UI alumnus continues innovating on Internet

By Eric Heisig

A recent University alumnus has continued to change technology through his Internet ventures, refusing to give up even after disappointments during his college years.

Max Levchin, CEO for the Web site Slide, graduated with a degree in computer science in 1997. Levchin formed PayPal, which was founded in 1998. After the company was sold to eBay for more than $1.5 billion, Levchin moved on to his next venture.

Slide was launched in 2005 and recently began adding applications to Facebook such as SuperPoke, which allows people to send their friends more than just the standard “poke.” Slide also created the Fun Wall, which allows people to gather photos and videos to post.

While there are many users of Slide’s products, some students are not thrilled with the added applications.

“(The applications) are kind of annoying,” Mandy Lucchetti, freshman in LAS, said. “It is becoming more and more like MySpace.”

While Lucchetti said she still uses a few of the applications, some students choose not to use them.

“I don’t really use them. They are kind of pointless,” Andrew Wyman, sophomore in AHS, said.

In addition to the Facebook applications, Levchin said Slide is the largest social-application maker in the world with more than 200 million people using its products.

Being relatively new, the company is still growing and looking for more employees. Levchin makes trips back to University to recruit students interested in working with computers.

“I am a big fan of the department I graduated from,” he said. “We are always trying to beef up our staff.”

The man who went on to help form Slide and PayPal – a site designed to make online shopping easier – started several Internet business ventures in college with mixed results.

“When I was in school, I started a company and it basically didn’t do very well,” Levchin said. “So I started another one. It failed. The next one failed too. I started them until I graduated.”

He said these companies covered a wide range of Internet tools from mailing list programs to advertising sites.

“It was early then,” Levchin said of the Internet landscape at the time. “Anything could be tried then.”

During his trips to the University, Levchin often talks about his experience with founding firms and tries to instill some wisdom in the people listening.

“The opportunity to join a start-up (company) diminishes as you get older,” he said. “I always try to encourage that.”