The 'Unorthodox' Way PayPal Co-Founder Max Levchin Hired The Best Talent In Silicon Valley

Max Levchin

Max Levchin co-founded PayPal and Slide, a startup he sold to Google. He wouldn’t have been able to build those companies without an all-star tech team.

At First Round Capital’s CEO Summit, he revealed his hiring secrets.

  • Many of the people Levchin hired were friends of current employees. “Peter [Thiel] sat me down and he made me write down every smart person I knew in college personally,” Levchin told the audience. “It turned out to be a list of about 30 people and we ended up hiring about 24 of those.” Levchin then made everyone else he hired do the same and the company “went after them like banshees.”
  • If an interviewee so much as used the wrong word in an interview, Levchin wouldn’t hire him or her. “There are some legendary-ish tales of me not hiring people because they used the wrong word in an interview,” Levchin admitted.
  • If just one person on the team wasn’t fond of the candidate, the person wasn’t hired. “I’m sure we had lots of false negatives, but we have very few false positives,” he said.
  • Levchin tried to hire people who thought similarly at first. If your early employees aren’t on the same page, they’ll waste time debating rather than making quick decisions. A startup’s biggest advantage over other companies is its ability to work fast and be nimble. Levchin says “diversity of thought” should be saved for for later-stage companies.
  • Even though he was desperate for talent, Levchin made it seem difficult to get a job at PayPal. “We made a point of broadcasting that it’s incredibly hard to even so much as get into the door at PayPal,” Levchin said. “You have to be IQ of 190 to begin with, and then you have to be an amazing coder, and then five other requirements. The really, really smart people looked at it and said, ‘That’s a challenge. I’m going to go interview there just to prove to these suckers that I’m better.'”

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