- [Voiceover] So I'm here with Reid Hoffman. We actually met a long time ago, back when Khan Academy was operating out of a walk-in closet. The whole point of doing these things, and I think it's interesting for our team here, and for the audience at home and the people who are just users of Khan Academy, is just understand how someone becomes a Reid Hoffman. And so, if we rewind back to your childhood, what were you like at eleven, twelve, thirteen years old? Did you think you were going to do what you have done? - Actually, I'm not even sure that I really knew what being and entrepreneur or venture capitalist was. I'm not sure either of those items of language, I think I probably could have passed a word test on entrepreneur perhaps. When I was around those ages I was actually pretty unconvinced about, I hadn't really thought about what life after school was. I wasn't really sure what the value of school was. Around the age of 9, this will date me because I doubt most of the folks here will actually know what this is, but did you ever play Dungeons and Dragons? - I did. - So I was obsessed with Dungeons and Dragons. I would basically spend every waking hour. And part of what I did is there is a particular variant of this called RuneQuest which, the company that did it was a company called the Chaosium, it was in Berkeley, and I found that a friend of mine could introduce me to them. So I used to like-- - And you grew up in Berkeley. - I grew up in Berkeley, yes. And so, I actually spent most of my afternoons going down to this gaming company. And my dad ended up thinking it wasn't such a terrible idea when they started employing me to do editing of the scenario packs and other kinds of things. He was like, "Well maybe that isn't "just a crazy thing to be doing." And then, around the age of 12, maybe it was 13, 12 to 13, I started realizing that after high school, I would be responsible for myself. And I needed to start thinking about what life after high school was going to be. And that's when I started focusing on what school was, what learning was, what you could do in terms of life. It wasn't until I got all the way to college where I started having concrete thoughts about what I would be doing. And even then I pivoted a lot. - So when you had that realization, I guess early adolescence at age 12 or so, did you become a serious student at that point, or you just took school a little more seriously? - My thinking then was, I was a terrible student basically until the end of 7th grade. I got an F in French because basically the teacher was so boring and the thing was so irrelevant that I would read science fiction books through class the entire time. - In English? - In English, yes. (laughter) In French that would probably have been a little bit better. - Impressive. - Yes. I answered every question for a year in that class, "Je ne sais pas." (laughter) And just kept reading. And the teacher thought it was really funny that I had to be asked, to be stopped reading. "You're the first student "I ever had to ask to stop reading." And I'm like, "Okay." But then, what happened is, my father hired a tutor for me because he was worried about me. And the principle function, Fritz Bloom was a really good guy, good tutor, but his principle function was actually getting me to wake up to, "Wait a minute, "I should be choiceful about what I'm doing. "What is my plan? "When I get out of high school, "what am I planning on doing?" And at the time, the only thing that could occur to me was, well most people who lead interesting lives from back then, and this is obviously not 100% true at all, but it was kind of a kid thing, go to college. So I should go to college. Well, what kind of college should I do? Well, I should have options, I should at least be able to go to a good one. That would mean I need to do well in high school, which means I need to start doing well at academics now. And in 8th grade I basically shifted entirely to now doing, I only did Dungeons and Dragons after I finished my studies. And it was like study, study, study, Dungeons and Dragons, and that was it. Went to a school called the College Preparatory School, which was, for first year in high school, which was a private school on the border between Oakland and Berkeley. And my whole family was a very strong social and political proponents of public school. So it was a big battle. And the way that I got my father to send me to the College Preparatory School, was I would, every week, when there was a bad story about Berkeley High, gang violence, drugs, anything else, anything, I'd clip it out and leave it for my father on the dining room table as part of a campaign to say, "No, you should send me "to College Preparatory School." - And why did you want to go there so bad? - Well, because I had made a decision that I actually had to do well at academics. I knew that I was better off in smaller environments. I'm not one of those folks who thrives in a survey class of 500 people and so forth. That close interaction and discussion is the kind of thing, I learn faster, I pay more attention, it stimulates me more. I think I'm a little bit more of an auditory than visual learner in kind of a similar, but I do read, but I read slowly. Because I kind of want to understand each page very carefully, and some people read very fast. I tend to be more of a very careful reader. And so, I knew I wanted to go to a school that was focused on academics, that was small classrooms, and the College Preparatory School was the closest thing that I could find to that. Now then later, what happened is that I realized that I wanted to get independence, I got the independence bug early, so I applied for and got into a boarding school in Vermont called the Putney School, without either of my parents knowing. Because I was like, "Well I'd like to do the small course classroom, but I'd like to do it "somewhere thousands of miles away from the Bay Area." And Vermont struck me as the safest place to do it. Plus the Putney School had like, I did blacksmithing, and I did woodworking, and I've driven oxen through the woods, and I did all of these other things. So I had a very broad range of experience that I was also very interested in. And I was all kind of a build up to "I'm going to figure out "who I'm going to be once I get to college." - And did that happen? You go to college, you go to Stanford, so you must have been a good student, or and excellent student, so you did get your act together. A little bit less Dungeons and Dragons. (Reid laughs) - Well, actually on the Dungeons and Dragons thing, I stopped cold turkey (laughter) my first year in high school, Freshman year. But then at the Putney School a close friend of mine, a guy named Reid Sorrel, was smoking. And so, what I did, this is the very last set of Dungeons and Dragons like game game that I played, I said, "Look, if you can stop smoking for 6 months, "I will actually be a Game Master and, "with the friends you select, I will run you "through a adventure scenario." - So you told him, "If you give up your addiction "I will re-immerse myself in mine." (laughter) - Yeah, that is usually a good trade. - Yes. - And so I did this game called Aftermath!, which was a fantasy roleplaying variant that was after there was a nuclear holocaust, because that's what he chose, and so we did that. The primary thing that I knew is that I wanted to I liked ideas, and I wanted to be involved in thinking about what it was to be a human being. And what it was that we are all in a society together. And when I was going to college, I knew that was interesting to me and so I came back here, actually, to Stanford for two reasons. The first one was, they had a program called Structured Liberal Education. Which was then called Western Culture, I think it's now called World Civilization or something. Which was kind of this intensive program about you did Philosophy, and History, and Art, and Psychology, and Sociology, and kind of the history from the pre-Greek, Ancient Greek, through modern life. And what is the broad swatch of human civilization. And I loved that program, I was like, "Okay, that's really interesting." And the second thing is I also felt it was time to come back to the Bay Area because I had been gone for three years and now to rebuild connections in the local area. - And even in college, you weren't dreaming of tech entrepreneurship and you have a bit of an academic inside you. - Yeah. So I got to college, basically by the way you should never be too determined about what you're going to be. Your life plans change as you go, and they're even changing now. So to think that you know everything that you're going to want to be in 10 years means you're not going to be learning between now and 10 years from now. You've always got to anticipate that not only will the world change, and the environment around you change, but that you will change as well. And so I got to college and was like, "Okay, what do I want to do when I grow up?" And of course, one part of that answer is "Never grow up." But I was like, "What do I want to do when I grow up?" And I was like, "Well." What I decided, and I'm still largely on this plan, although in a very different way than I ever imagined, was essentially be a public intellectual. And what a public intellectual is is not someone who quotes fancy authors and so forth, it's someone who participates in the public discussion about who are we and who should we be as individuals and as a society. What are our identities? And what should we be evolving our identities to? And I thought that I would do that by being an academic. People at college, they spend a lot of time talking about this, I could participate with that, and I could write for the Atlantic and the New York Review of Books and this would be a good life. And so, that's essentially the plan that I started at Stanford. And then one piece of wisdom that I had, that when I look bad was like, "Oh, that was smart" but I didn't realize it was smart when I was doing it. I was doing it and not realizing it was smart, was that I was like, "How certain am I about this plan?" And I was like, "Well, I don't know. "I think it's right, but I'm not sure. "So how do I test it?" And so I was like, "If I got a Marshall Scholarship "and I went to Oxford, I could try being a graduate student. "I could try being an academic, "and see if it was the thing that I wanted to be." Within three months of being at Oxford I was like, "I do not want to be an academic." No question. And the reason for me was that the modern practice of humanities academics tends to be so narrow that it's what I think of, it's very scholarly, but it's also very scholastic. And almost by definition, if you write a book that more than 50 people want to read, you're actually not being professional. - You're a sell out. Those two people read it. - Exactly. And so I was like, I actually want to talk at the public discourse at a larger. I appreciate scholarship, I appreciate a lot of what the folks do, but it's not what I want to do. And so I spent a year scratching my head going, "I don't know what I want to do when I grow up." And what I realized was, by having come to Stanford, I realized there was a thing called software entrepreneurship or creation of software, and what I said was, "If you look at public intellectuals, and you say, 'What do they do?' "'They write the essays and books.' "What if it's creation of a different kind of media? "Cause essays and books are media. "But so is software. "And what if I could create software "that would have a similar kind "of public intellectual impact, "maybe I should go create software." - And were you already kind of immersed in the software world a little bit? Were you programming from when you were young? - No, well I had gotten a computer pretty early and I'd played with it because I was intrigued by it. And my major at Stanford was a major called Symbolic Systems, which is kind of cognitive science and artificial intelligence. And so I'd done some programming, but I'd never done any commercial programming, never written a program to sell, or it'd always been academic. Write a simulation or complete a problem set. But it was like, "Maybe that will work." So I came back here and it was the very first time, in '93, the very first time that I hadn't planned out the next step. I had an idea of a direction and an idea of a place, but I literally was like, "Okay I think I'm going to do that, but I don't know." And so I moved back here, moved into my dad's apartment, I was very grateful that he would say, "Okay fine, I'll put you up." And then after about three weeks he was like, "Okay, when are you going to go get a job?" And I'm like, "Well, I'm researching." And he's like, "No, no, no, go get a job." (laughter) And I was like, "Alright." And again, this was, it turns out very lucky, but I thought, "How can I find "the most interesting work that I could do?" It was like, "Well, let me call "all of my friends and ask them what they know." - I see some foreshadowing of what you will do in the future. - Yes, exactly, yes. That is a definite foreshadow. But basically that's what I did and I explained, "Look, I want to work in software. "I want to construct things "that I think millions of people might use. "I want it to be helpful "to how they navigate their lives in the right way. "What would be an interesting company to go work at? "What would be an interesting project to work on?" And I see this whole online revolution happening. - This is 1994, '93? - This is '93, so going into '94. - So the internet is not really there yet. - I played with the internet at college, but the internet hadn't hit the business scene. Netscape had just recently started, it was only the entrepreneurial edge, the main companies. This was, many people in the room won't know what these names mean, Prodigy, Compuserv, I mean AOL still rings. And so I ended up getting a job at Apple Computer because they were doing this thing called eWorld. And it was like, "You should do these online services "and Apple Computer is a good company "and you should go work there "and learn interesting product development skills there." And so I was like, "Great." And I went and did that, and a friend of mine, Jesse Ellenbogen was working there, and he's like, "Look, if you're willing "to do the contract to hire thing, we have some work that we can see if it would work out "and you can come work out in that." And that was an intense learning experience because among other things, because I had been more directed by the ultimate outcomes, like one of the things I remember from my very first day on the job there they said, "You need to create some mock-ups "of some user experience, some images "of how the user experience will work on these projects." And I was like, "Okay. How do you do that?" And they're like, "Well, you use Photoshop." I'm like, "Okay, how do you do that?" And they're like, "Oh." (laughter) "Okay, here's the program. Here's the book. "Here are three people you can ask. "You'd better be functional in this in a couple of days." I'm like, "Oh, okay." (laughter) And then you taught yourself Photoshop very fast. - This was back in '93, '94. And this was the first social network idea. And then you're next couple of roles were exploring that space. - Yes, well I've always been, and I think this is true of many entrepreneurs, and I actually still by this point would never dream that the word entrepreneur applied to me, was that they have some vision for how technology or product or the way the world can be a problem solved. And for me it was this question of "How are we better as individuals and as a society? "How do we have that conversation? "How do we move forward?" And so, all of the social dynamics of what is called "online" or "online systems" like for example, "What is your identity? "How do you post pictures? "How do you find other people? "How do you communicate with them? "How do you work with them?" All of these things were kind of key. And so I knew that's what I wanted to be doing and I wanted to be pulling up experience. Now one of the things that I did that I actually think was pretty helpful was pretty soon into my time at Apple I realized that I was unlikely to be happy working on a product that it would be random luck if I found a product that someone else had constructed that I wanted to work on. It was possible, but it was really kind of rolling the dice and seeing. But if I started the product myself, I had a much higher likelihood of being there. And it wasn't so much I had to own it as much as it was a product that I thought, "This would have the right kind of characteristics." And so I wrote out a very long list of skills. I said, "What are all the skills "that I would need to start a product?" And then I started volunteering for projects that would allow me to apply those skills. So I would literally, there was all kinds of different work at Apple and later Fujitsu where they would say, "Well we need someone to do X." And I'm like, "I'll do that." Because I would look at that and go, "Oh, the skills of doing that work "are something I figured I wanted to pick up." - That's really interesting because I don't know a lot of people who do what you just described, but it sounds extremely powerful. I'm guessing a lot of the things on the list are things you might have cringed at, that weren't in your comfort zone. - Oh yeah, for sure. Because it was exhaustive. The way I did it, is I went and talked to a bunch of smart people. Like, for example some, of my mentors at Apple were Jonathan Rosenberg and James Isaacs. And I said, "Okay, to do this, what are the skills I need?" And they'd say, "Well, you need to have "product management skills." I'm like, "Okay, I'll write down product management, "but how do you break down product management? "What are those skills?" "Well, you need to have spec products, "and you need to understand "what the support requirements would be, "and you need to understand "the engineering feasibility of it. "You need to understand ..." (jotting down list) - So you were just kind of a vacuum of knowledge. So you were at Apple and then you went into Fujitsu? - Uh huh, yes. - It was another kind of social, and this one is-- - WorldsAway, it was a virtual world. - And your future collaborator, Peter Thiel, I think called this seven years or eight years ahead of its time. - Well it may even be much longer than that. - Ten, fifteen years. - We still don't have really interesting virtual worlds. It's still TBD, right? Well, I did that because it fit that "How do we create a community and a society?? Community products, network products were interesting me. The other thing I realized when I was doing all the skills indexing is I thought that in order to create the product that I want I would have to start a business. And so, starting a business meant I would have to raise money from investors. Venture capitalists. So I then went and studied what happens, what kinds of people do venture capitalists fund? And it was like, "Well, generally speaking, the ideal target for venture capital financing is one business person, one tech person. Two founders with a product that has a unique position in the market that can grow into that, that has a competitive edge, that the founders' capable of doing that. I said, "Well, okay, I either have to be the tech person or the business person." and I was like, "Well I'd rather actually be "the business person than the tech person. "How do I do that?" I need to have experience with a P&L. I need to have experience with running a whole project. I need to have product experience. And so Fujitsu said, "You can do all that here." So I took the job at Fujitsu in order to be able to do that. Now it also happened to be a virtual world, so I was interested in that project, although I did actually tell them, which turned out to be true, is that virtual worlds were too early. The likelihood you could pull off the project was very low. But because picking up all of the experience was part of getting to building the product I think I should be building, I was like, "Look, I am willing to essentially work 80 hours a week "really hard on this to pick up all these skills "and try as best I can to make this work. "But I'm not sure that the actual project will work." - What's fascinating here is you were very deliberate at an early stage in your career of saying, "I'm going to construct myself into--" You didn't say I'm just a business person. You decomposed what are the skills that makes someone good at this and I'm going to get them. Even if they're not where I naturally, in some of those dimensions. And I think the other interesting aspect, I think that there's no coincidence for what you'd do later, is when you thought about businesses it seems like you didn't say, "Where can I eek out an extra dollar "or the market hasn't fully adjusted yet?" You said, "What are interesting social dynamics, "problems, ways of connecting human beings? "And maybe a business falls out of that." - Yes, that's exactly right. And so part of the thing was, if you say, "Well, public intellectual. "One thing you could be doing is writing essays "and trying to influence people and think about "how to be different as individuals or a society. "What do you aspire to be?" But I was like, "Well, so what if you're creating "software as a medium that people live in?" It's kind of the medium is the message, in the classic McLuhan. But literally it's like the medium changes our identities, how we connect with people, who are our friends, who we play with. Who we go to school with, who we work with, How we work, how we learn. Things that you guys do. And so given that, I wanted to play in the construction of that medium in a way that lead both the individuals and the group, the society, the community, to both be a lot better. And that was the thing I was interested in. And it didn't have to be, this is one of the reasons after Socialnet I was kind of willing to join PayPal full time. When the company was founded I was on the board, but when I was thinking about starting that company Peter said, "No, no, no. Come join us." And I was like, "Great." It doesn't have to be my idea, it just has to be the landscape that I wanted to play in. - PayPal has that same, it's something that could change how people interact and transact. - There were two ideas on PayPal. One of them was, and is, but one of them was "Enable anyone to be a merchant." And I know to many of the students anyone being a merchant sounds, "Well, what is that?" Everyone can essentially you decide that, "I'm going to be an artist, I'm going to sell my art. "Well I can sell my art with PayPal." Using eBay and PayPal together for example. Or "I'm going to open up a lemonade stand. "Well I can now accept electronic payments, "I can accept credit cards doing that." Enabling anyone to be entrepreneurial and set up a business was kind of the key thing that was part of the baseline vision in PayPal. And the second one was to create a new currency, which PayPal obviously didn't do. We transacted in national currencies. Although that's now one of the reasons I'm now an investor in two different Bitcoin projects. - PayPal, obviously huge success and continues to be so, but there's something interesting about PayPal. Cause there's you, there's Elon Musk, there's Peter Thiel. You guys are are hanging out. (laughter) - We didn't think of it as hanging out, but yes. - You all were working hard and trying to establish a new global currency, whatever it might have been. - That was the t-shirt by the way, "New Global Currency." - I'd like to get one of those. Was there something about the three, there's kind of famously the PayPal mafia, it wasn't just the three of you there was a whole group of folks who graduated from PayPal and then went on to do other epic things. Was there something special about the conversations you all had, the way that you all pushed each other. - The other person to add into that is Max Levchin when you do that whole list. Because Max and Peter were the first two founders of PayPal. And then we merged with X.com which Elon was the founder of. The three were the founders of the new PayPal. The thing that was unique about the PayPal crew is typically when people start companies they go, "Oh, I need to get people with a lot of experience "at doing just this job." Like you have a lot of experience coding, or you have a lot of experience running the data center, you have a lot of experience marketing or a lot of experience selling. PayPal opted for very high talent young people with the expectation that the high talent young people would learn the jobs. So as opposed to hiring someone who's like, "Well, you've had a ton of experience doing this exact job, "we're going to hire someone we think is a very fast learner "and we're going to trust that they're "going to learn the job really fast. "And we're going to hire some experienced people, too. "But a huge predilection to that." And so part of the reason why the PayPal folks all went off and were A) entrepreneurial and B) went off and did stuff is you had a whole bunch of high talent young people that had experience with entrepreneurship, experience young. The PayPal story was like basically kind of let's call it four years from beginning to sales, so everyone was like, "Well I gotta go do something." So everyone started running off and doing all the different things that they were interested in doing. I went off to found LinkedIn. Peter started a hedge fund. We'd done a hedge fund before, but a much bigger one. Elon went off to do SpaceX and Tesla. Max founded an incubator, then did Slide, and is now doing an incubator with another company, a firm now. That's cause we were all like, "This is a game that we got experienced in that we like," and then, quote unquote, I don't really like the term PayPal Mafia, although it's entertaining. Cause you know, mafia the organization is disparative. Network. I like PayPal Network. The thing that was also very helpful then, in 2002 was when PayPal was sold to eBay, and a lot of great projects and great entrepreneurial companies get started during, actually, downturns. And we were all very fortunate in that we all got free to go to our next projects during a downturn. Because it meant the capital we had gotten from PayPal, we could use that. Because when lots and lots of companies are starting it's hard to break through the noise. In a downturn there's fewer companies, so you have a longer runway. If you can get the financing for it you can be one of the interesting projects. You can aggregate talent for it. And we were all very interested in the consumer internet. And so, that's part of the reason the PayPal Mafia all interested, although Elon went and did hard science projects. Great, he's an awesome example for that. That's part of the reason why it was an unusually large number of people who went and founded interesting companies from that. - And when you were, as you say, free as 2002 was the downturn, you feel empowered. Were you just like, "I'm going to start a new thing, "what do I start?" How did LinkedIn come to you? What for did it come to you? - In August of 2000, PayPal burned $12 million dollars in one month, had an exponentiating cost curve, and had no revenue. So we could chart the hour in which this company, which I think at the time raised$168 million in capital, would be a smoking hole in the ground. So Peter, Max, and another of the kind of junior co-founders of PayPal, Luke Nosek and I went to an offsite, in my grandparents' place in Gualala, which is in Northern California. And we did three days. The first day was, "What should we do with PayPal?" We decided that being a master merchant, which PayPal is today, which takes fees for accepting electronic payments, credit card payments in particular. That was the path we were going to do and we had a lot of discussion by the way of Star Wars and the Death Star, cause we had one swoop into the trench, we had one shot at this. - So you had to use the force. - There was a lot of discussion of "Use the Force, Peter." The second day we presented the ideas that we had had to each other in terms of the kinds of things that we would also, if PayPal didn't work what else we might do. And I had said a little bit about what I thought about, "Well everyone's going to have "a public professional identity that will be useful "to their career and their jobs. "It will help them invest in themselves." I had some of the components, not all of the components. But I had that as an idea. And then the third day we went hiking, because we knew that was going to be our last day off for a while. And so then the first idea worked, PayPal still-- - Master merchant. - Master merchant and awesome company. And then what happened is I helped sell PayPal to eBay, and then in October I was planning on taking a year off. Because start-ups are really intense. They tend to be the, "What are you doing "on Saturday at 7:00pm? "You're working on your start-up." "What are you doing on Sunday at 10:00am? "You're working on your start-up." Because the metaphor I use for start-ups, in a start-up you're throwing yourself off a cliff, and you're assembling and airplane on the way down. - It is not easy to do for anyone who hasn't tried. - Not recommended, other than in the metaphorical, business context. And the reason for that is the start-up, by definition when you start it, is dead. It doesn't have a business model, it doesn't have customers. So the inertial state is dead. So you thermal draft by financing, you put a little bit of money you get a little bit further from the ground. You get a little bit more, you get a little further away from the ground. But until you create a plane, you actually do not have a going concern and by definition you're going to crash. So that's really intense, and so after having done that, first at Socialnet, then at PayPal I was like, "I'm going to take time off." And so I actually started it by going and spending two weeks with a friend of mine, Ned Hoyt, in Australia. And then what I realized is that the Silicon Valley had gone crazy, that they all thought the consumer net was over. That Amazon, Google, eBay, PayPal, you know, Yahoo, this was it, that's the whole consumer internet. The consumer net game is played. These are the big companies. Now we're looking at other things. So they went to enterprise software and clean tech. And I was like, "No, no. "The consumer internet is actually, in fact, just starting." Cause one of the problems that people have is that they, generally speaking, over-imagine change in the short term, and under-imagine it in the long term. And they hadn't realized that all these different ideas that people had, they're still building towards them. There was a great future possibility for what the consumer net could do. And so I said, "Alright, I'll have to like, you know "just take the two weeks as a break and not a year. "And I have to get back "and I have to start playing the consumer internet." And actually I should found a company and I should be investing. So I spent about eight weeks thinking about different ideas about what I could do, and ultimately LinkedIn was still the best idea of the ideas that I had. And I'd been talking to a bunch of friends about these ideas. So Jean-Luc Vaillant and Allen Blue and Konstantin Guericke and Eric Ly, we all kind of came together and did it. And then I also decided to invest, because one of the problems with being a start-up entrepreneur is you're putting all of your eggs in this one basket. The challenge is, you roll the dice and that may work, that may not work. And so how do you have a little bit more diversity. I was like, "Well, I have a little bit of money," I was sure the consumer internet would do well, and so I started investing in the interesting companies in the consumer internet. Both the investments and LinkedIn obviously worked out okay. - In the forming process, in hindsight it looks like LinkedIn is obviously going to be huge, were there moments where you were like, "What am I doing? This is not going to work." - There are always those moments in this kind of hard work. One of the pieces of advice that I give entrepreneurs is 98%, like almost a hundred, almost all start-ups go through what I call a valley of the shadow moment. PayPal did that. You burn $12 million in one month. What I told Peter Thiel is if we had stood on the roof throwing wads, like the roof here, throwing wads of hundred dollar bills over the side, we would not have spent money faster than we were spending it.$12 million is a lot of money. That's a valley of the shadow moment. You're actually in fact going, "Was this a good idea?" "Did we make the right choices?" "Is this going to work?" Was absolutely unclear. And so all start-ups have that. You have that at multiple points along with LinkedIn. You had that with, when we launched LinkedIn we hoped it would just work. And we launched LinkedIn and in the first eight weeks, the number of people that were signing up for the service were about 2,000 people per week. Now, roughly speaking, if you think 2,000 people per week, we probably could have gotten that many sign ups if what we had done is taken a phone book and had everyone in the company calling people saying, "Please sign up. Please sign up. Please sign up." That was about the rate, that's not going to work. That's death. And so we knew we had to solve our growth problem, we had to get enough people inviting and getting people on LinkedIn. So that's what we worked on for basically a year in order to make that work, and if that didn't work, the value of LinkedIn? Zero. The whole thing goes to zero, there's nothing else. Then you got another problem, you say, "We got people signing up in a relevant set of numbers "that was beginning to compound and grow, "but okay, if we don't have a revenue stream "then we also value zero," because eventually you run out of money, you can't raise anymore capital. You're gone. So we first launched job listings, and we knew that job listings was likely to be the thing that would be the big revenue model for LinkedIn. Because we thought it was too difficult to grow a marketplace. Marketplaces are really interesting places, eBay, Airbnb, but they're very difficult to grow. And we thought that would be difficult. But most of the questions people had about LinkedIn then was, "What do you do with it?" "Okay, I signed up, I don't know what to do." And we knew that getting people to understand that it could be used for finding a job or recruiting was one of the things that we wanted to do. So we started with job listings. And it had exactly the impact that we, to some degree, both hoped and feared it would have, which is, "Oh, we know how to use LinkedIn now, " but not a lot of people are buying job listings. So then we went to subscriptions and ads and those got us to profitability. And that was when we went, "Okay, now I know that I have "a company that can build to something very large." And that was, I think, 2005. So this all started in late 2002, we incorporated in early 2003. So more of less that was two years where you'd say, in any particular week, right now if you were to look at the data of what's happening, if you were to just say, take a look at the company as it is right now. What happens? And the answer is the company doesn't exist. You're building towards the future that you see. And that's all through a valley of the shadow. - And I think that's an important point In hindsight, everyone's all, LinkedIn, and Google and all this. They all went through this phase of "What are we doing?" "Is this going to survive?" - Two thirds of my friends, when I talked to them about the LinkedIn idea thought I was crazy. Which, by the way, is frequently a good sign. - Right. - To do a really interesting start-up you have to be contrarian and right. So if everyone says, "Oh, that's a great idea." Like, for example, when you were going around early in the Khan Academy, people were like, "Naw, that's not going to work." "You shouldn't do that." - Yes, I remember. - That's what happens. - I had one moment, where I was at a dinner party, and they said, "What do you do for a living?" And I was like, "Oh, I make YouTube videos." And I heard them say, as they were walking, "Good thing his wife's a doctor." (laughter) Boy that was very, made me feel small. - But you have to work through that. - If we fast-forward to today, LinkedIn is obviously, what's the number? - Oh I don't remember what our public number is, it's over 300 million people. - 300 million, a chunk of humanity is using this. If Reid of 2002 saw this organization what would he be thinking? Is it what he dreamt of? Is it beyond what he dreamt of? And where do you think this is going to go? - One thing that's unusual, most consumer internet start-ups don't actually have a vision from the very beginning that they stick to, they pivot a lot. They change a lot. LinkedIn was actually, more or less, there are things that have surprised us, some things we've learned, but more or less, we thought everyone's going to have a public, professional identity, that it is like a resume or CV, they're going to have a network of people that they trust. And then there's going to be a set of applications built on that identity and network that will help them with their work. Key initials things? Will help find a job. Or help find an expert. Or help find a connection to a company or help recruit somebody. But, as you get larger you also get to the, "Well, how do I solve this problem? "Who else is expert? "Within my company, outside my company? "How do I find a person to found a company with? "How do I find a source in a company "for a story I'm writing as a journalist? "How do I find an expert to advise me on an investment? "How do I figure out which skills are the interesting skills "for me to pick up if I want "to get a first job out of college?" All of these things we knew, from 2003, would be the kinds of things that would be coming out of it. Because it's been a very consistent vision about let's build to the place where, for every individual we are the best thing to help them with their career. Which includes their daily work. And that's more or less been on target. Now we didn't know, would we get to revenue in time? We didn't know this would be the exact revenue source. We had a whole raft of ideas. We didn't know, for example, we thought people would be using the Groups product more. Web developers or graphic designers getting together and helping each other. They are using it, we thought they would be using it more. They're probably using it less than we thought. There are unexpected uses. Like, for example, we didn't realize we would end up building essentially a skills index. Cause we could do big data analytics on all things and say, "Here's a list of all the human skills." Those sorts of things. So there's discovery, but the direction and the true North has been unusually constant for what happens for most consumer internet companies. - So what's next? I mean LinkedIn, you're still very active in LinkedIn. But you're also a partner at Greylock. So you're a very active venture capitalist. And, we were just talking, you're doing a million other things. You're getting involved in philanthropy, in the community. In the spirit of all of what we've talked about, you're still a young guy. Where do you see all of this going for yourself. - I feel older. My mission is how do I help, it's the public intellectual's mission, how do I help society be better? If it's starting, and I won't start another company, but it's like LinkedIn, helping people discover what they should be when they grow up, what skills would be helpful for them getting a job. How they control their own economic destiny. And there's a bunch of stuff we do specifically also to help veterans and students and everything else within LinkedIn. As part of the modern mission for good companies is to have things that you do as part of your mission that aren't just pure profit incentive. It's not to say you're not always paying attention to revenue, but there are things that align with your mission that are part of the right way to help create a better society. Greylock, I'm an investor, a venture capitalist, I generally invest in marketplaces and networks, so I'm an investor in Airbnb, Bitcoin companies, Zappo is one of the ones. I serve on a bunch of nonprofit boards. Akiva, which is a marketplace for microfinance and Do Something, which is the largest teen philanthropic community. And then I do writing, so I wrote a book called The Start-Up of You with Ben Casnocha. And also with Ben and Chris Yeh, this book called The Alliance, and it's how the right life strategy is to think of yourself as the entrepreneur of your own life, and what are the skills for that. So The Start-Up of You is take all of the concepts that I've learned about entrepreneurship and I help other entrepreneurs and distill it into what an individual's life should be. And then I respond to phone calls for people and projects that I'm trying to help. It's a very diverse life. - And no one can be better to talk about The Start-Up of You than you, just based on our conversation, you are amazingly deliberate in your path. Just a final question, we always ask this at Khan Academy, but also just for some of the users of Khan Academy, what advice do you have for us as an organization and for anyone else out there. - Well, you're already doing a lot of amazing things. How do you use technology to scale so you can possibly help tens and hundreds of millions of people take control of their own learning. You help cross the digital divide in social justice because you're available to anybody who has an internet connection. You're focused on mobile, so you have a mobile app. Because I've used it. (laughter) - [Sal] It's about to get much better. - Excellent. - [Sal] We're working on it right now. - It's one of the things I travel with because learning new things is always fun. I'd say sustainability in terms of creation of a business model is one of the things to think about. Not to make tons and tons of money, but to be able to keep reinvesting. Because technology organizations, one of the things people don't understand about them is, it takes a bunch of investment every year. And so a business model is helpful with that. And obviously a business model that works and aligns with the organization would be something I would think would be on the drawing board. You probably have stuff you're already thinking about. Actually, I don't think you guys do a lot of social media stunts. You might do that to get more attention. Do a little bit more of classes and lectures on, for example, things that are current. Like the current zeitgeist that people're paying attention. So, like, "What is Ebola?" - Yes. We have one actually. We should do more. - Do more of that and do that along lines with what's currently happening. Cause you'll get attention on that. It's that sort of thing. It could even be little micro lessons or classes. That would be something I would think about doing. And you may be doing some of it already. - No, the more ideas the better. - And I'll give it a little bit more thought. - Awesome. Well, on behalf of everyone here, I just really want to thank you for being here. - My pleasure. (applause) And thank you for coming, I hope that was (words drowned out by applause)