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If you like Reid Hoffman's story, you might also like:
Timothy Berners-Lee,
Jeff Bezos,
Sergey Brin,
Stephen Case,
Michael Dell,
Lawrence Ellison,
Bill Gates,
John Hennessy,
Elizabeth Holmes,
Ray Kurzweil,
Pierre Omidyar
and Larry Page

Reid Hoffman's
recommended reading: Amusing Ourselves to Death

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Reid Hoffman
Reid Hoffman
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Reid Hoffman Biography

Internet Entrepreneur

Reid Hoffman Date of birth: August 5, 1967

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  Reid Hoffman

Reid Hoffman was born in Palo Alto, California and raised in Berkeley, where both of his parents were attorneys. He attended public schools in Berkeley until high school. Convinced that he learned best in smaller classes, he successfully lobbied his mother and father to place him in a private high school close to home. Still restless and eager to live away from home, he finally persuaded his parents to send him to the Putney School in Vermont. The Putney School stressed breadth of experience, giving him the chance to try his hand at everything from art to farming chores. Having enjoyed a measure of independence at school in Vermont, he was content to return to his native Northern California and attend Stanford University.

Reid Hoffman Biography Photo
Stanford's program of "structured liberal education" stimulated his interest in philosophy and ideas. His wide-ranging interests might have made it difficult to select a single course of study, but a sympathetic adviser guided him to a solution. After asking Hoffman to list all the courses he wanted to take while at Stanford, the adviser steered him towards the university's program in Symbolic Systems, which included philosophy, linguistics, psychology, mathematical logic and computer science.

In all these areas, his overriding fascination lay in the communication of ideas and the exchange of information. He was intrigued by the works of media theorists such as Marshall McLuhan and Neil Postman. McLuhan explored the influence that evolving modes of communication exert over human thought, exemplified by his oft-quoted maxim "the medium is the message." Postman's most famous book, Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business, argued that the visual nature of television undermines the public's capacity for following rational argument.

From his studies at Stanford, Hoffman was aware that more profound changes might soon transform the media landscape in ways that even McLuhan and Postman had not anticipated. He became increasingly concerned not only with how information is communicated, but with what is communicated and why.

Hoffman graduated from Stanford University in 1990 with a BS in Symbolic Systems and Cognitive Science and won a Marshall Scholarship to study at Oxford. He earned an M.A. in philosophy from Wolfson College, Oxford University in 1993. At Oxford, Hoffman had considered the claims of the schools of Analytic Philosophy dominant in the English-speaking countries, as well as those of Continental schools with their greater emphasis on the historical and cultural context of ideas.

Hoffman aspired to a career as a writer, professor and public intellectual, but following his studies at Oxford, he began to look for a way to have a more direct impact on society than he believed he could achieve through an academic career. On returning to Northern California, he canvassed Stanford friends for job prospects in the region's burgeoning technology sector. A temporary job in the User Experience sector of Apple Computer led to a longer assignment as a junior product manager. At Apple, he worked on eWorld, an early attempt at creating a social network. Although the project did not lead to a sustainable enterprise, Hoffman was convinced there was a future in deploying the power of the Internet to foster human relationships for social networking.

Reid Hoffman Biography Photo
Apple realized a profit when it sold eWorld to AOL in 1996. Hoffman left Apple that year and continued his exploration of the new technology industry at Fujitsu. Although he was well aware that the chance of success on a first venture was slim, he had already decided to start his own company as soon as possible, and in 1997, less than three years after he entered the tech industry, he left Fujitsu and founded his first company, At first, he had conceived of his venture as something akin to an Internet-based dating service, but he soon realized the new technology could be applied to building all kinds of relationships, including business ones. This maiden voyage would prove to be an intense learning experience for the novice entrepreneur.

At the same time, Hoffman's Stanford friend Peter Thiel approached him about joining the board of his own start-up. Thiel's firm, which focused on processing transactions over the Internet, became PayPal. Hoffman's experience at SocialNet enabled him to help Thiel and his partners refocus their venture from processing person-to-person payments to one focused on processing payments from customers to merchants.

By 2000, it was clear that SocialNet would not achieve Hoffman's ambitions for it, while PayPal would require his full attention. Hoffman folded SocialNet, returning all of his investors' original capital and became PayPal's Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer. In 2002, PayPal was acquired by eBay for $1.5 billion. Hoffman's share of the sale enabled him to invest in other promising ideas while pursuing one of his own.

His experiences at both SocialNet and PayPal had demonstrated the importance of an individual's professional identity in the online sphere and he was ready to test this idea on his second start-up. He founded LinkedIn in his living room in the last month of 2002 and the site went live in May 2003. At the end of the first month in operation, LinkedIn had a total of 4,500 members in the network. It soon became the Web's pre-eminent business-focused social network.

Reid Hoffman Biography Photo
While LinkedIn was developing, Hoffman was approached about leading the first funding round for Facebook, as he had earlier done for the consumer network site Friendster. Hoffman was impressed with Facebook's plan and agreed to make a substantial investment, but he felt that taking a more prominent position in Facebook would pose a conflict of interest with his leadership role at LinkedIn. He introduced Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg to his friend Peter Thiel, who agreed to provide the initial "angel" investment of $500 million. Hoffman has called this "the most expensive decision" of his business career, but his smaller investment in Facebook, as well as his other ventures, have earned him a considerable fortune. He has made angel investments in more than 80 technology startups, such as Airbnb, Groupon, Zynga and Flickr.

At the end of 2009 Hoffman joined the Greylock Partners investment group, where he runs the $20 million Discovery Fund. His areas of focus at Greylock include enterprise software, consumer Internet, enterprise 2.0, mobile, social gaming, online marketplaces, payments, and social networks. After LinkedIn made its initial public offering in 2011, Hoffman's personal stake in the company was valued at $2.34 billion. By 2014, his personal fortune was calculated at over $4.5 billion. By that point, it was estimated that LinkedIn was adding more than two new members per second.

Reid Hoffman was LinkedIn's Chief Executive Officer for the company's first four years; he continues to serve as Chairman of the Board. In addition to sitting on the board of the Mozilla Foundation and numerous nonprofits, he is a founder of, which lobbies for immigration reform and the improvement of American education. He has been honored by the World Affairs Council and Global Philanthropy Forum for Technology for Social Impact.

By 2016, LinkedIn was operating the world's largest professional network on the Internet with more than 400 million members in over 200 countries and territories. In June of that year, Microsoft Corp. announced plans to acquire LinkedIn for $26.2 billion, the largest acquisition in Microsoft's history. The merger will require regulatory approval in the United States and other countries where the companies operate. LinkedIn's stock price soared on news of the proposed deal. Reid Hoffman, who remains LinkedIn's largest individual shareholder, has approved the plan.

This page last revised on Jun 13, 2016 13:49 EDT
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