National Bestseller * New York Times Editors’ Choice * Financial Times “Books to Read in 2022”
“A gripping account of PayPal’s origins and a vivid portrait of the geeks and contrarians who made its meteoric rise possible” (The Wall Street Journal)—including Elon Musk, Amy Rowe Klement, Peter Thiel, Julie Anderson, Max Levchin, Reid Hoffman, and many others whose stories have never been shared.
Today, PayPal’s founders and earliest employees are considered the technology industry’s most powerful network. Since leaving PayPal, they have formed, funded, and advised the leading companies of our era, including Tesla, Facebook, YouTube, SpaceX, Yelp, Palantir, and LinkedIn, among many others. As a group, they have driven twenty-first-century innovation and entrepreneurship. Their names stir passions; they’re as controversial as they are admired.
Yet for all their influence, the story of where they first started has gone largely untold. Before igniting the commercial space race or jumpstarting social media’s rise, they were the unknown creators of a scrappy online payments start-up called PayPal. In building what became one of the world’s foremost companies, they faced bruising competition, internal strife, the emergence of widespread online fraud, and the devastating dot-com bust of the 2000s. Their success was anything but certain.
In The Founders: The Story of PayPal and the Entrepreneurs Who Shaped Silicon Valley, award-winning author and biographer Jimmy Soni explores PayPal’s turbulent early days. With hundreds of interviews and unprecedented access to thousands of pages of internal material, he shows how the seeds of so much of what shapes our world today—fast-scaling digital start-ups, cashless currency concepts, mobile money transfer—were planted two decades ago. He also reveals the stories of countless individuals who were left out of the front-page features and banner headlines but who were central to PayPal’s success.
Described as “an intensely magnetic chronicle” (The New York Times) and “engrossing” (Business Insider), The Founders is a story of iteration and inventiveness—the products of which have cast a long and powerful shadow over modern life. This narrative illustrates how this rare assemblage of talent came to work together and how their collaboration changed our world forever.
"If you have used the internet at all in the last twenty years, you've touched a product, service, or website connected to the creators of PayPal," writes Soni (The Mind at Play), former managing editor at the Huffington Post, in this punchy origin story full of wheeling, dealing, and political machinations. Things began in 1999 with X.com, a company founded by Elon Musk that allowed people to email money back and forth. In 2000, X merged with Confinity, Peter Thiel's software company; rebranded as PayPal; and sold its employees on a grand vision: be part of something big and world-changing. Things were dicey in the early years, as the company's leaders feared a shutdown from eBay, and responded by sending a "scathing, eleven-page, single-spaced note to eBay headquarters" accusing the company of monopolistic control over online marketplaces. Soni tells the story with novelistic verve as he tracks Paypal's growing pains, including regulation challenges, dealing with hackers, and fears of user fraud, as well as the clash of cultures following eBay's 2002 acquisition (one colorful anecdote involves disgruntled employees publicly mutilating stuffed mongooses that were distributed by eBay leadership). Fans of Margaret O'Mara's The Code are in for a treat. Agent: Laura Yorke, Carol Mann Agency.