PayPal is a digital money-transferring service that facilitates payments and money transfers over the internet. The company was incorporated back in 1999 under Confinity, and later, X.com purchased Confinity. Then, in 2002, eBay acquired PayPal.
What is PayPal Mafia?
The PayPal Mafia is a term coined to refer to a group of former PayPal executives who have become billionaires by setting up some of Silicon Valley’s most successful technology firms. The term also refers to the high level of success that founders and members of subsidiary technology companies founded or funded by these former PayPal executives have achieved.
“PayPal Mafia” is a term made famous in the 23rd November 2007 issue of Fortune magazine, where the lives of the individual makeups of the mafiosa were covered, or more accurately, uncovered and thoroughly analyzed.
The PayPal Mafia refers to a group of former PayPal employees and founders who, after PayPal was sold off to eBay, set up several vital start-ups and invested in many important companies that ultimately came to define most of the Silicon Valley as we know it.
Why were they called the ‘PayPal Mafia’?
“The name was sort of a Silicon Valley joke during the early Web 2.0 days as many of the former PayPal employees went on to fund very successful startups with former colleagues, classmates, and friends. Examples: Yelp, Slide, Digg, Facebook, YouTube … The name took on a life of its own after the group was featured in Fortune Magazine with pictures resembling gangsters hanging out at an Italian cafe in SF.” — Sean Narvasa, Quora
Who are the members of the PayPal Mafia?
The PayPal Mafia consists of some of the most influential and most prosperous men in Silicon Valley. Below, there is a brief breakdown of exactly how powerful some of these men are, their achievements, and some examples of the business models they adopted.
Peter Thiel, co-founder, and CEO of PayPal and the first outside investor in Facebook, was a former lawyer and Vice President at PayPal. He earned US$ 55 million from his 3.7% stake in the eBay deal, which he used to launch hedge fund Clarium Capital. Thiel’s decision to invest US$ 500,000 in Facebook proved to be a brilliant one: His investment made him an instant billionaire.
Co-founder Ken Howery — who also served as the company’s CFO — left to become an investment partner at Founders Fund. His estimated net worth is US$ 1.5 billion. In 2019, Donald Trump appointed him U.S. Ambassador to Sweden.
One of the co-founders of PayPal alongside Elon Musk, Peter Thiel, and Ken Howery, Luke Nosek, left the company to travel the world before joining his fellow co-founders Thiel and Ken at Founders’ Fund, a San Francisco-based venture capital firm. His estimated net worth is around US$ 1.2 billion.
Famous for his financial services and email payment firm, X.com, Musk merged it with PayPal back in 1999 and became the largest stakeholder in the new company after it was sold to eBay. He earned US$ 165 million from the sale.
Musk, who has achieved several successes, including the world’s first electric sports car that could travel up to 248 miles on a single charge, and a rocket built by his private aerospace company that could potentially carry humans into space, is currently worth US$ 238.4 billion.
Hoffman, who had previously served on the company’s board of directors, became the company’s COO after leaving SocialNet. He became the company’s Chief Executive Officer before eBay bought it. In December 2002, he founded LinkedIn and owned 53% of the voting shares in the company. His current net worth is around US$ 2.1 billion.
Karim, after creating the first version of PayPal’s anti-fraud system, founded YouTube.com, along with Chad Hurley and Steve Chen. They later sold it to Google for US$ 1.65 billion in November 2006.
Karim, along with Kevin Hartz and Keith Rabois, launched Youniversity Ventures in 2008, a business designed to help students and graduates develop business ideas.
Karim’s net worth is estimated to be around US$ 140 million.
Co-founder and chief of technology of the firm, after PayPal, he founded Slide, and in 2010 he sold it to Google for US$ 184 million, choosing to stay with Google as their Vice President of Engineering. Whilst working on Slide, he was engaged in setting up Yelp, a business review site.
Other like-minded members of the PayPal Mafia include Keith Rabois, David Sacks, Premal Shah, Andrew McCormack, Jeremy Stoppelman, Roelof Botha, Russel Simmons, Dave McClure, Steve Chen, Chad Hurley.
Some of the business models they adopted:
Hidden Revenue Model: The early investors in Facebook, Peter Thiel, Roelof Botha, and David Sacks, adopted the hidden revenue business model.
The Facebook business model has its revenue source as the advertisements placed on users’ news feeds. When a user clicks on sponsored content, Facebook gets paid by the advertisers. Although its business model is considered as hidden because of its nature of free consumer use, its source of revenue is through user monetization via adverts.
Multi-Sided Platform Model: LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman, and investors from the PayPal Mafia, like Peter Thiel and Keith Rabois, adopted this business model that serves as “invisible middlemen” in interactions among buyers and sellers, which is called a multi-sided platform.
The business social network, LinkedIn, allows job seekers and companies to interact socially while also allowing companies to post job openings, enabling jobseekers to find the best possible companies for which they can apply for positions.
YouTube, as a Google subsidiary, also adopts this model. Its early co-founder and investors include Chad Hurley, Roelof Botha, and Keith Rabois.
Direct to Consumer(D2C) Business Model: Tesla’s business model relates closely with this one. They cut out the intermediaries and sell directly to the consumers, adding a unique touch to their electric vehicles.
In 2008, Elon Musk joined electric vehicle manufacturer Tesla Motors, Inc. as its chairman and product architect. He became its CEO shortly after that.
Tesla mainly derives its revenue from the direct sale of its electric cars to consumers. However, a small portion of its revenue stems from automotive services and vehicle leasing and also sales of solar energy systems and storage products.
How much is the PayPal Mafia worth?
Musk’s endeavors have earned him a net worth of $238 billion+. Thiel’s let him hold on to a $2.6 billion+ position. Hoffman, with his $2.1 billion+ is close behind. Chen and Hurley sit comfortably at around $1.1 billion+, with Sacks only a few hundred million behind them. Simmons has kept his $340 million+ fortune, thanks to the help of Levchin and Yelp, together worth over $3.9 billion+. McClure is worth about $10 million+, having founded 500 Startups, which has funded more than 1,300 startups. Shah, worth $7 million+ sits on a large pile of Kiva’s funds ($27 million+) as its president and COO.
Altogether, the PayPal Mafia, who from the start had intentions of supporting each other, have set up multi-billion-dollar businesses worth more than $320 billion. The members have a combined net worth of over $310 billion.
Where are the PayPal Mafia now?
The various members of the PayPal Mafia after the sale of Paypal to Ebay went on to create some of Silicon Valley’s most successful businesses like Palantir, co-founded by Peter Thiel; Affirm, and Glow, a fertility tracking startup by Max Levchin; SpaceX, Tesla, Open AI, Neural link, and The Boring Company by Elon Musk. Some other businesses co-founded or founded by them include Yelp, Kiva, Last.FM, Mozilla, Digg, Flickr, Youniversity Ventures, etc.
“The PayPal Mafia” continues to be an important and influential network of founders, investors, and employees. The PayPal alumni, “PayPal Mafia,” collectively form one of the most successful networks of entrepreneurs. They are interconnected and continue to support each other in their business pursuits. The PayPal Mafia is an example of talented and creative people at their best.