Max Levchin

Maksymilian Rafailovych "Max" Levchin (Ukrainian: Максиміліан Рафаїлович Левчин; born July 11, 1975) is a Ukrainian-born American software engineer. In 1998, soon after graduating from college, he co-founded (with Peter Thiel) the company that eventually became PayPal. Levchin notably made contributions to PayPal's anti-fraud efforts[3] and is also the co-creator of the Gausebeck-Levchin test, one of the first commercial implementations of a CAPTCHA challenge response human test.

Max Levchin
Максиміліан Левчин
Maksymilian Levchyn
Max Levchin (2013).jpg
Maksymilian Rafailovych Levchyn

(1975-07-11) July 11, 1975 (age 44)
EducationUniversity of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (BS)
OccupationCEO of Affirm
Former corporate director at Yahoo![1]
Co-founder and former CTO of PayPal
Chairman of the Board of Directors at Yelp
Net worthUS$300 million (2014)[2]
Nellie Minkova (m. 2008)

He has also founded or co-founded the companies, HVF and Affirm. He was an early investor in Yelp and was their largest shareholder as of 2012.[4]

Early life and educationEdit

Born in Kiev, Ukrainian SSR to a Ukrainian Jewish family, Levchin moved to the United States and settled in Chicago in 1991.[5][6][7] In an interview with Emily Chang of Bloomberg, Levchin discussed his overcoming adversity as a child. He had respiratory problems and doctors doubted his chance of living. With guidance from his grandmother and his parents he took up the clarinet to expand his lung capacity.[8] He attended Mather High School, then the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he earned a bachelor's degree in computer science in 1997.

Business careerEdit

In the summer of 1995, Levchin and fellow University of Illinois students Luke Nosek and Scott Banister founded SponsorNet New Media.[9]


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."[10] After changing the company name to Confinity, they developed a popular payment product known as PayPal and focused on digital transfers of funds by PDA.[9] The company merged with in 2000, and in 2001, the company adopted the name PayPal after its main product.[10] PayPal, Inc. went public in February 2002, and in July 2002 was acquired by eBay. Levchin's 2.3% stake in PayPal was worth approximately $34 million at the time of the acquisition.

Levchin is primarily known for his contributions to PayPal's anti-fraud efforts[3] and is also the co-creator of the Gausebeck-Levchin test, one of the first commercial implementations of a CAPTCHA.

In 2002, he was named to the MIT Technology Review TR100 as one of the top 100 innovators in the world under the age of 35, as well as Innovator of the Year.[11]

Levchin is one of a group of roughly twenty founders and former employees of PayPal who have become referred to as the "PayPal Mafia", due to their success in founding and investing in tech companies after leaving PayPal.


Max Levchin seen playing Guitar Hero at a conference.

In 2004, Levchin founded Slide,[12] a personal media-sharing service for social networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook. Slide was sold to Google in August 2010 for $182 million[13] and, on August 25, Levchin joined the company as vice president of engineering.[14] On August 26, 2011, Google announced it was shutting down Slide, and that Levchin was leaving the company.[15]

HVF and AffirmEdit

In late 2011, Levchin started a company called HVF (standing for "Hard, Valuable, and Fun") that was intended to explore and fund projects and companies in the area of leveraging data, such as data from analog sensors.[16][17]

In early 2012, the financial technology company Affirm was spun out of HVF, with the goal of building the next generation credit network. Affirm was created by Levchin, Palantir Technologies co-founder Nathan Gettings, and Jeff Kaditz of First Data. The company is based in San Francisco.[18] As of July 2018, Levchin remains the company's CEO.

In 2013, HVF launched Glow, a fertility app that helps couples conceive naturally.[19][20]

Board memberships and investmentsEdit

Levchin was a key early investor in Yelp, an online social networking and review service that started in 2004. He was the company's largest shareholder, owning more than 7 million shares as of 2012.[4] Levchin served as chairman of Yelp's board of directors from its founding[21] until July 2015.[22]

Levchin is an investor in Evernote. He served on the company's board of directors from August 7, 2006 to 2016.[23]

In December 2012, Max joined Yahoo's Board of Directors,[24] where he served until December 2015.[25]

In 2015, Levchin was appointed to the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's Consumer Advisory Board for a three-year term, making him the first executive from Silicon Valley to be appointed to the board.[26]

Levchin PrizeEdit

In 2015, Levchin established the Levchin Prize,[27] which annually awards two awards of $10,000 to people or teams who have provided "significant contributions to real-world cryptography" and is announced at the Real World Crypto conference.[28] Recipients of the prize include:[29]

Film and writingEdit

Levchin was an executive producer for the movie Thank You for Smoking.

In 2011, Levchin collaborated with Garry Kasparov and Peter Thiel on a planned book titled The Blueprint, which called for a revival of world innovation. Thiel and Levchin expounded on their thesis in an interview during TechCrunch Disrupt.[31] The book was originally scheduled for a January 2012 release, but was later postponed indefinitely.

In the mediaEdit

Levchin appeared as a speaker at the 2007 Startup School organized by Y Combinator, where he described his own journey as an entrepreneur and the mistakes he made and lessons he learned.[32] Levchin was also featured in "Brilliant Issue" of Portfolio by Condé Nast Publications.[33]


Levchin was listed as one of the contributors to, a Silicon Valley-based lobbying group spearheaded by Mark Zuckerberg and Joe Green. The group is intended to concentrate on immigration liberalization for high-skilled immigrants to the United States, improvements to education, and facilitating technological breakthroughs with broad public benefits.[34] Levchin also narrated his personal experience as an immigrant in a video released by the group.[35]

Personal lifeEdit

In 2008, Levchin married his longtime girlfriend, Nellie Minkova.[7][36] He has two children.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Yahoo - Board of Directors Archived 2012-08-15 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved on 2014-01-14.
  2. ^ "The PayPal Mafia: Who are they and where are Silicon Valley's richest group of men now?". 20 September 2014. Retrieved 29 May 2016.
  3. ^ a b Max Levchin: Online Fraud-Buster, Business Week Online, October 1, 2002
  4. ^ a b Who Got Rich This Week: Chief Yelper Levchin, An Ohio Barrel Heiress And More. Forbes (2012-03-30). Retrieved on 2014-01-14.
  5. ^ "BBC News - Start-Up Stories: Max Levchin". BBC News. Retrieved 29 May 2016.
  6. ^ Hareetz: "One day in Silicon Valley" by Guy Rolnick August 3, 2010 |"Levchin, 32, Jewish of course and born in Kiev, refused to discuss money."
  7. ^ a b New York Times: "After Succeeding, Young Tycoons Try, Try Again" By GARY RIVLIN October 28, 2007
  8. ^ "Max Levchin, how is he so successful". Archived from the original on 2018-06-18. Retrieved 2016-01-16.
  9. ^ a b Hal Plotkin (September 8, 1999). "Beam Me Up Some Cash". Retrieved March 30, 2015.
  10. ^ a b "History". PayPal. Retrieved 30 March 2015.
  11. ^ "2002 Young Innovators Under 35: Max Levchin, 26". Technology Review. 2002. Retrieved August 14, 2011.
  12. ^ Slide - slideshows, slide shows, photo sharing, image hosting, widgets, MySpace codes, web publishing, music - Slide Archived 2005-08-27 at the Wayback Machine
  13. ^ Google Buys Slide for $182 Million, Getting More Serious about Social Games*. TechCrunch (2010-08-04). Retrieved on 2014-01-14.
  14. ^ PayPal and Slide Co-founder Becomes a Google VP of Engineering. (2010-08-26). Retrieved on 2014-01-14.
  15. ^ "Google to Shut Slide Apps as Slide Founder Departs". The New York Times. August 26, 2011.
  16. ^ "HVF". Archived from the original on 2012-10-28. Retrieved 2013-05-13.
  17. ^ Wauters, Robin (2013-01-21). "Geeking out on data: Max Levchin talks about his HVF project at DLD13". The Next Web. Retrieved 2013-05-13.
  18. ^ "Max Levchin: Young people 'dislike big banks'". 2014-12-12. Retrieved 2015-04-09.
  19. ^ "Glow - About". Glow. Retrieved 2013-08-03.
  20. ^ Feltman, Rachel (2013-08-02). "The co-founder of PayPal wants to put a baby in you". Quartz. Retrieved 2013-08-03.
  21. ^ Corporate Governance - Biography | Investor Relations | Yelp. Retrieved on 2014-01-14.
  22. ^ Somerville, Heather. "Max Levchin steps down from Yelp's board, a sign Affirm is taking off". Silicon Beat. Retrieved 18 January 2016.
  23. ^ "Esther Dyson, Max Levchin Join EverNote Board of Directors". Business Wire. August 7, 2006.
  24. ^ "Yahoo! Appoints Entrepreneur Max Levchin to Board of Directors". Business Wire. December 13, 2012.
  25. ^ "Max Levchin Resigns From Yahoo's Board Of Directors". 2015-12-09.
  26. ^
  27. ^ Levchin Prize
  28. ^ Levchin Prize - The Prize
  29. ^ Levchin Prize: Previous Recipients
  30. ^ "Levchin prize for Marc Stevens' groundbreaking work on hash functions". CWI. Retrieved 2020-03-19.
  31. ^ Rip Empson (2011-09-12). "Max Levchin and Peter Thiel: Innovation In The World Today Is Between Dire Straits And Dead". TechCrunch.
  32. ^ "Start-up advice for entrepreneurs, from Y Combinator Startup School".
  33. ^ "Max Levchin Becomes the Internet's New Wacky Pix Guy!". 2008-04-23. Retrieved 2016-25-16. Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  34. ^ "Our Supporters". Archived from the original on 2013-04-13. Retrieved 2013-05-13.
  35. ^ "Stories". Archived from the original on 2013-04-13. Retrieved 2013-05-13.
  36. ^ Upstart Business Journal: "Mid-day Bytes: AOL, Max Levchin's Wedding, PacketVideo Triumphs" by Andrea Chalupa September 29, 2008

Further readingEdit

External linksEdit