Venture capitalists and entrepreneurs have long been "the masters of the universe," at least in Silicon Valley. They have turned the Valley into the heart of high-tech innovation and development and have the power to make or break some of the world’s largest companies. The 21st century has borne witness to the dot-com bubble, the private equity crash, yesteryear's greentech capital wave, to today's monetary flow into social networking, e-commerce and online game companies. What's next? Paypal founders and renowned VCs Levchin and Thiel discuss what they foresee as the best and brightest of 2011.
Max Rafael Levchin is a Ukrainian-born computer scientist and entrepreneur widely known as co-founder and former chief technology officer of PayPal.
Originally from Kiev, Ukraine (then part of the Soviet Union), he moved to the United States with his family, under a political asylum, and settled in Chicago, Illinois in 1991. He received his bachelor's degree in computer science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1997 and co-founded two companies that made Internet-tools, NetMeridian Software and SponsorNet New Media. In 1998, he founded Fieldlink with John Bernard Powers (who left the company shortly thereafter) and Peter Thiel. After changing the company name to Confinity, they developed a popular payment product known as PayPal. After a merger with another company, X.com, the combined entity was renamed PayPal Inc.
In 2004, Levchin founded Slide, 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 and, on August 25, Levchin was named Google's newest Vice President of Engineering.
Brad Stone is a reporter for Bloomberg Businessweek.
American entrepreneur, hedge fund manager, and venture capitalist. With Max Levchin, Thiel co-founded PayPal and was its CEO. He currently serves as president of Clarium Capital Management LLC, a global macro hedge fund with more than $6 billion under management, and a managing partner in The Founders Fund, a $275 million under management venture capital fund he launched with Ken Howery and Luke Nosek in 2005. He was an early investor in Facebook, the popular social-networking site, and sits on the company's Board of Directors.
PayPal co-founder Max Levchin perceives a lack of big ideas in Silicon Valley and around the world. Levchin contrasts this to the great risks and innovations of the space exploration era. "We're sitting pretty," says Levchin of the U.S., chalking this up to a shift away from long-term thinking and lack of leadership on the national level.
According to Facebook angel investor Peter Thiel, the battle for top talent is on between Google and Facebook. "I think the main way in which Facebook and Google are competitive today is not on any sort of a product level," says Thiel, "it's mainly on hiring talented people."