They may be the most brilliantly successful—or luckiest—or both—small group of entrepreneurs in history: PayPal alumni who, like founders Peter Thiel and Max Levchin, left the company to create $30 billion worth of innovation: YouTube, Facebook, Slide, Yelp, Digg, investment firms, philanthropies, solar-power companies, an electric car maker and a Mars colonization plan. Fortune Magazine infiltrates the "PayPal Mafia" for clues to their success.
"Google wanted Ph.D.s, and PayPal wanted the people who got into Ph.D. programs and dropped out," former CFO Roelof Botham recalls. Levchin says he hired people just like himself. "He thinks like me, he's just as geeky, and he doesn't get laid very often," Levchin said. "Great hire! We'll get along perfectly."