I was a bit hesitant about using the title above until I found out that Reid Hoffman has already used it in his book. As you will see, by Mafia here I refer to a group of like-minded people that lift each other up in career and professional life.
I learned about PayPal Mafia in Reid Hoffman’s celebrated book, The Startup of You! and it has stuck with me over the years. The name was given to a group of entrepreneurs that created PayPal and stayed in touch after leaving it. Among the notable members of the Mafia, Reid cofounded LinkedIn, Peter Thiel founded Clarium Capital and Palantir, Elon Musk built the electric car company, Tesla, and Max Levchin started Affirm.
What made them being identified as Mafia was “their difficulty adjusting to traditional corporate culture”, according to Wikipedia. However, in this post I focus on the nature of the relationship between the Mafia members after their departure from PayPal and what I have learned from it. In Peter Thiel’s words
The first team that I built has become known in Silicon Valley as the “PayPal Mafia” because so many of my former colleagues have gone on to help each other start and invest in successful tech companies.
After PayPal was sold to eBay, members of the Mafia continued their relationship and supporting each other, stayed connected as “social and business acquaintances”, advised startups founded by other members and refereed talented employees, invested in each other’s ideas, “even shared office spaces” and some of them worked together to build new companies.
As Hoffman describes, the group had no membership fees or dues. It was not about organization and affiliations but more an informal collaborations between high quality individuals that had something in common like a shared experience. The members trusted each other and everybody wanted to collaborate and share which in turn led to innovative ideas bouncing back and forth between them. Hoffman also points out that the physical proximity gave the group the advantage to collaborate closely and that enabled a timely feedback and criticism of each other’s work.
PayPal Mafia formed organically! This makes total sense considering it started during the dot-com bubble days of Silicon Valley where thousands of entrepreneurs were working on new ideas that were about to disrupt the way the world was going to work in the coming years. It could also have been the results of some serendipitous events (check out The Big Leap). However, while the original PayPal Mafia started organically, lessons we have learned from that sort of collaboaration, the fascinating success stories of its members and what they achieved in the coming years may encourage us to recreate similar experiences and find and join similar groups and maybe, to create one!
In other words, while the formation of original Mafia was not intentional, it totally makes sense to be intentional about CREATING OUR OWN MAFIA! As Reid says and I agree with him:
Creating your own Mafia is even more valuable than joining one!
Imagine the opportunity to learn and grow and to have quality time and conversations with people with different expertise and prospects that actually care about you and your success and want to invest in you and your professional growth through sharing the resources they have access to and you may not even know about! And imagine you do the same for them.
Having this mindset for many years, I have personally invested time in getting to know and connecting with the people I find interesting and inspiring. A colleague at work that I get to collaborate with, the new and old connections and sometimes total strangers on LinkedIn, people we get to meet in social gatherings and through social networks, etc. all are examples of the potential candidates to become a part of the network you want to form a close allyship with. It is, however, important to know that the interest should be mutual and both parties should be invested in developing a professional relationship.
Very recently, I invited a small group of friends to meet on a montly basis and share anything that the others may not know but can benefit from learning it. This, in turn, has led to some thought-provoking conversations around the future of energy, stock market, thought leaders I did not know, a couple of good books, and some other interesting ideas about startups and advisory roles in tech companies.
While the new platforms like Clubhouse makes getting to know and connecting to people easier than ever, I have not still come across the ultimate platform or the way of building or joining a Mafia! Let me know what your approach is to create your own, who you like to be in your Mafia, how you get to meet them and what you have accomplished together so far!
Finally, I am sure the Mafia we create will be more fun and more like the picture below than the one on the top!
Phrases in “ ” are from the book: the Startup of You!