The Founders: The Story of Paypal and the Entrepreneurs Who Shaped Silicon Valley

S. & S. Feb. 2022. 496p. ISBN 9781501197260. $30. ECON
Soni’s (A Mind at Play) book, about the online payment company PayPal, becomes the latest work to capture in print the obsessive gold-rush mentality of 1990s Silicon Valley startups. Soni excels at weaving together the nitty-gritty details of PayPal’s early days, as told by the people who were directly involved. He allows readers to feel like they are caught up in the action, whether sleeping on office floors or discussing nine-figure business transactions over hamburgers. This account begins by fleshing out the backstories of the company’s major founders (including well-known characters like Elon Musk and Peter Thiel), then delves into the founding and merger of the two original companies that eventually formed PayPal. Through Soni’s analyses of internal communications and press coverage, in addition to his extensive interviews, readers will learn about PayPal’s product launches, hiring practices, issues with customer satisfaction and prices, international expansion, and contentious history with eBay, which would eventually acquire PayPal.
VERDICT More than a history of PayPal. Soni’s book is a must-read for anyone who wants an insider’s perspective on the demands of tech startups or who wants to better understand how Silicon Valley’s culture became what it is today.
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