Max Levchin

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

(1975-07-11) July 11, 1975 (age 48)
EducationUniversity of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (BS)
Occupation(s)CEO of Affirm
Co-founder and former CTO of PayPal

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 made contributions to PayPal's anti-fraud efforts[1] and was 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.[2]

Levchin was 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.[3][4][5] 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.[6] He attended Mather High School, and 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.[7]


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".[8] 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.[7] The company merged with in 2000, and in 2001, the company adopted the name PayPal after its main product.[8] 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 and is also the co-creator of the Gausebeck-Levchin test, one of the first commercial implementations of a CAPTCHA.[1][9]

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.[11]


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 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.[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]

In 2013, HVF launched Glow, a fertility app that helps couples conceive naturally.[19][20] After Affirm had its initial public offering, Levchin's stake was estimated at about $2.5 billion.[21]

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.[2] Levchin served as chairman of Yelp's board of directors from its founding,[22] until July 2015.[23] An angel investor in Mixpanel, its founder Suhail Doshi credits Levchin for Mixpanel's survival and subsequent success.[24]

Levchin is an investor in Evernote. He served on the company's board of directors from August 7, 2006, to 2016.[25]

In December 2012, Levchin joined Yahoo's board of directors,[26] and served until December 2015.[27]

In 2015, Levchin was appointed to the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) advisory board for a three-year term, making him the first executive from Silicon Valley to be appointed to the board.[28] In 2021, Levchin, after his experience on the advisory board at the CFPB, called for the necessity for the tech industry to engage more with regulators.[29]

As of 2021 Levchin had an estimated net worth of a little over $3 billion USD.[30]

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.[31] Levchin was also featured in "Brilliant Issue" of Portfolio by Condé Nast Publications.[32] In 2022 Levchin was interviewed in an NPR podcast called "How I Built This" where he spoke about his early life and business endeavors including his role in PayPal.


Levchin was listed as one of the contributors to, a Silicon Valley-based lobbying group spearheaded by Mark Zuckerberg and Joe Green.[33] 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]

In 2013, amidst the controversy over mass surveillance and NSA espionage activities, Levchin defended the NSA in opposition to views of many other tech entrepreneurs. According to him, the agency was designed to protect the US from terrorism, so even if it oversteps its bounds, the public should support it.[36]

Other activity[edit]

Levchin arranged and financed the Levchin Prize which since 2016 rewards advancements in cryptography with a real-world impact.[37][38][39][40]

Personal life[edit]

In 2008, Levchin married his longtime girlfriend, Nellie Minkova.[5][41] He has two children. He lived in San Francisco from 2007-2019.[42] In 2019, he listed his home in San Francisco for $7.25 million dollars, which he originally purchased in 2007 for $5.3 million dollars.[43]


  1. ^ a b Black, Jane (September 30, 2002). "Max Levchin: Online Fraud-Buster". Bloomberg. Retrieved October 10, 2023.
  2. ^ 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.
  3. ^ "BBC News – Start-Up Stories: Max Levchin". BBC News. June 23, 2010. Retrieved May 29, 2016.
  4. ^ 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."
  5. ^ a b New York Times: "After Succeeding, Young Tycoons Try, Try Again" By GARY RIVLIN October 28, 2007
  6. ^ "Max Levchin, how is he so successful". Archived from the original on June 18, 2018. Retrieved January 16, 2016.
  7. ^ a b Hal Plotkin (September 8, 1999). "Beam Me Up Some Cash". Retrieved March 30, 2015.
  8. ^ a b "History". PayPal. Retrieved March 30, 2015.
  9. ^ Brehse, Tami (November 24, 2019). "The 'PayPal Mafia' formed in the early 2000s, and includes everyone from Elon Musk to the Yelp founders. Here's where the original members have ended up". Business Insider. Retrieved October 10, 2023.
  10. ^ "2002 Young Innovators Under 35: Max Levchin, 26". Technology Review. 2002. Retrieved August 14, 2011.
  11. ^ Staff, Times of Startups (March 1, 2019). "Max Levchin, PayPal Cofounder and an Internet Entrepreneur". Retrieved March 2, 2024.
  12. ^ Slide – slideshows, slide shows, photo sharing, image hosting, widgets, MySpace codes, web publishing, music – Slide Archived August 27, 2005, at the Wayback Machine
  13. ^ Google Buys Slide for $182 Million, Getting More Serious about Social Games*. TechCrunch (August 4, 2010). Retrieved on January 14, 2014.
  14. ^ PayPal and Slide Co-founder Becomes a Google VP of Engineering. (August 26, 2010). Retrieved on January 14, 2014.
  15. ^ "Google to Shut Slide Apps as Slide Founder Departs". The New York Times. August 26, 2011.
  16. ^ "HVF". Archived from the original on October 28, 2012. Retrieved May 13, 2013.
  17. ^ 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.
  18. ^ "Max Levchin: Young people 'dislike big banks'". December 1, 2014. Retrieved April 9, 2015.
  19. ^ "Glow – About". Glow. Retrieved August 3, 2013.
  20. ^ Feltman, Rachel (August 2, 2013). "The co-founder of PayPal wants to put a baby in you". Quartz. Retrieved August 3, 2013.
  21. ^ Jeff Kauflin (February 8, 2021). "Inside The Billion-Dollar Plan To Kill Credit Cards". Forbes. Retrieved August 4, 2021.
  22. ^ Corporate Governance – Biography | Investor Relations | Yelp. Retrieved on January 14, 2014.
  23. ^ Somerville, Heather. "Max Levchin steps down from Yelp's board, a sign Affirm is taking off". Silicon Beat. Archived from the original on December 5, 2019. Retrieved January 18, 2016.
  24. ^ Kim, Eugene (March 2015). "How a PayPal 'Mafia' member helped this 26-year-old build an $865 million startup". Business Insider. Archived from the original on June 12, 2023.
  25. ^ "Esther Dyson, Max Levchin Join EverNote Board of Directors". Business Wire. August 7, 2006.
  26. ^ "Yahoo! Appoints Entrepreneur Max Levchin to Board of Directors". Business Wire. December 13, 2012.
  27. ^ "Max Levchin Resigns From Yahoo's Board Of Directors". December 9, 2015.
  28. ^ "CFPB Announces New Members of the Consumer Advisory Board, Community Bank Advisory Council, and Credit Union Advisory Council". September 18, 2015.
  29. ^ Detrixhe, John (April 17, 2021). "Max Levchin on how Affirm plans to survive the land grab in "buy now pay later"". Quartz.
  30. ^ "#1444 Max Levchin". Forbes. September 25, 2021.
  31. ^ "Start-up advice for entrepreneurs, from Y Combinator Startup School". March 26, 2007.
  32. ^ "Max Levchin Becomes the Internet's New Wacky Pix Guy!". April 2, 2008. Retrieved January 25, 2016.
  33. ^ "Zuckerberg And A Team Of Tech All-Stars Launch Political Advocacy Group". TechCrunch. April 11, 2013. Retrieved November 21, 2020.
  34. ^ "Our Supporters". Archived from the original on April 13, 2013. Retrieved May 13, 2013.
  35. ^ "Stories". Archived from the original on April 13, 2013. Retrieved May 13, 2013.
  36. ^ The NSA Isn’t Evil, It’s Trying To Protect Us, Says PayPal’s Max Levchin. TechCrunch, September 10, 2013.
  37. ^ Levchin, Max (January 6, 2016). "Establishing the Levchin Prize for Real World Cryptography". Retrieved April 9, 2024.
  38. ^ Chemparathy, Augustine (January 6, 2016). "Cryptographers honored with Levchin Prize at Real World Cryptography Conference". The Stanford Daily. Retrieved April 9, 2024.
  39. ^ "Affirm CEO Max Levchin Awards First Annual Prize for Advancements in Real-World Cryptography". BusinessWire. January 6, 2016. Retrieved April 9, 2024.
  40. ^ Etienne, Stefan (January 6, 2017). "A prize for "real-world cryptography" was given to programmers behind AES and the Signal app". TechCrunch. Retrieved April 9, 2024.
  41. ^ Upstart Business Journal: "Mid-day Bytes: AOL, Max Levchin's Wedding, PacketVideo Triumphs" by Andrea Chalupa September 29, 2008
  42. ^ Im, Jimmy (April 15, 2019). "PayPal co-founder is selling his $7.25 million San Francisco home — take a look inside". CNBC. Retrieved February 12, 2024.
  43. ^ Im, Jimmy (April 15, 2019). "PayPal co-founder is selling his $7.25 million San Francisco home — take a look inside". CNBC. Retrieved February 12, 2024.

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