What Is the PayPal Mafia?

The PayPal Mafia includes over 200 entrepreneurs who worked at PayPal and went on to found unicorn startups.

Kathryn Underwood - Author

Nov. 19 2020, Published 10:47 a.m. ET

paypal office located in dreilinden germany
Source: iStock

PayPal office in Dreilinden, Germany

The PayPal Mafia is a group of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs who all held executive roles at PayPal during the 1990s. The term “PayPal Mafia” gained traction in 2007 with a Fortune article. The roster of names is a “Who’s Who” of the technology industry.  

Article continues below advertisement
Article continues below advertisement

PayPal Mafia members have collaborated on some of their endeavors. They have created billion-dollar companies like Tesla, Palantir, LinkedIn, and Yelp. They have founded venture capital firms and invested heavily in companies including Facebook, Square, Lyft, Stripe, and Airbnb.  

paypal mafia
Source: istock
Article continues below advertisement

Who is in the PayPal Mafia?

Peter Thiel estimates the total number of PayPal Mafia members at 220, according to The Motley Fool. Some of the most prominent members include Elon Musk, Peter Thiel, Max Levchin, Steve Chen, Chad Hurley, and Jawed Karim. Members of the group have built many unicorn startups, which are defined as those that reach a $1 billion valuation.  

The term “mafia” implies the overwhelming power of each of these men within the Silicon Valley and their various companies. Their continued networking and shared investment power have led to some of the greatest startups in the past two decades.  

Article continues below advertisement
Article continues below advertisement

PayPal Mafia members

PayPal Mafia members have founded dozens of successful companies that are now household names. Many of them have also invested robustly in each other's startups. Major venture capital firms that have resulted from this group including Founders Fund, Sequoia Capital, Clarium Capital, and Valar Ventures. 

Peter Thiel, Luke Nosek, and Ken Howery are all partners at Founders Fund. Andrew McCormack co-founded Valar Ventures. These firms have raised enormous amounts of capital for innovative companies over the years.  

Article continues below advertisement

Keith Rabois has personally invested in LinkedIn, Geni, Room 9 Entertainment, YouTube, and Yelp. Peter Thiel was the first outside investor in Facebook.  

Article continues below advertisement
paypal mafia companies
Source: istock
Article continues below advertisement

PayPal Mafia companies

Companies founded by members of the PayPal Mafia have disrupted norms. For example, Max Levchin is the founder of the startup Affirm, which offers online installment loans and partners with Shopify. Affirm just filed with the SEC to trade on the Nasdaq under the ticker symbol "AFRM," according to CNBC

The following are a few of the PayPal Mafia members and their respective companies:

  • Jeremy Stoppelman and Russell Simmons co-founded Yelp.
  • Andrew McCormack co-founded Valar Ventures.
  • Jawed Karim, Chad Hurley, and Steve Chen co-founded YouTube. 
  • Reid Hoffman founded LinkedIn. 
Article continues below advertisement
Article continues below advertisement
  • Elon Musk founded SpaceX, Tesla, and the Boring Company, among others. 
  • Roelof Botha became a partner in venture capital firm Sequoia Capital. 
  • David Sacks founded Geni.com and Yammer.
  • Peter Thiel co-founded Palantir Technologies and Founders Fund.  

PayPal Mafia's net worth

The following are some of the PayPal Mafia members’ net worth estimates as of June 2020:

  • Peter Thiel: $2.3 billion
  • Elon Musk: $42.1 billion
  • Max Levchin: $300 million
  • Jawed Karim: $140 million
  • Reid Hoffman: $2 billion
  • Jeremy Stoppelman: $250 million
  • Keith Rabois: $1 billion

PayPal Mafia documentary

A documentary chronicling the rise of the PayPal Mafia is available on YouTube. The members’ lives and investments have intersected over the years in impactful ways as depicted in “The Incredible Story of the PayPal Mafia.” 


Latest Billionaires News and Updates

    Opt-out of personalized ads

    © Copyright 2024 Market Realist. Market Realist is a registered trademark. All Rights Reserved. People may receive compensation for some links to products and services on this website. Offers may be subject to change without notice.