anywhere, you’ll find people still using those 100 rules and lots of new ones as a by-product of doing business. More people find out about you than otherwise would.
Let’s talk now a little bit more about Soar because there’s so much more to that than what our readers yet have known. Talk to us about artificial intelligence. What are you thinking in terms of that? Tell them a little bit about what you’re doing with Zoom because I know you’ve collaborated with Zoom. It’s fascinating. I’m scared to say the word Alexa around here because I got one right behind me. That’s a big part of it. Let everybody know what you’re doing.
Imagine a world where billions of hours of great lectures, podcasts, radio shows, webinars, all the great teachers, and thinkers, that world already exists but it’s all distributed. You’ve got Spotify. You’ve got audible. You’ve got great courses. You’ve got TED Talks. You’ve got great content everywhere, but it’s hard to know what’s good for you. If you could listen to an entrepreneur lecture, which one of the millions of hours of entrepreneur stories or lectures should you listen to? You need to know where you are on your entrepreneur journey. You need to know your why, your how, and your what, and you need to be paired with the right person telling the right story that will help you take the next step in your journey.
The more that Soar can ask people where they are, where they want to go, using assessments, and coaching will get a better picture of each person. When you tell us where you want to go, we will have soon indexed hundreds of thousands, millions, billions of hours of teaching, training, coaching, and other great content. We will be able to say, “People like you, Gary, have benefited most from listening to this speaker of this podcast or this author. Here’s what it will do to help you in your next step in your career or your business.” At scale, we want to organize the world’s useful information and provide an AI recommendation to help you, not just in your entrepreneurship and your career. That’s a big part of life. We spend 90,000 hours doing our jobs. It’s best if you love it and you’re good at it but in your physical health, financial well-being, relationships, and faith experience.
You mentioned our Zoom integration, wouldn’t it be cool if your favorite pastor, minister, rabbi, imam, or any of your religious leaders that you personally chose to be a part of their community, if all of their sermons and messages were not only recorded but transcribed and indexed, and now available to you for the rest of your life on your smartphone or smart speaker so that a message they shared two years ago that touched you at the time is available at the tip of your tongue. You could say, “Alexa, what did my pastor say about the good Samaritan? Alexa, what did my pastor say about anger or forgiveness?” It transported you back to that three-minute clip where they told a story and exhorted you to be forgiving, overcome anger, or love your neighbor.
We think humans deserve the power of near-perfect recall of all the content that matters most in every area of life. That’s where Soar hopes to be is the content, AI, and recommendations, but again, user-generated content will be the key, just like it was an Ancestry. When you upload all your family audio and video, you can instantly retrieve any bit of it from any device five years in the future and share it with your children or grandchildren. When you do that with your faith sermon library, your collection of inspiring messages from your hand-chosen religious figure, not from a televangelist who has been maybe over-published or has been on the air for 20 to 30 years. Your personal pastor, minister, rabbi, or priest who knows your family, they’ve been a part of your religious journey, and you now have their messages in your pocket or on your voice device, social entrepreneurship, even political.
Gary, this is a sad realization to me. I ask a lot of people, “Do you think you’re a great citizen of this country? Do you know who your school board members are, your city council member, your mayor, your state legislators? Do you know their names?” The vast majority of people don’t know. We don’t even know what they’re saying or thinking on any subject. If we know your ZIP code, we could take all the recordings of all the political meetings that are being held at every level of government. The Federal Government’s pretty antagonistic and toxic all the different organizations or our bodies are pretty gridlocked.Don’t take advice from somebody just because they’re successful. 90% of the advice you will get is going to be wrong for you. Click To Tweet
At the local level, if I had a playlist of what my local leaders have said about charter schools, literacy, clean water, safety, policing, or anything, and I could just say, “Alexa, what do my representatives say about this subject?” All of a sudden, I get a five-minute playlist and I know exactly what all of my representatives are saying. I can reach out to them and say, “I have an idea or I support you on this.” We’re all detached from what is going on at every level of government. The Soar platform can address that along with the other areas of human existence.
What I think was fascinating about it is you don’t have to hear a whole sermon if you don’t want to. You talk about a particular subject or something that you remembered and it gives you like a minute before or after or something.
We’re working with AI to determine what’s the right clips within a 45-minute sermon. When did they change subjects, pause, or shift? You might have a one-minute clip followed by a 3 minute then 5 minute. You don’t want to capture an incomplete thought and miss the punchline of any story or message. The clips will be of varying lengths in the future. They’re every 60 seconds. You could search, find, and play the 60-second clip. Using AI, we can start to determine the best flipping point in any long format, audio, or video. We filed a patent called precision-recall in cloud computing. It’s quite mind-boggling to think that if you take any file of audio or video or any content at all and stored it in the Cloud, you can retrieve any file out of one quadrillion files by using a 2 or 3-word catchphrase.
In other words, we’re giving a 2 or 3 words ZIP code to every single piece of content up to one quadrillion files. If I say to Alexa, “Alexa, get King Dream.” King Dream has been assigned to Dr. King’s speech on the mall in 1963. If I say, “Get Nobel Malala.” The Nobel Malala phrase has been assigned to her Nobel speech. Any clip or long format piece of content can have a 1, 2, or 3-word catchphrase or voice tag. We hope that over time users will start uploading meaningful nuggets, gems, key takeaways from conferences, assigning it a 1, 2, or 3-word phrase, and then sharing it publicly. All of those pieces of content will be discoverable through a Google search, playable on your browser, your smartphone, or your smart speaker. We cover all the technology platforms and that precision-recall allows humans to do more with nuggets of wisdom that has never been possible before.
That is amazing undertaking that you’ve decided to go down this path. I remember you told me this one day. You said I’ve helped people figure out where they came from and now I want to help them figure out where they want to go or help them get where they want to go. Is that how you said it?
That’s generally the gist of what Soar is about. We’re not about dictating anybody’s values, beliefs, or journey. What we are about is collectively harnessing intelligence and wisdom from lots of people who’ve succeeded in various aspects of life, try to surface the nuggets, and then expose those learnings, knowledge, and content to future Soar-journers on this Earth who are now making their way through life. As soon as you tell the platform who you are and where you want to go, we have this big menu of opportunities and connecting you to knowledge and people that you never heard of before, but they are suited to you and to that next step in your journey. It’s about a platform that enables and empowers people with knowledge and wisdom from other people. We’re simply trying to connect the other great humans who have wise things to say and they’ve made wise choices with the future humans and the current humans who are trying to figure out our path through life.
It’s not about guiding or dictating values. It’s about unlocking the best path for each person using their identity, why, how, and then the knowledge that exists out there in the universe. I had a coach once who told me that when you start moving forward, the universe tends to provision you on your journey when you have clarity about where you’re trying to go. Think about all the gifts we have in this world. We have nature, abundance, technology, knowledgeable people, books, music, art, and culture. We have all these beautiful things out there to guide us along the way.
The question is, “Do you find the provisions you need as you move through life.” If we’re all distracted with our screens 3.5 trillion hours this year looking at our screens playing games, we might not see what resources exist. Some of which are free that could provision us to take the next step to lead to success, thriving, and flourishing. We’re talking big general broad terms and who knows whether we can pull it off at scale. We’re going for it because we have investors, employees, and customers. We’re looking forward to the coming years where all of those people together can provide a wonderful human potential platform for as many people as want to sign up for it.
My last question for you, I know I’m probably keeping you longer than we had anticipated, but it’s so fascinating. What is the best advice that you’ve ever either gotten or given to somebody?
I’ve got a lot of advice once I was so unhappy that MyFamily was going to be shut down on the sideline that a venture capitalist who had invested in the company and helped save the company. I was going to quit the company. He said, “You’re like a little boy on a field saying, I don’t like how the soccer games going. I’m taking my ball and going home.” That’s not the advice you want to hear but it shocked me. I ended up not exiting the company at that stage on bad terms. It helped me to stay through, get Ancestry profitable, and leave on good terms with everybody. That was my friend, Paul, who gave me that advice.
Now the best advice I give people is that 90% of the advice you get is wrong for you. My best advice is don’t take advice from everybody just because they’re successful. They’re wired a certain way. They have a certain how, why and what. They have certain strengths. If you take advice from people that are successful, it probably won’t work for you because you have a different neurological pathway, pattern of thinking, feeling, and behaving. My best advice is to find the people out there that are wired like you that have the same patterns that you have and the same values, and then try to use them as your role models and mentors.
If the advice they give aligns with you and will work for you, it won’t feel hard and It won’t be a struggle. It’ll be natural because you have God-given talents. You were designed to do certain things well. If you can find advice from other people who were designed similarly, no one is designed identically with anybody else. I had an entrepreneur friend who used to give me advice. It made me feel sick about myself. I felt like I sucked. I was a failure because I can’t do Joshua’s version of entrepreneurship. My advice is to be careful who you take advice from.
You got me thinking. I’m going to start testing this. Getting advice from people with my same why. You’re a perfect example. You’re a better way. Every time I hear you speak, it’s exactly what I would like to hear and the way I would like to hear. It’s fascinating to me.
I feel exactly the same way about you. Your Why Assessment could provide a lens through which all the world’s knowledge and information could be filtered so that people with each why, how, and what could start to get. That’s why I’m so excited about your show and the fact that you’re already interviewing people who do live 1 of those 9 whys. You can use machine learning to identify people’s why’s all over the world, teachers, entrepreneurs, leaders, and then use that as machine learning. We have a lot to do together, Gary. You have an assessment that’s beautiful and scalable. We have a platform that could give people a lifelong journey after taking your assessment which could connect them to resources, provisions, and people that would unlock their best future good. We’re going to be partnering in a lot of ways, I hope because whenever you talk, I’m like, “I love how this guy thinks.”
The last thing is how can people get ahold of you, who would you like to get ahold of you, and who are you looking to connect with?
I wish we were ready for every person to sign into Soar and download our products. Our applications have matured a lot in the past few months. The content that I’ve been talking about, the hundreds of thousands or millions of hours, that’s still around the corner. The people that are most important to Soar are publishers, authors, and aggregators. If you have content that you would like to transcribe an index and make available on the Soar platform in these clips as well as in the long format, contact me at Paul@Soar.com. We’re also talking to investors. Anyone who’s got great content or is a creator, especially if you know thousands of audio or video hours that ought to be added to the Soar platform. We’ll be partnering with large companies and organizations that have hundreds of thousands or millions of customers and employees who want access to the content. We’re starting with the content first then we’ll work with distribution partners.
Are you still focused a little bit on coaching and coaches?
Coaching is a part of the Soar platform. The video integration we have with Zoom, coaches who use Soar with their clients can provide a recording or a transcript. The clients can have lifelong recall of what did my coach say about mindfulness and toxic workplaces. We all forget we have a great coaching session like we go to church and hear a great sermon. The next day, we can’t recall anything. We’re trying to say, “Let’s give you recall and allow you to highlight the things that you want to repeat over again until it goes into your long-term memory or into your way of being.” Over time, we’ll all become better humans faster.
Paul, thank you so much for taking an hour out of your day to be here with us. I was looking so forward to this. I knew we were going to get some great content out of this and ideas and thoughts. I look forward to us collaborating in many years. I’m excited to be new buddies.
It’s time for our new segment, which is on guests their why. This is going to be an easy one for everybody. I’m going to pick the why of Steve Jobs. Everybody’s familiar with Steve Jobs and knows about his life, how he lived his life, and how he built Apple. I’m curious to know what you think is Steve Jobs’ why. I’m darn sure on this one. I believe that Steve Jobs’s why is to challenge the status quo and think differently. I’m also sure that his, how he did that was by finding a better way. I’m sure that what he ultimately delivered was a simple solution.
His why is to challenge the status quo. How he did that was a simple solution to help others move forward. You saw this in his life and you see this Apple as he was the visionary of Apple. When you think about what is Apple’s tagline, “Think differently.” Where do you think that came from? It’s directly from Steve Jobs. If you’ve enjoyed Beyond Your Why Podcast, please rate us and share us with your friends so that we can reach our vision of helping 1 billion people discover, make decisions, and live based on their why, how and, what. Have a great week.
- Paul Allen – LinkedIn
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About Paul Allen
Paul Allen is a mission-driven tech entrepreneur known for founding Ancestry.com and Soar.com. He founded 8 companies since 1990 and led the global strengths movement for Gallup from 2012-2017. He is a popular keynote speaker and workshop facilitator, and an advocate for life-long learning.
He teaches how our identity comes from knowing our family stories as well as from our personal strengths. He has spoken in many countries around the world, including the US, Canada, the UK, Ireland, Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Australia, China and New Zealand.
Paul taught entrepreneurship for 2 years at Utah Valley University and internet marketing for 2 years at BYU. He was an Ernst & Young Utah Entrepreneur of the Year in 2000, and the MarketingSherpa National Entrepreneur of the Year in 2008.
He is a fellow of the Utah Genealogical Association and was named a Cyber Pioneer in 2010 by the Cyber Law Section of the Utah State Bar. He was the honored alumnus of the BYU Humanities College in 2016, having graduated in 1990 with a BA in Russian.
Paul and his wife Christy live in Kansas City, Missouri. They have 8 children and 5 grandchildren.