Former S.F. dot-commer now surrounded by angels

More than a few epiphanies have occurred in the wake of the dot-com boom and bust. Some people fatigued by the overly long hours — or jolted by having no job at all — are opting for a more fulfilling career path.

That paradigm describes the arc of San Francisco resident Paul Allen's recent employment history. Prior to forming his new nonprofit organization, the Tribe of Angels, a Jewish business networking group, Allen worked in the high-tech sector — his Web site says he was a marketing leader at Qbiquity and BetaSphere — often logging 12-hour days and working with people who had "outsized egos and inflated estimations of their capabilities."

Although Allen can afford to toss out a quip or two now, he wasn't always this sanguine.

"The hours were really grueling, and I wondered what it was all for at the end of the day," he said. "I realized I wanted to do something that had more intrinsic value. And since I care deeply about the Jewish community locally and nationally, and I care deeply about Israel and issues of Jewish continuity, this seemed like the road to pursue."

The nonprofit organization — which can be found at — consists of entrepreneurs, investors (i.e., angels) and venture capitalists. Potential members must be referred by current members. The group is open to all, although most members are Jewish and involved in the tech industry as Allen was. In fact, the group's only requisite is that its members have an abiding concern in fostering the well-being of the Jewish community.

"I think the Tribe of Angels engages Jewish professionals where they're at," said Allen. "It initially reaches out to them around topics that they care a lot about, which is growing their business. And that becomes the conduit to greater involvement in the Jewish community."

Because Allen said most of the members have limited Jewish knowledge, he sees his company as a way for them to hook into further Jewish involvement.

"I think technology is a tool in becoming more efficient, and it behooves those of us in the Jewish community to use that tool in creating more of a connection and increase our knowledge of what's happening both locally and in Israel," he said.

Ironically, Allen also feels that the very factors that left a bitter residue for many dot-com staffers — the long hours, and concomitant lack of time to interact socially — will work in the group's favor.

With people so hard-pressed these days to become part of a community because of their go-go-go lifestyle, Allen says an online presence is a viable option. Online is the place for many busy professionals to network.

The 1-year-old group, with 60 members and a biweekly newletter that goes to 2,400, is not the first Jewish-oriented group Allen has founded. About three years ago, he established JewCrew, a social organization that allows thousands of Jews to meet every other month for shmoozing, kibitzing, and matchmaking.

Allen is quick to point out, however, that the two groups have some differences. Tribe of Angels is first and foremost a business organization, he stressed, although if two people met and wanted to really stretch the boundaries of a business relationship — well, it would be a mitzvah.

The 31-year-old's professional commitment to the Jewish community marks the latest stop in a process of Jewish re-discovery. Allen was raised in a Conservative household in a town outside of Los Angeles. He became a bar mitzvah but drifted away from further Jewish involvement.

The stirring of Jewish self-awareness began 10 years ago when he attended Brandeis-Bardin Institute, a 3,000-acre ranch on the outskirts of Los Angeles. During his two months there, he immersed himself in Jewish culture, liturgy and activism.

Allen called the experience life changing, and, after leaving the program, he went on a one-month mission to Israel. He came back to an active life in Hillel at UCLA, where he obtained a master's degree, and started a dialogue group between Jewish and African-American students on the campus. Before joining the tech world, he also headed Sova (Hebrew for "to be satisfied"), a Los Angeles organization that provided meals to low-income families.

In his new venture, Allen hopes to incorporate the lessons of both the nonprofit sector and the for-profit business worlds into a clearinghouse for Jewish information and programming.

Newly married, he said, "The bottom line is that I want my children to grow up with a viable and strong Jewish community."