Fortune fires up the photocopier for PayPal story

Fortune published an article today about "the hyperintelligent, superconnected pack of serial entrepreneurs" who left PayPal for bigger and better things; a group of individuals they have dubbed "the PayPal mafia". Founded in 1998, PayPal itself is fairly interesting, but the people behind it are downright fascinating!

As I was reading the article, I had the strangest sense of déjà vu. It was like I had read the article already! A quick search revealed that I had, over a year ago, at the New York Times. I just gave it a quick re-read, and it’s really amazing how similar the Fortune article is to the one that appeared in the Times last October.

Here are a couple examples. From the New York Times article:

Since 2002, when dozens of employees left PayPal after it was bought by eBay for $1.5 billion, those workers have gone on to start or join a new generation of Internet companies and other ventures. They have remained a tight-knit group, attending each other’s parties, helping to shape each other’s business plans, backing each other’s companies and recruiting each other for new projects.

Silicon Valley was largely built by networks of people and companies whose interlocking relationships help to spawn new start-ups. But the PayPal alumni have been unusually prolific…

And from the Fortune article:

Most of PayPal’s key employees left eBay, but they stayed in touch. They even have a name for themselves: the PayPal mafia. And the mafiosi have been busy.

During the past five years they’ve been furiously building things – investment firms, philanthropies, solar-power companies, an electric-car maker, a firm that aims to colonize Mars, and of course a slew of Internet companies. It’s amazing how many hot web properties can trace their ancestries to PayPal.

Again, from the New York Times article:

The company was losing millions each month. It was besieged by hackers who used technological trickery to siphon off huge sums from the company’s coffers.

And the Fortune article:

Meanwhile, PayPal losses were multiplying. It battled Russian fraudsters who were filching millions by cribbing credit card numbers.

See what I mean? Both stories follow the exact same formula, and touch on the exact same points. Of course this happens all the time in the media, but over a year apart? Seems kind of strange to me. Granted, the Fortune article does go into a bit more detail, but still.

It’s an interesting story, even if it has been written twice now. I was going to pull out the list of companies that former PayPalers have been involved with, but it has already been done at Wikipedia, of course. Facebook and YouTube are the heavy-hitters.

Both articles do a good job of detailing the tightly-knit group of individuals behind PayPal and many other startups. The topic I wish they’d follow-up on? How to break into that group.

Read: Fortune

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