Sep 19, 2022 - Economy

It's time to talk about the LinkedIn Mafia

Illustration of a golden sparkling briefcase.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The PayPal Mafia has had a good run, but it may be time to shift focus to alumni of a less fashionable Internet pioneer: LinkedIn.

Driving the news: Dylan Field was a data analytics intern at LinkedIn in 2010. He later founded Figma, which last week agreed to sell to Adobe for $20 billion.

  • His LinkedIn team was led by DJ Patil, who went on to become U.S. chief data scientist and an early exec at both RelateIQ (acquired by Salesforce) and Devoted Health ($15 billion valuation).
  • Patil, who first met Field when the Figma founder was just 16 years-old, tells Axios: "On my team we had an explicit hosting framework of (1) Would you give 10% of YOUR equity to this person? (2) Would you consider starting a company with this person/ or be in a trench with them for hours (proxy for spending lots of time together and having to be able to work out conflict)? (3) Do you see them doing something amazing in four to six years?"
  • Field also worked closely with the group led by Adam Nash, who went on to run robo-adviser Wealthfront, is founding CEO at Daffy and was a seed investor in Figma.

Other unicorn company founders with LinkedIn backgrounds include: Steven Galanis (Cameo), Akshay Kothari (Notion), Jay Kreps & Neha Narkhede (Confluent), Arvind Rajan (Cricket Health), Sid Viswanathan (Truepill) and Gordon Wintrob (Newfront Insurance). Unicorn CEOs include Mike Gamson (Relativity) and Russell Glass (Ginger, now Headspace).

  • Plus a ton of near-unicorn founders (e.g., Curated's Eduardo Vivas, Superhuman's Rahul Vohra), and a slew of VC firm founders and top partners.
  • And, yes, there are through lines between the PayPal and LinkedIn groups. Most notably Greylock's Reid Hoffman (who's played an outsized role in LinkedIn's alumni network) and Founders Fund's Keith Rabois (who also co-founded unicorn company Opendoor). Plus, Field participated in the fellowship program created by PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel.

What they're saying: Jeff Weiner, LinkedIn's CEO for more than 11 years and its current exec chair, explains: "When an organization is truly purpose driven (from vision to values), the underlying ethos that develops may not be singular or proprietary to the company's sense of purpose, but highly supportive of people trying to have positive impact in other ways and at other companies.

  • "That's not to say we didn’t work hard to retain our top talent — we did. However, when recognizing they were destined to do great things elsewhere, as was the case with Dylan at Figma and others that would follow to pursue their own startup dreams, many of us would try to be as supportive as we could through introductions, mentorship, and capital."

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Editor's note: This item has been corrected to identify Mike Gamson and Russell Glass as unicorn CEOs, rather than unicorn founders.

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