By any measure, Max Levchin should be retired. He is rich beyond his dreams, he is married to his long time sweetheart, and is enjoying family life. His most recent startup, Slide, was acquired by Google for about $200 million. A modest win when compared to the fact that he co-created PayPal, which today is one of the new global payment systems that rivals decades-old giants such as Visa and American Express. And yet, Levchin is restless, thinking about the future and new opportunities. He is working at Google and trying to help them with their social strategy.
A few days ago, he stopped by my office and proceeded to talk about a diverse range of topics (everything but Google’s social efforts!) Max doesn’t like to talk about himself, though he is happy to talk about his business or the technology industry at large. I was hoping to learn more from him about the common mistakes startups make when working on someone else’s platform, and what comes next. In the course of an hour-long conversation, he showed a whole new side of himself.
In a nutshell, Max unplugged and told me his story. And it is a riveting one – that of a Ukrainian boy who moved to Chicago when he was 16, who re-programmed himself into a mid-westerner by watching hours of television. Anything to scrub out his accent and to fit in, he said during the interview. Being an immigrant, he said, was a great way to prepare for the entrepreneurial life – pointing out that when you can re-program yourself, pivoting your business is just part of your overall tactics.
In this first part of the interview, Max talks about the manic days of PayPal and how his wife (then girlfriend’s) advice to “quit whining” helped him get through some tough times. My favorite part of the story is when he talks about his inability to cope with the stress of coming up with an idea that was bigger than PayPal. But don’t let my words get in the way — watch the video! (Part 1 of 2)
Video edited and directed by Chris Albrecht.
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