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Like all great origin stories, The PayPal Mafia is an origin story that deserves to be told and retold.
From Social Media to the auto and aerospace industries, the impact of the PayPal Mafia is amazing, serving as the launching point for six members to become billionaires.
The story of PayPal actually begins with palm pilots.
If you are too young to remember these, Palm Pilots was a specific brand of a device called a personal digital assistant, or PDAs.
Before the smart phone era, PDAs were cutting edge handheld PCs with the ability to connect to the internet, they were truly awesome for the time and were getting popular by the late 1990’s.
And it was in 1998, Peter Thiel and Max Levchin decided to develop technology to allow person to person payments via the use of PDAs, namely Palm Pilots.
You see, back in those days, sending money to someone was inconvenient compared to today. You were limited to cash or writing a check, and if you were far apart you would have to send it through the mail.
Over the years, credit and debit card infrastructure expanded but they were limited to merchants.
So, with Thiel and Levchin’s idea, people could beam money from one another through an app on their palm pilots essentially creating a digital wallet.
Thiel graduated from Stanford and worked as a lawyer and former derivatives trader in New York before he moved back to SF to start a hedge fund.
Upon his return, Thiel delivered a guest lecture and that’s where he met Levchin.
Levchin’s migrated from the Soviet Union to Chicago when he was 16 in 1991.
He went on to the University of Illinois where he studied to become a computer scientist.
After college, he founded an automated marketing software company called NetMeridian which he ended up selling to Microsoft.
Musk was a child prodigy from South Africa, he taught himself how to code around 10 years old and at 12 he developed a video game called Blastar and sold the code for $500 which is around $1300 today.
By February 1999, at the age of 27, he sold his first start up Zip2 to Compact for $307 which he received $22 million.
And a month later Musk and his friend and business partner Greg Kouri founded X.com, the first, online bank.
The PayPal Wars by Eric M. Jackson – World Ahead Publishing, Inc., Los Angeles, CA 2004
Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future by Ashlee Vance, HarperCollins Publishers, New York, NY 2015