Maksymilian Rafailovych “Max” Levchin is a businessman and software engineer of Ukrainian descent. Levchin’s story is one of the most interesting within the PayPal Mafia as he would be the co-founder of Confinity, which would later merge with X of Elon Musk to form PayPal. He would later found Affirm, of which he’s the CEO.
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Education and early career
Levchin earned his bachelor’s degree in computer science in 1997 from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
His entrepreneurial flair was already evident, starting four companies whilst at university that focused on selling ads to marketing networks and newspapers.
Three of these endeavors failed, but the fourth was successful and was later sold to an online ad cooperative called LinkExchange.
After the sale of his company, Levchin together with friend and fellow PayPal co-founder Luke Nosek moved to California in 1998.
Levchin had no permanent accommodation when he arrived, and would often sneak into lectures at Stanford to take advantage of the university’s air conditioning.
Nosek later recommended that Levchin attend a lecture cum seminar run by a young entrepreneur known as Peter Thiel.
Enamored with his message, Levchin started a conversation with Thiel after the seminar was over and the two decided to start a company together.
At first, the company the pair founded was encrypted digital wallet provider Fieldlink. But they soon narrowed their focus to digital money transfers, with the product we now know as PayPal becoming a viral hit. Fieldlink became Confinity, which then merged with Elon Musk’s X.com to become officially known as PayPal.
Levchin became CTO and was primarily tasked with ensuring the transfer service was safe and free from fraud. In the process, he developed one of the first commercial applications of CAPTCHA.
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