A group of early 2000s PayPal employees and founders came to be known as the "PayPal Mafia."
The members have all gone on to impact Silicon Valley by founding and developing major companies.
The group includes Elon Musk, Peter Thiel, Reid Hoffman, and the founders of both YouTube and Yelp.
What do the founders of YouTube, Yelp, Tesla, and LinkedIn have in common? Apart from creating some of the biggest companies in tech, they all share a common résumé line item: they've all worked at PayPal.
Many of PayPal's early employees went on to become major names in tech and the venture capital world, founding, funding, and otherwise developing successful companies. This elite group came to be known as the "PayPal Mafia," a nickname that gained popularity after Fortune featured the term in a 2007 piece along with a photo of some of the members dressed in gangster attire.
Members of the group include Elon Musk, Peter Thiel, and Reid Hoffman, along with over a dozen others. Here's a rundown of the most prominent members of this exclusive group and what they're up to over two decades later.
Peter Thiel: PayPal's founder and the so-called "don" of the PayPal Mafia
Peter Thiel cofounded the company that would become Paypal — called Confinity — in 1999 alongside Max Levchin and Luke Nosek. Confinity was launched as a developer of security software for hand-held devices like the PalmPilot, but it later pivoted toward digital money transfers.
Thiel served as CEO of PayPal until October 2002, when eBay acquired the company for $1.5 billion. Thiel's 3.7% stake was worth a $55 million, according to SEC filings.
Thiel went on to cofound Founders Fund, a venture capital firm that has helped launch companies like SpaceX and Airbnb.
Thiel, now a billionaire with a net worth of over $8 billion, according to Bloomberg, cofounded the big data analysis firm Palantir in 2003. He was the first major outside investor in Facebook and contributed early funding to Yelp and LinkedIn, along with a number of other ventures launched by his PayPal peers. Thiel's also a partner of Founders Fund, a venture capital fund based in San Francisco.
Thiel has also drawn criticism in recent years for his support of President Donald Trump and for secretly funding Hulk Hogan's lawsuit against Gawker Media, which resulted in the company shutting down Gawker and selling the company's assets. While he's reportedly taken a break from trying to play political kingmaker, Insider recently reported that Thiel served as an FBI informant.
Max Levchin: PayPal cofounder and Chief Technology Officer.
Max Levchin is sometimes called the "consigliere" of the PayPal Mafia — in "The Godfather," a consigliere is an advisor to the boss.
Levchin made significant contributions to PayPal's anti-fraud efforts. Together with PayPal technical architect David Gausebeck, he helped create the Gausebeck-Levchin test, an early version of a CAPTCHA for commercial applications.
Levchin now serves as the CEO of Affirm.
After PayPal was bought by eBay, Levchin founded a media-sharing service called Slide that was later bought by Google. He was also an early investor in Yelp — at one point he was the company's largest shareholder — and he served as chairman of Yelp from its founding in 2004 until July 2015.
He founded fintech company Affirm, which allows consumers to finance online purchases at the point of sale and pay for them over time. Affirm went public in 2021, raising $1.2 billion in its IPO. Levchin is also the chairman of Glow, a fertility-tracking app that helps users improve their odds of conceiving.
Ken Howery: PayPal cofounder and CFO from 1998 to 2002.
After eBay bought PayPal, Howery stayed on as eBay's director of corporate development until 2003. After PayPal's acquisition, he served as cofounder and partner of Founders Fund alongside Peter Thiel.
Howery recently served as US ambassador to Sweden.
He was appointed by former President Trump in January 2019 and confirmed September of that year.
Howery is active in several nonprofits and serves as a founding advisor to Kiva, an organization that facilitates loans to low-income entrepreneurs. Kiva was founded in part by Premal Shah, PayPal's former product manager.
Howery is reportedly still good friends with Elon Musk.
Elon Musk: founder of (the other) X.com, which merged with Thiel's Confinity to become PayPal
In 1999, Elon Musk founded a payments company called X.com, which merged with Thiel's Confinity in 2000. He briefly served as CEO of PayPal before he was ousted by the board in September 2000 and replaced with Thiel. But as the company's largest shareholder, he still walked away from the PayPal sale to eBay with a cool $165 million.
Musk is currently the world's richest person, per Bloomberg's Billionaires Index.
Perhaps the most well known of all the members of the PayPal mafia now, Musk's estimated net worth is $209 billion.
Since his PayPal days, Musk has moved on to oversee companies like Tesla, SpaceX, the Boring Company, and Neuralink. He's also bought Twitter and renamed it to X, after buying back the X.com domain name from PayPal.
Luke Nosek: PayPal cofounder and vice president of marketing and strategy.
Nosek was also reportedly the person who clued in Peter Thiel to cryogenic preservation, which Thiel has since invested in heavily.
Nosek explored angel investing.
Nosek invested in Musk's SpaceX and was also named a board member. He also joined the board of ResearchGate, a platform where scientists and researchers can ask questions, follow topics, and review one another's papers.
Roelof Botha: PayPal's director of corporate development, vice-president of finance, CFO
Botha went to school to be an actuary. He said he never planned to get into tech, but when he saw the opportunity in Silicon Valley, his intuition told him it was where he needed to be.
He started as PayPal's director of corporate development, went on to become vice-president of finance, and later served as CFO.
Botha is now a partner at venture capital firm Sequoia Capital
Botha is now considered one of the top tech investors in the world.
Sequoia Capital has has funded tech giants like Apple, Google, YouTube, and Instagram.
Botha as served on the board at more than a dozen companies, including Square, EventBrite, and Weebly, 23andMe, Tumblr, Instagram, and YouTube.
Reid Hoffman: board of directors at PayPal, COO
LinkedIn cofounder Reid Hoffman served on the board of directors when PayPal was founded.
He eventually joined the company full-time as PayPal's COO. In a New York Times interview, Peter Thiel referred to Hoffman as PayPal's "firefighter in chief," noting that there were many fires that needed putting out in the company's early days.
When PayPal was acquired by eBay, Hoffman was the company's executive vice president.
Hoffman cofounded LinkedIn and is one of Silicon Valley's most prolific angel investors.
Hoffman has coauthored several books on startups and professional development. He hosts the "Masters of Scale" podcast, on which he interviews founders about how they launched and scaled their companies, and is a partner at VC firm Greylock Partners. He was an early investor in OpenAI and used to serve on its board, and cofounded Inflection AI.
David Sacks: PayPal COO
Like Hoffman, Sacks also served as COO at PayPal. Previously a management consultant for McKinsey & Company, David Sacks joined PayPal in 1999.
After PayPal was bought by eBay, Sacks produced and financed the box office hit "Thank You For Smoking," which would go on to be nominated for two Golden Globes. In 2006 he founded Geni.com, an online tool for building family trees.
Sacks went on to found several companies and become an angel investor.
In 2016, Sacks was briefly interim CEO at Zenefits, an HR software firm that was plagued by scandal, including allowing unlicensed brokers to sell insurance to its customers. In 2017, Sacks cofounded the early-stage investment firm Craft Ventures.
Sacks is a serial entrepreneur and investor, with angel investments in Airbnb, Postmates, Slack, and many more.
He's also still a member of Elon Musk's inner circle.
Jawed Karim, Chad Hurley, and Steve Chen met at PayPal during its early days.
Karim and Chen were engineers, while Hurley was a web designer.
In 2005, the trio launched the video-sharing platform YouTube. Karim uploaded the platform's very first video, "Me at the zoo," an 18-second clip of Karim in front of the San Diego Zoo's elephant exhibit. It's been viewed over 292 million times.
Today, Karim, Hurley, and Chen remain active entrepreneurs and investors with a hand in projects from finance to music.
Hurley stepped down as CEO of YouTube in 2010. Since then, he's backed education startup Uptime and invested in several sports teams.
Chen invested in actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt's musical collaboration platform HitRecord, which in February secured $6.4 million in Series A funding.
Andrew McCormack: assistant to Peter Thiel at PayPal
McCormack joined PayPal in 2001, working as an assistant to Peter Thiel as the company prepared for its IPO.
In 2003, McCormack started a restaurant group in San Francisco. In 2008, he joined Thiel Capital and worked there for 5 years.
McCormack went on to launch VC firm Valar Ventures
McCormack partnered up with Thiel again in 2010 to found Valar Ventures, a venture capital fund.
Valar Ventures has invested in technology startups well beyond Silicon Valley, including some in Europe and Canada. In August, Crunchbase reported the firm had closed on a $150 million funding round for a new venture capital fund, Valar Fund V.
McCormack continues to serve as a managing partner of the firm.
Keith Rabois: PayPal's executive vice president
Entrepreneur Keith Rabois served as PayPal's executive vice president from 2000 to 2002.
He would go on to join his PayPal colleague Reid Hoffman at LinkedIn as its vice president for business and corporate development from 2005 to 2007. He was an early investor in startups like Square, where he spent two-and-a-half years as COO.
Rabois joined Thiel, Howery, and Nosek as a partner at Founders Fund.
Russel Simmons and Jeremy Stoppelman: worked on technology at PayPal.
Simmons was an engineer and Stoppelman was the vice president of technology after joining PayPal from X.com.
In 2004, the pair came up with the idea for a platform where users could leave recommendations about businesses in their area. They pitched the idea to Levchin, who provided an early investment of $1 million, and Yelp was born.
Simmons left his official role at Yelp in 2010, while Stoppelman continues to serve as Yelp's CEO.
Simmons served as CTO at Yelp from 2004 until he left the role in 2010. Stoppelman is still CEO of Yelp, and has publicly spoken out in support of political issues like women's reproductive rights.
Jack Selby: PayPal's vice president of corporate and international development.
In 2017, Selby was revealed to be the generous tipper behind "Tips for Jesus."
Selby later helped manage Thiel Capital, the Thiel's family office, and started his own venture capital fund, AZ-VC, where he serves as managing partner. He still serves as managing director at Thiel Capital.
Starting in 2013, Selby began anonymously leaving tips for unsuspecting waitstaff, ranging into the thousands, and signing them "Tips for Jesus." His identity was confirmed by a New York City bartender who served him prior to receiving a $5,000 tip.
Dave McClure: PayPal's director of marketing
McClure served PayPal's director of marketing as for four years beginning in 2001.
According to McClure's LinkedIn, he began a program called the PayPal Developer Network, which consisted of about 300,000 developers that were using PayPal.
McClure left PayPal in 2004.
He had a brief stint at Founders Fund before launching 500 Startups, an early stage venture fund. McClure stayed at 500 Startups until June 2017, when he was accused of "inappropriate behavior with women" in a New York Times report and stepped down from his role at the firm, writing an apology post titled "I'm a creep. I'm sorry."
He's since become an investor and owner in a professional sports league for ultimate frisbee and cofounded Practical Venture Capital, according to his LinkedIn.
Several more former PayPal employees went on to have careers both in and out of tech.
Yishan Wong was an engineering manager who later served as CEO of Reddit from 2011 to 2014.
Jason Portnoy worked in finance at PayPal, and went on to work at Clarium Capital and Palantir. He's now a partner at VC firm Oakhouse Partners.
Premal Shah was a product manager at PayPal beginning in 2000, then went on to work at technology nonprofit Kiva. He's now president at financial-services startup Branch.
David Gausebeck was a technical architect at PayPal. Now, he serves as chief scientist at 3D modeling company Matterport.
Joe Lonsdale started his career as a finance intern at PayPal before moving into venture capital — he's worked at VC firms Clarium Capital, Formation 8, and 8VC. Lonsdale also cofounded Palantir.
Eric Jackson was director of marketing at PayPal and went on to write a book about the company called "The PayPal Wars." He's currently the CEO of two companies, CapLinked and TransitNet.
Read the original article on Business Insider