PayPal Co-Founder Offers Experience, Advice At U Of I Commencement 2018
PayPal co-founder and U of I alumnus Max Levchin delivered the commencement address for the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign's 2018 commencement ceremony.
The Ukranian born computer scientist spoke to thousands of family members and soon to be graduates at Memorial Stadium on Saturday morning--offering his experience and advice.
He said living as a teenager with his family in 1980's Soviet Union, they were concerned about the country's political and economic instability as well as the rise of antisemitism. He said the country was held together by 'shoestring and bubblegum.'
“In 1986, the Chernobyl nuclear power station, blew itself up, in the worst recorded nuclear disaster ever; which was kind of unfortunate, because Kiev—where I was born and lived at the time was only 90 miles away," said Levchin.
He said coming to America felt like a huge risk, but the Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster motivated the five family members to flee. With about $600 dollars to their name, Levchin and his family were accepted into the United States in 1991—to which he said they are eternally thankful.
As an entrepreneur who started four failed companies before PayPal, he had some advice for the university’s newest graduating class.
“Go out there and take risks to find out who you really are, fail passionately and recover quickly, and find and hang on tight to those who make you a better you," said Levchin.
He said because of some crazy coincidences, a nuclear accident, and some fantastic science fair displays, he lucked into the innovation of the modern era. Levchin said he also met people whose brilliance and thirst for knowledge pushed him to be better.
Levchin is currently the CEO of the San Francisco financial technologies company, Affirm.