Real Leaders

Max Levchin, Cofounder of PayPal

Maksymilian Rafailovych “Max” Levchyn was born in in Kiev in 1975 to a Ukrainian Jewish family. In 1991 he moved to the United States under political asylum and settled in Chicago. 

In an interview with Emily Chang of Bloomberg, Levchin discussed overcoming adversity as a child. He had respiratory problems and doctors doubted his chances of survival. He took up the clarinet to help expand his lung capacity. He survived, and went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in computer science at the University of Illinois. 

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In 1998, Levchin and Peter Thiel founded Fieldlink, a security company that allowed users to store encrypted data on their PalmPilots and other PDA devices in order for handheld devices to serve as “digital wallets.” After having changed the company name to Confinity, they developed a popular payment product known as PayPal and focused on the digital transfers of funds by PDA. In 2000, the company merged with and by 2001 adopted the name PayPal after its main product.

PayPal went public in early 2002, and was subsequently acquired by eBay. Levchin’s 2.3% stake in PayPal was worth approximately $34 million at the time of the acquisition. He was named by the MIT Technology Review as one of the top 100 innovators in the world under the age of 35, and Innovator of the Year. He is primarily known for his contributions to PayPal’s anti-fraud efforts and is also the co-creator of the Gausebeck-Levchin test, one of the first commercial implementations of CAPTCHA.

As of January 2016, Levchin is the CEO and cofounder of Affirm, a financial technologies company.

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