This is going to be short. I deeply respect anyone who makes anything new, and I appreciate Jimmy Soni’s massive efforts in bringing this book to light.
I’ll start with this: I appreciate that Jimmy had a generally positive view of tech when writing this story. That alone is a differentiated view today. It would be very easy to use early PayPal stories to say WTF about all the chaos that happens in startups. Compare this to, say, Anna Wiener’s Uncanny Valley and you quickly become grateful for Jimmy’s take on this particularly famous tech company.
Some things I learned or found interesting/funny in the book:
When you think about what PayPal actually made that was valuable it ends up being pretty narrow: they made the payments platform for a new type of service (online auctions) that the owners were unable to make themselves.
This would be like today if you people bought products on Amazon not by paying via Amazon, but by clicking through to an entirely different company.
PayPal’s biggest innovation was likely its fraud fighting. They existed pre-KYC (!) so anyone could signup for an account from almost anywhere. A lot of the fraud they dealt with is, I believe, made much more difficult or even impossible because of regulatory restraints.
The book’s audience is clearly mainstream and not the tech world. The author often explains basic tech world things like venture capital, boards of directors, etc. There didn’t feel like a ton of information in here that was super new.
That said, it does tell the full story of PayPal in a single place, with interviews and input from everyone who was actually there. If you know nothing about the history of PayPal and want a solid look at an early dot com success, this is a great place to start.
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