He co-founded PayPal, helped launch Yelp, and his new startup wants to make the credit card obsolete. With Affirm, Levchin is returning to the scene of his first triumph, digital finance.
But when you compare Levchin's career to that of his fellow PayPal cofounders, Peter Thiel and Elon Musk, as well as even former PayPal employee Reid Hoffman, there's a gnawing sense that he hasn't fulfilled his potential. They are legends. After eBay acquired PayPal in 2002, they went on to have a hand in the creation of several multibillion-dollar companies, reinventing personal communication (Facebook), business networking (LinkedIn), data mining (Palantir), electric vehicles (Tesla), and space exploration (SpaceX). And their impact has spread beyond the tech industry, capturing the public imagination. Levchin, on the other hand, is still searching for a grand second act. As one colleague notes, Levchin has made more money as the shareholder of a company he did not found (Yelp) than from any company he did create.