“You have to be constantly reinventing yourself and investing in the future.”
Reid Garrett Hoffman (born August 5, 1967) is an American internet entrepreneur, venture capitalist and author. Hoffman is best known as the co-founder of LinkedIn, a business-oriented social network used primarily for professional networking. Hoffman, with a net worth of US$4.7 billion, is ranked as #341 on the list of the world’s richest people.
Early life and education
Hoffman was born in Palo Alto, California, to Deanna Ruth (Rutter) and William Parker Hoffman, Jr., and grew up inBerkeley, California. His paternal great-great-great-grandfather was Theophilus Adam Wylie, a Christian Presbyterianminister and Indiana University president pro tempore. Reid’s uncle Eric Hoffman is a writer. He attended high school at The Putney School, where he farmed maple syrup, drove oxen and studied epistemology. He graduated from Stanford University in 1990, where he won both a Marshall Scholarship and a Dinkelspiel Award, with a BS in Symbolic Systems and Cognitive Science. He went on to earn an M.A. in Philosophy from Wolfson College, Oxford University in 1993 as a Marshall Scholar.
While in college, according to Hoffman, he formed a conviction that he wanted to try to influence the state of the world on a large scale. He saw academia as an opportunity to make an “impact”, but later realized that an entrepreneurial career would provide him with a larger platform. “When I graduated from Stanford my plan was to become a professor and public intellectual. That is not about quoting Kant. It’s about holding up a lens to society and asking ‘who are we?’ and ‘who should we be, as individuals and a society?’ But I realised academics write books that 50 or 60 people read and I wanted more impact.”
With that in mind, Hoffman pursued a career in business and entrepreneurship. He joined Apple Computer in 1994, where he worked on eWorld, an early attempt at creating a social network. eWorld was acquired by AOL in 1996. He later worked at Fujitsu before co-founding his first company – SocialNet.com in 1997. It focused “on online dating and matching up people with similar interests, like golfers who were looking for partners in their neighborhood.” Peter Thiel has said SocialNet.com was “literally an idea before its time. It was a social network 7 or 8 years before that became a trend.”
While at SocialNet, Hoffman was a member of the board of directors during the founding of PayPal, an electronic money transmission service. In January 2000, he left SocialNet and joined PayPal full-time as the company’s COO. Allen Blue, whom Hoffman hired at PayPal, said that “PayPal had to scratch and claw for every advantage it had, and Reid became an expert at competing effectively in an extremely competitive environment.” Hoffman was responsible for all external relationships for PayPal, including payments infrastructure (VISA, MasterCard, ACH, WellsFargo), business development (eBay, Intuit, and others), government (regulatory, judicial), and legal. Peter Thiel, Hoffman’s boss at PayPal, has said that Hoffman “ was the firefighter-in-chief at PayPal. Though that diminishes his role because there were many, many fires.” At the time of PayPal‘s acquisition by eBay for $1.5B in 2002, he was executive vice president of PayPal.
Hoffman co-founded LinkedIn in December 2002 with two former colleagues from SocialNet (including Allen Blue), a former college classmate and a former colleague from his time at Fujitsu. It launched on May 5, 2003, as one of the first business-oriented online social networks. Peter Thiel and Keith Rabois, colleagues of Hoffman’s at PayPal, invested in LinkedIn. As of November 2014, LinkedIn has over 332 million members in more than 200 countries and territories.The site allows registered users to create professional profiles and connect with each other. Users can invite anyone (whether a site user or not) to become a connection. According to Forbes, “LinkedIn is, far and away, the most advantageous social networking tool available to job seekers and business professionals today.”
Hoffman was LinkedIn’s founding CEO for the first four years before becoming chairman and President, Products in February 2007. He became Executive chairman in June 2009. With the IPO of LinkedIn on May 19, 2011, Hoffman owns a stake worth an estimated $2.34 billion, not including any potential benefits from Greylock Partners, where he was named a Partner in 2009. Hoffman believes that many people still do not know how to use its service and it is LinkedIn’s job to help them out. In an interview, Hoffman said that “you have to think proactively about how to use a tool that enables your ability to move in ways that you weren’t able to move before, and most of people are not very good at that”.
After the PayPal sale to eBay, Hoffman became one of Silicon Valley’s most prolific and successful angel investors. According to venture capitalist David Sze, Hoffman “is arguably the most successful angel investor in the past decade.” Dave Goldberg, former CEO of SurveyMonkey, says that Hoffman “is the person you want to talk to when you are starting a company.” In 2010 Hoffman joined Greylock Partners and runs their $20 million Discovery Fund. His areas of focus at Greylock include consumer and services, enterprise software, consumer Internet, enterprise 2.0, mobile, social gaming, online marketplaces, payments, and social networks.
According to David Kirkpatrick’s book The Facebook Effect, Hoffman arranged the first meeting between Mark Zuckerberg and Peter Thiel, which led to Thiel’s initial $500,000 angel investment in Facebook. Hoffman invested alongside Thiel in Facebook’s very first financing round.
Hoffman’s current investments include Airbnb, One Kings Lane, Swipely, Viki, Coupons.com, Edmodo, Wrapp, TrialPay, Xapo, and Talko. Past investments include Flickr, Digg, shopkick, SixApart, Wikia, Permuto, thesixtyone, Tagged, IronPort, Ping.fm, Nanosolar, Care.com, Knewton, Kongregate, Last.fm, Technetto, Vendio and VigLink. He served on Zynga’s board of directors from March 2008 to June 2014, and on shopkick’s board of directors from its foundation in July 2009 until its acquisition by SK Telecom in October 2014.