The Founders

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by Jimmy Soni

A definitive, deeply reported look at the origin of PayPal and its founding team, including Elon Musk, Peter Thiel, Reid Hoffman, Max Levchin, and others whose stories have never before been told. They have defined the modern world. This experience defined them.

Today, PayPal’s founders and earliest employees are considered the technology industry’s most powerful network. Since leaving PayPal, they have formed, funded, and advised the leading companies of our era, including Tesla, Facebook, YouTube, SpaceX, Yelp, Palantir, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Airbnb, among many others. They defined 21st-century innovation and entrepreneurship—and still shape that template today. Their names stir passions; they’re as controversial as they are admired.

Yet for all their influence, the story of how they first connected and cut their start-up teeth has gone untold. Before igniting the commercial space race or jumpstarting social media’s rise, they were the unknown creators of a scrappy online payment company called PayPal. It would grow to become one of the world’s foremost companies, but that success was anything but certain. From the outset, the team faced industry skeptics, bruising competition, internal strife, the emergence of widespread online fraud, and the devastating dot-com bust of the 2000s.

In The Founders: The Story of PayPal and the Entrepreneurs Who Shaped Silicon Valley, award-winning author and biographer Jimmy Soni pulls back the curtain on PayPal’s turbulent early days. With hundreds of interviews and unprecedented access to thousands of pages of internal material, Soni shows how the seeds of so much of what shapes our world today—fast-scaling digital start-ups, cashless currency concepts, mobile money transfer—were planted two decades ago. He also reveals the countless individuals whose stories never made the front pages nor earned banner headlines—but whose contributions were vital to PayPal’s success.

The Founders is a story of iteration and inventiveness, one that casts a long and powerful shadow over modern life. Jimmy Soni’s narrative offers deep insight into how this once-in-a-generation assemblage of talent came to work together and how that collaboration changed our world forever.

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— Jimmy Soni, The Founders