Ancestry.com Founder Launches Citizen Portal to Counter Decline of Local Journalism with AI - s11 ep53

Paul Allen Employs Proprietary Ethical AI Model to Monitor Public Meetings at Every Level of Government From the School Board to the White House

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Devin: What is your superpower?

Paul: My favorite superpower, my favorite personal talent or strength, is what Don Clifton and the Clifton Strengthsfinder would call ideation.

Paul Allen, serial entrepreneur and founder of Ancestry.com, is building on his history managing massive databases to develop a proprietary ethical AI model he’s deploying in several fields, beginning with Citizen Portal. The new company monitors public governmental meetings, from school boards to the Supreme Court. (Full disclosure: I’m a crowdfunding investor in Citizin Portal.)

Soar is a parent company Paul founded to develop the proprietary AI engine that underlies Citizen Portal and other companies in the works. 

“Our vision for PURE AI is an acronym for personalized–you ought to be able to control the AI and design it according to your needs–uplifting–it ought to be wonderful to interact with and joyful to use–and then responsible and ethical,” Paul says. “A lot of companies talk about responsible AI and ethical AI, but we like the personalized and uplifting as well.”

Paul shares the vision for Citizen Portal:

The vision of Citizen Portal is to use AI to empower citizens to become informed and engaged about every issue they care about at the local, state, and federal level. If you think about the difficulty of being a citizen right now–do we trust our leaders? Do we know what's going on? Are we happy with the $34 trillion debt? I mean, there are lots of issues that make you feel like the country is not going in the right direction.

Paul notes that part of the lack of trust is the rapid decline in local journalism over the past 20 years or so. Two or three decades ago, local papers had reporters at virtually every public meeting. That is no longer true. Citizen Portal can monitor all public meetings that are accessible digitally–which is a vast majority today.

Citizen Portal is now conducting a crowdfunding raise under Regulation Crowdfunding via StartEngine.

Paul shares his thoughts about crowdfunding:

I literally love the American Jobs Act from 2012–finally, the SEC in 2016 launched the rules for crowdfunding. But I love the idea that average people can invest in a startup company that has a lot of promise, and obviously, billions of dollars have now been raised across the industry.

Paul will deliver a keynote address in the opening session of SuperCrowd24 on April 17. 

To learn more about the offering, visit startengine.com/citizenportal.

Paul has built Soar to take advantage of his superpower, ideation, enabling him to apply the core technology across a broad suite of applications.

AI Episode Summary

1. Paul Allen, the founder of Ancestry.com, is introduced as a "rock star entrepreneur" and is currently working on a new venture called Citizen Portal.

2. Citizen Portal is an AI-driven platform designed to empower citizens to become informed and engaged on issues at the local, state, and federal levels, addressing the decline of traditional media coverage.

3. The platform has imported and transcribed 600-700,000 hours of public meetings, making the content searchable and accessible to citizens.

4. Paul's vision is to fill the void left by the diminishing newspaper industry by giving citizens firsthand access to government proceedings and facilitating a new generation of informed citizens.

5. The ethical AI model used at Soar, called PURE AI, focuses on creating AI that is Personalized, Uplifting, Responsible, and Ethical.

6. Paul plans to launch around 15 corporations in the next 2-3 years, including Faith Portal AI for religious content, Learning Portal, and Workplace AI Portal, aimed at improving human capability and decision-making.

7. Family and Friend Portals are also in the pipeline to help enhance relationships, countering the rise in loneliness, stress, and isolation exacerbated by platforms like Facebook.

8. Citizen Portal is currently running a crowdfunding campaign on StartEngine to further develop the platform and strengthen democracy.

9. The platform aims to create a personal voter scorecard by indexing content from elected officials and opposition candidates, providing personalized, issue-based insights for voters.

10. Paul attributes his success as an entrepreneur to his superpower of "ideation," the ability to come up with new ideas, which he pairs with executing strengths and building teams to bring ideas to reality.


How to Develop Ideation As a Superpower

Paul is a primary reason we call the show and the newsletter “Superpowers for Good.” An expert in personal strength development, Paul and I–friends for decades–met for lunch four or five years ago, and he explained how he appreciated the superpowers questions I asked guests. That ultimately led to writing the book, Superpowers for Good, and the show's rebranding.

Paul shared his struggle with his ideation superpower in the early days of the World Wide Web: 

I had what I called dotcom syndrome. That is, for any word in the English language, I would just close my eyes and put a .com on it, and boom, a business model would pop into my head. Here's what the product or service could be. 

I bought a high-speed satellite dish in 1995 in Provo, Utah. I was probably the first person [there] to have high-speed internet. I would stay up till 2 or 3 in the morning studying thousands of other dot coms to find out their marketing strategy, their product strategy, what niches they were in, and how were they getting funded. I had a folio knowledge base with over 3,000 copy-and-paste things about what I discovered about internet companies.

Paul advises changemakers: “Don't take advice from other people unless that advice lets you play to your strengths.”

By following Paul’s example, you can strengthen your ideation ability. With practice, you, too, could make it a superpower that would enable you to do more good in the world.

Remember, however, that, as Paul suggests, research into success suggests that building on your own superpowers is more important than creating new ones or overcoming weaknesses. You do you!

Guest Profile

Paul Allen (he/him):

CEO & Board Member, Citizen Portal

About Citizen Portal: Citizen Portal is a non-partisan, AI-powered platform with $426,200 in pre-seed funding and a seasoned leadership team aiming to revolutionize civic engagement, revive government transparency, and transform American democracy. Citizen Portal is on a mission to transform democracy with an AI-powered approach. We are reshaping civic engagement and education by providing Americans with up-to-date, accurate, newsworthy information straight from the source. Citizen Portal utilizes AI to index, transcribe, and summarize meetings and hearings at all levels of government. By providing access to video recordings of school boards, local, state, and federal meetings, Citizen Portal helps to empower citizens, journalists, and advocates to know what is being said by their elected officials and done in their government.

Website: citizenportal.ai

X/Twitter Handle: @CitizenPortalAi

Company Facebook Page: fb.com/profile.php?id=100093227401453

Other URL: startengine.com/citizenportal

Biographical Information: Paul Allen is a visionary tech entrepreneur and evangelist driven by a desire to help individuals live their best lives.

Paul has founded eight companies. He calls himself a “platform entrepreneur” since his products are usually built on top of the latest tech platform or wave, such as CD-ROM, the World Wide Web, mp3 audio, or Facebook. For the past several years, Paul’s focus has been using machine learning and artificial intelligence to help individuals and organizations reach their full potential.

In 1990, Paul founded Infobases, whose mission was to digitize and publish the world’s most important books on CD ROM with a full-text search engine. This endeavor led directly to Ancestry.com—Paul’s best-known company—which sought to gather and publish the world’s genealogy records, family trees, and memories on the internet to enable everyone to discover their heritage. Over 100 million people have learned about their family history at Ancestry.com.

Paul’s teams have a history of building viral products. MyFamily.com (1998) attracted millions of users and, for a time, was the fastest-growing online community on the web, as well as the top photo-sharing site in 2000 and 2001. Paul’s We’re Related app on Facebook (2007-2010) gained more than 120 million users in two and a half years.

From 2012 to 2017, Paul worked with Gallup to promote the StrengthsFinder assessment (now called CliftonStrengths) from the Washington, DC headquarters. As the “Global Strengths Evangelist,” Paul helped increase online purchases of the assessment and supported a global community of strengths coaches. Today, more than 30 million people have taken the CliftonStrengths assessment.

Paul’s most recent creation is Soar.com, a company whose mission—once again—is to uplift humanity. Paul is a strong advocate for using AI in positive ways, specifically to enable individuals to become the best version of themselves. When excellent training is paired with AI-generated feedback on actual performance, leaders, managers, founders, and individual contributors can achieve excellence faster than ever before.

Soar is an AI Studio that will form more than fifteen separate corporations to bring PURE AI (Personalized Uplifting Responsible Ethical AI) to many fields, including education, faith, government, health, finance, medicine, law, family history, and the workplace. Eventually, Soar will enable people to build and customize their own AI assistant (think of Jarvis from Iron Man or Janet from The Good Place) to help them learn, grow, make better decisions, and maximize their time on Earth.

Paul’s influence extends beyond entrepreneurship. He’s a sought-after keynote speaker and workshop facilitator, teaching the importance of family stories and personal strengths in shaping one’s identity. A lifelong learner, Paul has amassed a vast library of thousands of books. In fact, Paul’s dedication to learning extends to his teaching roles in Internet Marketing and Entrepreneurship at Utah Valley University and Brigham Young University. He’s received numerous accolades, including Ernst & Young Utah Entrepreneur of the Year in 2000 and MarketingSherpa National Entrepreneur of the Year in 2008.

Paul 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. In 2016, he was the honored alumnus of the BYU Humanities College, having graduated in 1990 with a BA in Russian. Most recently, Paul has been featured on The Pulse of AI, The Briefing with Steve Scully, The Business of Learning, and The Adventures in Machine Learning podcasts.

Paul and his wife, Christy, reside in Missouri. They have eight adult children and five grandchildren.

X/Twitter Handle: @paulballen

Personal Facebook Profile: fb.com/paulallen

Linkedin: linkedin.com/in/paulballen/

Instagram Handle: @paulallendc

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