Playing board games and studying philosophy at a young age sparked a vision to help evolve humanity for billionaire venture capitalist Reid Hoffman. His admiration for philosophers like Aristotle and Ludwig Wittgenstein guided his business decisions and investment strategies, which he incorporated into his own startups and later used to mentor other entrepreneurs.
Born in Palo Alto, California in 1957, Reid Hoffman was an inquisitive and independent child who began his academic career in The Putney School in Vermont. Hoffman later moved on to study Symbolic Systems in Stanford University and received his Master’s in Philosophy at Oxford University. Attending these institutions inspired Hoffman to create work and effective change for the masses instead of only for the academic community. His focus shifted to improving the world. And he did just that.
After becoming captivated with technological advancements in the 1990s, Hoffman worked briefly at Apple and Fujitsu, which prepared him for his own business ventures and mentorship. Hoffman began to use technology as a tool to build networks and understand customer behaviour. In 1997, he started his own social-networking and dating technology company, SocialNet. Despite the short two-year success, SocialNet equipped Hoffman with the practical experience needed to co-found billion-dollar business ventures in the future.
Hoffman was on the board of directors of PayPal when the company was founded and became the online payment service’s COO in 2000. He went on to launch the groundbreaking professional networking website LinkedIn in 2002 with two co-workers from SocialNet, a college roommate, and another former colleague from his time at Fujitsu. LinkedIn was the first-ever business networking platform launched during its time and has since grown to become the largest site of its kind, combining traditional business networking with modern social media. Hoffman served as president and chairman of LinkedIn for four years before Microsoft acquired the company in 2016 for $26 billion.
As an accomplished Silicon Valley investor in addition to his role in creating and developing two of the most game-changing services in recent history, Hoffman pays his success forward through mentorship, seminars, writing books, and hosting his podcast, Masters of Scale. He has been a mentor for start-ups like Mozilla, Zynga, Facebook, and Groupon, and invested in businesses like Airbnb and Flickr. Hoffman extends his wisdom and experience in his New York Times best-selling books, The Start-up of You and The Alliance, where he advises people to treat their career as a startup.
In a 2017 feature in Entrepreneur magazine, Hoffman discusses the strategies in his books and encourages other entrepreneurs to prioritize acquiring customers, growing their company size, and delivering value to their customers. As a Silicon Valley advocate, Hoffman stresses the importance of creativity and opportunities for entrepreneurship that this technological hub provides. He continues to serve on advisory boards for not-for-profit organizations like Kiva, CZI Biohub, and Do Something.
A childhood dream to make a difference in the world led Hoffman to co-found and mentor the world’s largest and most dynamic technological startups. By combining philosophy and technology, he’s carving a new path for entrepreneurs to serve society through civic action. Hoffman’s career milestones changed the world we live in, and he’s actively working to continue spearheading change by mentoring other entrepreneurs in the world of technology and beyond.
Rasha Rehman | Contributing Writer