Hoffman in 2011
Reid Garrett Hoffman
August 5, 1967
Palo Alto, California, U.S.
|Education||Stanford University (BS)|
Wolfson College, Oxford (MSt)
|Occupation||Executive Chairman, LinkedIn|
VC Partner at Greylock
Board member at Microsoft
|Net worth||$1.9 billion USD (Forbes 2019)|
Reid Garrett Hoffman (born August 5, 1967) is an American internet entrepreneur, venture capitalist and author. Hoffman was the co-founder and executive chairman of LinkedIn, a business-oriented social network used primarily for professional networking. He is currently a partner at the venture capital firm Greylock Partners. On the Forbes 2019 list of the world's billionaires, Hoffman was ranked #1349 with a net worth of US$1.8 billion.
Early life and education
Hoffman was born in Palo Alto, California, to Deanna Ruth (Rutter) and William Parker Hoffman, Jr., and grew up in Berkeley, California. His paternal great-great-great-grandfather was Theophilus Adam Wylie, a Christian Presbyterian minister and Indiana University president pro tempore. Hoffman's uncle Eric Hoffman is a writer.
Hoffman described himself an avid tabletop roleplaying gamer as a child. His first paid job (at age 12) was as an editor at the game company Chaosium, then based in Oakland near his home. Although he was only 14 years old at the time, Hoffman's name was featured on the box of Chaosium's RuneQuest role-playing game release Borderlands (1982), receiving equal billing with game designers Steve Perrin, Sandy Petersen and Greg Stafford.
Hoffman 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 B.S. in Symbolic Systems and Cognitive Science. He went on to earn an M.St. in Philosophy from Wolfson College, Oxford 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. His first job was an internship at Inglenook, a winery in Napa Valley. He later 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. By November 2014, LinkedIn had 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 of 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, said 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 first financing round.
Past investments include 3DSolve, Coupons.com, Digg, Edmodo, Flickr, IronPort, Knewton, Kongregate, Last.fm, Nanosolar, One Kings Lane, Permuto, Ping.fm, Shopkick, SixApart, thesixtyone, Swipely, Tagged, Technetto, TrialPay, Vendio, VigLink, Viki, Wikia, and Wrapp. 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.
Public intellectual work
Hoffman has spoken at the XPrize Foundation's conference, the TED conference in Long Beach in 2012, and Fast Forward’s Accelerate Good Global in 2020. He is a frequent lecturer at Stanford University, Oxford University, Harvard University, MIT's Media Lab MIT Media Lab, and others. He has appeared on The Charlie Rose Show, Fareed Zakaria's Global Public Square on CNN and other current affairs television programs.
Hoffman has published a variety of posts as a "LinkedIn Influencer" on LinkedIn. He published an essay proposing a new form of credentialing for university students and professionals entitled "Disrupting the Diploma." On his personal website, he published "LinkedIn's Series B Pitch to Greylock: Pitch Advice for Entrepreneurs," in which he analyzed LinkedIn's 2004 Series B venture funding pitch deck and offered advice to prospective entrepreneurs on how to formulate a pitch deck.
Hoffman has also written op-eds in the Washington Post, including one published in 2009 entitled "Let Startups Bail Us Out" encouraging funding for grassroots innovation in the wake of the financial crisis and another in June 2013 entitled "Immigration promotes entrepreneurship and prosperity" advocating for immigration reform. He has written for Strategy+Business on professional networking and is an "Influencer" on LinkedIn where he posts original written content.
The Start-Up of You
The book was released in the United States on February 14, 2012. It argues that individuals should think of themselves as businesses-of-one – the "CEO of their own career" – and draws many parallels between lessons learned from the stories of successful Silicon Valley technology companies and an individual's career.
Publishers Weekly reviewed the book positively, saying, "with plenty of valuable guidance relevant to any career stage, this book will help readers not only survive professionally in times of uncertainty but stand out from the pack and flourish." The Economist said that "Hoffman and Casnocha make a number of astute observations about shifts in the world of work."
As of September 2012 it had sold more than 100,000 copies. It became both a New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller. Business Insider republished visual summaries of The Start-Up of You, which have received over 13 million views.
The book was released in the United States on July 8, 2014. It argues that previous career models of lifetime employment and free agency no longer work in a business world defined by continuous change. Instead, it proposes that employers and employees should think of each other as "allies" and move from a transactional approach to employment to a "relational" one. It proposes a new framework for managers and employers to organize their work, described as "tours of duty." Further, it argues why managers should encourage their employees to gather "network intelligence" and why companies and managers should maintain a lifelong relationship with former employees via a corporate alumni network.
Masters of Scale
On April 25, 2017, Reid Hoffman announced the launch of a new podcast called "Masters of Scale." In each episode, Reid acts as the host, introducing a counterintuitive business theory and proving it out through the episode through a series of conversations with successful entrepreneurs. Masters of Scale is committed to a 50-50 gender balance. The official podcast launched on May 5, 2017, on the Entrepreneur Magazine website but is now hosted at mastersofscale.com. Episodes so far feature guests such as Ray Dalio, Brian Chesky, Tory Burch, John Elkann, Stacy Brown-Philpot, Sheryl Sandberg, Stewart Butterfield, Mark Zuckerberg, Shellye Archambeau, Diane Greene and Robert F. Smith (investor).
Hoffman is co-author, with Chris Yeh, of the book Blitzscaling: The Lightning-Fast Path to Building Massively Valuable Companies. The book was released in the United States on October 9, 2018. It argues that the secret to starting and scaling massively valuable companies is “blitzscaling”, a set of techniques for “scaling up at a dizzying pace that blows competitors out of the water.”
Blitzscaling isn't simply a matter of rapid growth. Every company is obsessed with growth. In any industry, you live and die by the numbers—user acquisition, margins, growth rate, and so on. Yet growth alone is not blitzscaling. Rather, blitzscaling is prioritizing speed over efficiency in the face of uncertainty.
Honors and awards
- In 2017 he was appointed an Honorary Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE), "For services to promoting UK business and social networking and the Marshall Scholarship scheme".
- In September 2014, the American Academy of Achievement awarded Hoffman with the annual Golden Plate award, which honors accomplished individuals "for significant achievement in their fields."
- In April 2014, President Barack Obama named Hoffman as a Presidential Ambassador for Global Entrepreneurship "to help develop the next generation of entrepreneurs."
- In April 2014, Hoffman received the Distinguished Citizen Award from the Commonwealth Club.
- In May 2012, Hoffman was ranked third on the Forbes Midas List of the top tech investors. Forbes described Hoffman as "Silicon Valley's uber-investor" and said Hoffman "has had a hand in creating nearly every lucrative social media startup."
- In 2012, The Martin Luther King Jr. Center honored Hoffman with their "Salute to Greatness" award which "recognizes individuals and corporations or organizations that exemplify excellence in leadership and a commitment to social responsibility in the spirit of Martin Luther King, Jr."
- In 2012, Newsweek and The Daily Beast released their first "Digital Power Index," a list of the 100 most significant people in the digital world that year (plus 10 additional "Lifetime Achievement" winners), and Hoffman was ranked No. 3 in the "Angels" category.
- In 2012, Hoffman, along with Salman Khan of Khan Academy, was honored by the World Affairs Council and Global Philanthropy Forum in 2012. The council recognizes and honors remarkable leaders who have effected and will continue to effect social change through their private enterprise and social action. The awards in 2012 were dedicated to celebrating Technology for Social Impact.
- Hoffman was awarded the 2012 David Packard Medal of Achievement Award by TechAmerica for his contributions and advances within the high-tech industry, his community, and humankind.
- Hoffman received an Honorary Doctor of Laws from Babson in 2012.
- In 2011, Hoffman and Jeff Weiner of LinkedIn shared the EY U.S. Entrepreneur of the Year Award.
- In 2010, Hoffman was named No. 17 on Fast Company 's list of the 100 Most Creative People in Business.
Jeff Weiner, LinkedIn's CEO, has said that "Reid's true north is making a positive and lasting impact on the world, in a very profound way." Hoffman currently serves on the boards of Kiva.org (peer-peer microlending pioneer that allows people to lend money via the internet to low-income/underserved entrepreneurs and students), Endeavor Global (an organization that finds and supports high-impact entrepreneurs in emerging markets), Opportunity@Work (a nonprofit social enterprise dedicated to re-wiring the U.S. labor market through innovative technology and education financing), and Do Something (an organization motivating young people to take action around social changes). Hoffman also serves on the advisory council of the MIT Media Lab and is a supporter and chair of the advisory board for QuestBridge (a provider of talented low-income students to top colleges/universities). Hoffman is one of the financial backers of OpenAI, a non-profit company aimed at the safe development of artificial general intelligence. Hoffman is also a primary funder of Crisis Text Line, a free, 24/7 crisis service via SMS in the US. In 2013, Hoffman provided a $250,000 matching grant to Code for America. In July 2016, Hoffman funded the $250,000 cash-prize MIT Media Lab MIT Disobedience Award, an award created by Hoffman and Joi Ito to honor and recognize acts of disobedience resulting in positive social impact. In November 2016, Hoffman and his wife, Michelle Yee, donated $20 million to the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, a charity dedicated to eradicating disease by 2100. Hoffman and Yee's donation was for the Biohub, the Initiative's San Francisco laboratory. Hoffman also joined the board of the Biohub project. In May 2018, Hoffman and Yee joined the Giving Pledge, "a global effort to help address society’s most pressing problems by encouraging the wealthiest individuals and families to give the majority of their wealth to philanthropic causes."
Since 2011 Hoffman is a member of the Bilderberg Group, which gathers 120-150 North American and European "political leaders and experts from industry, finance, academia and the media" for an annual invitation-only closed-door conference. Since then he has attended every year with the exception of 2013. Hoffman is also listed as a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, to which he was elected in 2015.
In April 2013, a pro-immigration lobbying group called FWD.us was launched, with Reid Hoffman listed as one of the founders. In 2014, Hoffman donated $150,000 to the Mayday PAC. Also in 2014, Hoffman contributed $500,000 toward David Chiu's State Assembly campaign by funding an independent expenditure committee devoted to negative campaigning against his opponent: San Franciscans to Hold Campos Accountable — Vote No for Campos for State Assembly 2014.
In 2016, Hoffman created Trumped Up Cards, a card game modeled after Cards Against Humanity intended to poke fun at US presidential candidate Donald Trump. In December 2018, the New York Times broke a story alleging that Hoffman had "put $100,000 into an experiment that adopted Russia-inspired political disinformation tactics on Facebook" during the 2017 special Senate race in Alabama, which allegedly targeted Roy Moore voters. Hoffman did not immediately respond. He apologized later that month, also stating he was unaware what the non-profit—Washington, D.C., based American Engagement Technologies, or AET—had been doing.
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