Max Levchin

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Max Levchin
Максиміліан Левчин
Max Levchin (2013).jpg
Levchin at TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2013 in San Francisco, California
Maksymilian Rafailovych Levchyn

(1975-07-11) July 11, 1975 (age 45)
EducationUniversity of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (BS)
OccupationCEO of Affirm
Co-founder and former CTO of PayPal
Net worthIncrease US$1 billion+ (2021)[1]

Maksymilian Rafailovych "Max" Levchin (Ukrainian: Максиміліан Рафаїлович Левчин; born July 11, 1975) is a Ukrainian American software engineer and businessman. In 1998, he co-founded the company that eventually became PayPal. Levchin notably made contributions to PayPal's anti-fraud efforts[2] and is also the co-creator of the Gausebeck-Levchin test, one of the first commercial implementations of a CAPTCHA challenge response human test.

He founded or co-founded the companies, HVF, and Affirm. He was an early investor in Yelp and was their largest shareholder in 2012. He left a leadership role in Yelp in 2015.[3]

Levchin was also a producer for the movie Thank You for Smoking.

Early life and education[edit]

Born in Kyiv, Ukrainian SSR to a Ukrainian Jewish family, Levchin moved to the United States and settled in Chicago in 1991.[4][5][6] 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.[7] 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 career[edit]

In the summer of 1995, Levchin and fellow University of Illinois students Luke Nosek and Scott Banister founded SponsorNet New Media.[8]


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 for handheld devices to serve as "digital wallets".[9] 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.[8] The company merged with in 2000, and in 2001, the company adopted the name PayPal after its main product.[9] 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[2] 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.[10]

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,[11] 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[12] and, on August 25, Levchin joined the company as vice president of engineering.[13] On August 26, 2011, Google announced it was shutting down Slide, and that Levchin was leaving the company.[14]

HVF and Affirm[edit]

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.[15][16]

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.[17] As of February 2020, Levchin remains the company's CEO.

In 2013, HVF launched Glow, a fertility app that helps couples conceive naturally.[18][19]

Past Board memberships and investments[edit]

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.[3] Levchin served as chairman of Yelp's board of directors from its founding[20] until July 2015.[21]

Levchin is an investor in Evernote. He served on the company's board of directors from August 7, 2006, to 2016.[22]

In December 2012, Max joined Yahoo's board of directors,[23] where he served until December 2015.[24]

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.[25]

Levchin Prize[edit]

In 2015, Levchin established the Levchin Prize,[26] 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.[27] Recipients of the prize include:[28]

In the media[edit]

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.[30] Levchin was also featured in "Brilliant Issue" of Portfolio by Condé Nast Publications.[31]


Levchin was listed as one of the contributors to, a Silicon Valley-based lobbying group spearheaded by Mark Zuckerberg and Joe Green.[32] 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.[33] Levchin also narrated his personal experience as an immigrant in a video released by the group.[34]

In 2013, amidst the controversy over mass surveillance and NSA espionage activities, Levchin defended NSA. According to him, the agency was designed to protect us from terrorism, so even if it oversteps its bounds, we shouldn’t hate it. This opinion was opposed to that of many in the tech industry, including Michael Arrington who stated that NSA espionage does not stop terrorism - "it IS terrorism".[35][36]

Personal life[edit]

In 2008, Levchin married his longtime girlfriend, Nellie Minkova.[6][37] He has two children.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Affirm founder Max Levchin poised to become next billionaire from Paypal Mafia". January 5, 2021. Retrieved May 29, 2016.
  2. ^ a b Max Levchin: Online Fraud-Buster, Business Week Online, October 1, 2002
  3. ^ a b Who Got Rich This Week: Chief Yelper Levchin, An Ohio Barrel Heiress And More. Forbes (March 30, 2012). Retrieved on January 14, 2014.
  4. ^ "BBC News – Start-Up Stories: Max Levchin". BBC News. Retrieved May 29, 2016.
  5. ^ 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."
  6. ^ a b New York Times: "After Succeeding, Young Tycoons Try, Try Again" By GARY RIVLIN October 28, 2007
  7. ^ "Max Levchin, how is he so successful". Archived from the original on June 18, 2018. Retrieved January 16, 2016.
  8. ^ a b Hal Plotkin (September 8, 1999). "Beam Me Up Some Cash". Retrieved March 30, 2015.
  9. ^ a b "History". PayPal. Retrieved March 30, 2015.
  10. ^ "2002 Young Innovators Under 35: Max Levchin, 26". Technology Review. 2002. Retrieved August 14, 2011.
  11. ^ Slide – slideshows, slide shows, photo sharing, image hosting, widgets, MySpace codes, web publishing, music – Slide Archived August 27, 2005, at the Wayback Machine
  12. ^ Google Buys Slide for $182 Million, Getting More Serious about Social Games*. TechCrunch (August 4, 2010). Retrieved on January 14, 2014.
  13. ^ PayPal and Slide Co-founder Becomes a Google VP of Engineering. (August 26, 2010). Retrieved on January 14, 2014.
  14. ^ "Google to Shut Slide Apps as Slide Founder Departs". The New York Times. August 26, 2011.
  15. ^ "HVF". Archived from the original on October 28, 2012. Retrieved May 13, 2013.
  16. ^ Wauters, Robin (January 2, 2013). "Geeking out on data: Max Levchin talks about his HVF project at DLD13". The Next Web. Retrieved May 13, 2013.
  17. ^ "Max Levchin: Young people 'dislike big banks'". December 1, 2014. Retrieved April 9, 2015.
  18. ^ "Glow – About". Glow. Retrieved August 3, 2013.
  19. ^ Feltman, Rachel (August 2, 2013). "The co-founder of PayPal wants to put a baby in you". Quartz. Retrieved August 3, 2013.
  20. ^ Corporate Governance – Biography | Investor Relations | Yelp. Retrieved on January 14, 2014.
  21. ^ Somerville, Heather. "Max Levchin steps down from Yelp's board, a sign Affirm is taking off". Silicon Beat. Retrieved January 18, 2016.
  22. ^ "Esther Dyson, Max Levchin Join EverNote Board of Directors". Business Wire. August 7, 2006.
  23. ^ "Yahoo! Appoints Entrepreneur Max Levchin to Board of Directors". Business Wire. December 13, 2012.
  24. ^ "Max Levchin Resigns From Yahoo's Board Of Directors". December 9, 2015.
  25. ^
  26. ^ Levchin Prize
  27. ^ Levchin Prize – The Prize
  28. ^ Levchin Prize: Previous Recipients
  29. ^ "Levchin prize for Marc Stevens' groundbreaking work on hash functions". CWI. Retrieved March 19, 2020.
  30. ^ "Start-up advice for entrepreneurs, from Y Combinator Startup School".
  31. ^ "Max Levchin Becomes the Internet's New Wacky Pix Guy!". April 2, 2008. Retrieved January 25, 2016.
  32. ^ "Zuckerberg And A Team Of Tech All-Stars Launch Political Advocacy Group". TechCrunch. Retrieved November 21, 2020.
  33. ^ "Our Supporters". Archived from the original on April 13, 2013. Retrieved May 13, 2013.
  34. ^ "Stories". Archived from the original on April 13, 2013. Retrieved May 13, 2013.
  35. ^ The NSA Isn’t Evil, It’s Trying To Protect Us, Says PayPal’s Max Levchin. TechCrunch, September 10, 2013.
  36. ^ Michael Arrington on the NSA PRISM story: "For my part, I don't give a damn that Senator Feinstein and others in our government say that this is called "protecting America" (see Feinstein: NSA 'protecting America', by Tim Mak and Burgess Everett; Politico, June 6, 2013). It doesn't, it's Orwellian and it kills liberty and freedom on a scale never seen before. It's not a way to stop terrorism. It IS terrorism". Defining terrorism, by Ewan Spence, June 7, 2013.
  37. ^ Upstart Business Journal: "Mid-day Bytes: AOL, Max Levchin's Wedding, PacketVideo Triumphs" by Andrea Chalupa September 29, 2008

Further reading[edit]

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