Here's why Elon Musk is the most impressive member of the 'PayPal mafia'

Elon Musk and SpaceXAP Photo/Jae C. HongElon Musk, CEO and CTO of SpaceX, introduces the SpaceX Dragon V2 spaceship at the SpaceX headquarters on Thursday, May 29, 2014, in Hawthorne, Calif.

Peter Thiel worked with some impressive talent back in the early days of PayPal, but one person stood out from the rest of them.

On the second day of the Launch Conference in San Francisco, Thiel was asked by moderator Jason Calacanis about which member of the Paypal cohort impressed him the most.

He hedged at first, explaining that he found all of them extremely talented, but he caved at the last moment, citing Elon Musk as the one who impressed him the most.

He said:

“Elon is super impressive, because he’s done something outside of the IT space… I also think it’s harder to do things in the world of atoms.”

Earlier, when asked about Tesla, Thiel said that “he would never bet against Elon in anything.”

Notable members of the ‘PayPal mafia’ include:

  • Jeremy Stoppelman, former vice president, who later went on to co-found Yelp and become its CEO.
  • Reid Hoffman, the former executive vice president who later went on to co-found LinkedIn.
  • David Sacks, former COO who later founded Yammer.
  • Max Levchin, former CTO, who later helped start Yelp and sold a startup, social gaming company Slide, to Google.
  • Keith Rabois, former executive VP, who went on to big roles at a number of startups, including Square, and is now a venture capitalist at Khosla Ventures.
  • Jawed Karim, former engineer who went on to co-found YouTube.
  • Russell Simmons, former engineer who later co-founded Yelp.

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