Dec 21, 2023
 in 
Venture Capital

These 10 Tech Mafia Groups Are Dominating the Startup Investing Game

Author
Ivelina Niftyhontas
Y

ou’ve probably heard of the legendary PayPal Mafia, a group of founders and early employees at PayPal who all went on to start some of the most prominent companies in Silicon Valley. 

Some of the members of the PayPal Mafia include people like Elon Musk (Tesla), Peter Thiel (Founders Fund), Reid Hoffman (LinkedIn), Max Levchin (Affirm), amongst dozens of others. They all had a part in the co-founding and growth of PayPal. 

Fortune coined the term ‘tech mafia’ in 2007 when they released a piece on the PayPal Mafia along with a photo of some of the members dressed in swanky, gangster-looking attire. Tech mafia refers to groups of former employees at tech startups, that then went on to found their own successful companies.

The PayPal Mafia and its members might be the most popular ones, but it isn’t the only mega tech mafia out there. There are many others that have formed over the years, and in this article we take a look at the top ten tech mafia groups featured on PIN’s blog, and where they are now.

The Google Mafia

Unsurprisingly, the Google Mafia is one of the biggest tech mafias since it is also one of the biggest and most influential tech companies out there.

The Google Mafia has raised $115 billion and started 2.408 companies so far, with the numbers growing every year. 

Anthropic AI

Co-founder: Dario Amodei

Headquarters: San Francisco, California

Capital raised: $3.3 billion

Anthropic, a competitor to OpenAI, was co-founded by Dario Amodei, who was a former Senior Research Scientist at Google from 2015-2016, after which he moved on to work at OpenAI for almost five years, and eventually co-founded Anthropic in 2021 with his sister Daniela Amodei.

Anthropic has already raised $3 billion in funding from Spark Capital, Google, and Amazon, and is actively researching and working on AI safety. Their mission is to ensure that humans are still at the center of that story as AI generative tools become more and more powerful.

Horizon Robotics

Co-founder: Annie Feiwen Tao

Headquarters: Beijing, China

Capital raised: $2 billion

Horizon Robotics is one of the biggest companies in China producing AI chip-based solutions. It was co-founded by Annie Feiwen Tao in 2016. Annie worked at Google as a Business Analyst and then at Baidu for several years, before founding Horizon Robotics.

The company has raised over $2 billion.

Nuro

Co-founders: Dave Ferguson, Jiajun Zhu

Headquarters: Mountain View, California

Capital raised: $2 billion

Another robotics company, co-founded by Dave Ferguson and Jiajun Zhu, who both worked at Google as Principal Engineers before founding Nuro.

Nuro develops autonomous delivery vehicles and was the first company to receive an autonomous exemption from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Nuro was last said to be worth around $8 billion in 2021.

The Apple Mafia

The Apple Mafia has some of the most famous companies and founders as part of its mafia pack. Think LinkedIn, Whatsapp, Flipboard, Salesforce, Censys, Hotmail, DocuSign, and more.

WhatsApp

Co-founder: Brian Acton

Headquarters: Menlo Park, California

Capital raised: $60 million

Brian Acton was a Hardware Test Engineer at Apple for almost two years. He then worked at Yahoo for over 10 years as Director of Engineering and then Vice President of Engineering. In 2009, he co-founded WhatsApp, which was acquired by Meta/Facebook in 2014 for $19 billion.

LinkedIn

Co-founder: Reid Hoffman

Headquarters: Sunnyvale, California

Stage: Public

Reid Hoffman, popular member of the PayPal Mafia, started his first job at Apple in 1994 as a Senior User Experience Architect. In 2003 he co-founded LinkedIn, which went public in 2011. In 2016, Microsoft acquired LinkedIn for $26 billion.

Salesforce

Co-founder: Marc Benioff

Headquarters: San Francisco, California

Stage: Public

Marc Benioff was an intern at Apple in 1984, after which he worked at Oracle for 13 years as Senior Vice President, and eventually started his own company, Salesforce.

The OpenAI Mafia

OpenAI was founded in 2015, so this mafia group is still quite new but very impressive already. 

OpenAI alumni have founded 21 companies, mostly in the AI sector, and raised close to $40 billion from top investors. Below are a few of the top ones. 

Anthropic

Co-founders: Sam McCandlish, Jack Clark, Tom Brown, Dario Amodei, Benjamin Mann, Daniela Amodei

Headquarters: San Francisco, California

Capital raised: $3.3 billion

Anthropic is on the list of this tech mafia group again, since all of the founders were former employees in various technical roles at OpenAI.

Anthropic has already raised $3 billion in funding from Spark Capital, Google, and Amazon, and is actively researching and working on AI safety. Their mission is to ensure that humans are still at the center of that story as AI generative tools become more and more powerful.

Living Carbon

Co-founder: Maddie Hall

Headquarters: San Francisco, California

Capital raised: $36 million

Maddie Hall founded Living Carbon in 2021, a public benefit company fighting climate change by genetically enhancing CO2 capture and storage in trees. Living Carbon was part of Y Combinator’s 2021 batch.

Maddie used to work in the Special Projects department Tesla, and was also a venture scout at Sequoia Capital.

Perplexity AI

Co-founder: Aravind Srinivas

Headquarters: San Francisco, California

Capital raised: $30 million

Aravind Srinivas was a Research Scientist at OpenAI as well as a Research intern at Google. Just one year ago (2022), he founded Perplexity AI, an AI-chat-based conversational search engine that delivers answers to questions using language models.

The eBay Mafia

eBay was founded in 1995, and its original name was AuctionWeb before it was renamed to eBay. Since then, many former employees have founded wildly successful companies.

So far, 472 have been founded by eBay alumni, and $16.5 billion raised.

YouTube

Co-founder: Steve Chen

Headquarters: San Bruno, California Capital raised: $11.5 million

Steve Chen was a former Engineering Manager at both PayPal and eBay before founding YouTube in 2005. Google acquired YouTube in 2006 for $1.6 billion, a massive win for Google.

ZipRecruiter

Co-founders: Will Redd, Ian Siegel, Ward Poulos

Headquarters: Santa Monica, California

Stage: Public

The popular online employment marketplace was founded in 2010 by three former eBay engineers and designers. ZipRecruiter went public in 2021 at a valuation of $2.4 billion.

GrubMarket

Co-founder: Mike Xu

Headquarters: San Francisco, California

Capital raised: $500 million

Founder of GrubMarket, Mike Xu, was an Engineer at IBM, Oracle, and eBay. In 2014, he started GrubMarket, America's largest food supply chain eCommerce company. It’s currently valued at $2 billion and has raised money from Tiger Global Management, GGV Capital, and Blackrock, amongst many others.

The Microsoft Mafia

This is one of the biggest tech mafia groups, 2,474 companies founded by former employees of Microsoft and $69 billion raised in funding.

Microsoft was founded in 1975 by Bill Gates and Paul Allen, and it took them less than a day to design the original logo!

Fun fact: Microsoft Office made its debut on the Mac.

Airbnb

Co-founder: Nathan Blecharczyk

Headquarters: San Francisco, California

Stage: Public

The one and only Airbnb. Co-founder Nathan Blecharczyk was a former Intern Program Manager at Microsoft before founding Airbnb with Brian Chesky in 2008.

Zillow

Co-founder: Rich Barton, Lloyd Frink

Headquarters: Seattle, Washington

Stage: Public

Rich Barton and Lloyd Frink co-founded the most visited real estate website in the US, Zillow, in 2004. Barton has co-founded several other companies, and Lloyd was one of the first Microsoft employees, having worked there for 20 years from 1979 to 1999.

Glassdoor

Co-founders: Rich Barton, Robert Hohman

Headquarters: San Francisco, California

Capital raised: $205 million

The two co-founders of one of the most successful websites for company reviews and job hunting website, Glassdoor, worked as General and Development Managers at Microsoft.

Rich Barton is a serial entrepreneur and has founded several successful companies. His first job was at Microsoft, after which he founded Expedia, Glassdoor, and Zillow. He also serves as Board Director at Netflix and Qurate Retail Group, and is a Partner at Benchmark Capital.

The Twitter Mafia

X, formerly Twitter, has undergone a lot of changes since Elon Musk’s takeover, especially in terms of how the company operates. However, Twitter has had thousands of entrepreneurial employees rotating through its doors since its birth in 2006.

Let’s take a look at the top three companies, out of the 334 companies founded, and $55 billion raised.

Compass

Co-founder: Ori Allon

Headquarters: New York, United States

Stage: Public

Ori Allon worked as Director of Engineering at Twitter before founding Compass, one of the world’s proptech unicorns. Compass is currently valued at $2 billion.

Block, Inc

Co-founder: Jack Dorsey

Headquarters: San Francisco, California

Stage: Public

The co-founder and previous CEO of Twitter, Jack Dorsey, has co-founded two other mega successful companies - Block and Cash App (Venmo’s major competitor). Block went public in 2015 and holds around $40 billion in market cap.

Abnormal Security

Co-founders: Evan Reiser & Sanjay Jeyakumar

Headquarters: San Francisco, California

Capital raised: $284 million

Cybersecurity company, Abnormal Security, was founded by Evan Reiser and Sanjay Jeyakumar. Resier worked in Product & Machine Learning at Twitter and Jeyakumar was a Systems Architect.

Abnormal protects more than 5% of the Fortune 1000 and numerous notable companies including Xerox, Hitachi Vantara, Urban Outfitters, Groupon, Royal Caribbean International and Auto Club Group-AAA.

Abnormal Security is currently valued at $4 billion.

The Tesla Mafia

Some of the brightest minds have worked at Tesla, and it shows in the companies they have started and their immense success. 

Tesla alumni have founded 140 companies and raised $48 billion. Let’s take a look. 

Substack

Co-founder: Hamish McKenzie

Headquarters: San Francisco, California

Capital raised: $90 million

Probably the only members from the Tesla Mafia to start a company that is not in the energy of automotive industries. If you’re an avid writer or reader, you’ll have come across the popular newsletter-publishing platform Substack.

Hamish was a Lead Writer at Tesla for one year and helped to tell Tesla’s story, before founding his own company.

Sila Nanotechnologies

Co-founder: Gene Berdichevsky

Headquarters: Alameda, California

Capital raised: $1 billion

Gene Berdichevsky was an ex Tech Lead/ Battery Systems Architect at Tesla, and is the co-founder and CEO at Sila Nanotechnologies, a provider and manufacturer of higher energy density lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles.

The company is currently valued at $3 billion.

Swell Energy

Co-founder: Suleman Khan

Headquarters: Santa Monica, California

Capital raised: $580 million

Khan used to work in the Stationary Energy Storage at Tesla, before founding Swell Energy in 2015.

Swell Energy is valued at around $500 million and SoftBank Vision Fund is the main investor.

The Amazon Mafia

The Amazon Mafia one of the strongest tech mafia groups around, with 774 companies founded and $34 billion raised.

Jeff Bezos, former CEO and founder of Amazon, founded a new aerospace company called Blue Origin, which he is currently working on. Below are three other companies to emerge from this group.

InstaCart

Co-founder: Apoorva Mehta

Headquarters: San Francisco, California

Stage: Public

InstaCart, founded by former Amazon employee, Apoorva Mehta, was one of the few companies to go public this year. It’s one of the top online grocery delivery platforms, and is currently valued at $10 billion.

He worked in the Fulfillment Optimization SDE department for two years before founding InstaCart in 2012.

Hulu

Co-founder: Jason Kilar

Headquarters: Los Angeles, California

Capital raised: $683 million

Former Senior Vice President at Amazon (for 9 years), Jason Kilar, co-founded online video service Hulu in 2007. Hulu was acquired by Walt Disney on December 1st, 2023 by Disney for $8.6 billion.

Flipkart

Co-founder: Binny Bansal

Headquarters: Bengaluru, India

Capital raised: $14 billion

The popular online shopping website was founded by former Amazon Software Engineer, Binny Bansal. It was acquired by shopping giant Walmart in 2018 for $16 billion.

The Facebook Mafia

The Facebook Mafia is another superpower, with 748 companies started and $18 billion raised. Some big names include OpenAI, BitGo, EatStreet, Yugabyte, and more.

OpenAI

Co-founder: Wojciech Zaremba

Headquarters: San Francisco, California

Capital raised: $11 billion

One of the co-founders of OpenAI, Wojciech Zaremba, was previously an intern at Nvidia, and also worked as Research Scientist at both Google and Facebook, before joining the other co-founders to start OpenAI in 2016.

Yugabyte

Co-founders: Kannan Muthukkaruppan, Karthik Ranganathan, Mikhail Bautin

Headquarters: Sunnyvale, California Capital raised: $290 million

All three co-founders worked at Facebook before founding Yugabyte, an open-source distributed SQL database designed for cloud-native applications. Yugabyte waslast valued at $1.3 billion in 2021.

Dada Group

Co-founder: Jun Yang

Headquarters: Shanghai, China

Stage: Public

Jun Yang, co-founder of the most popular delivery and retail platform China, was Engineering Manager at Facebook for five years. It was founded in 2014 and went public in 2021 at a valuation of $3.5 billion.

The McKinsey Mafia

McKinsey alumni are amongst the most powerful alumni, it’s not technically a “tech” mafia group, but an important one nonetheless. McKinsey alumni have actually founded 15 unicorn companies, as reported in a 2021 article by the consulting firm.

This mafia group has raised $84 billion in funding so far, and started 1,392 companies. Let’s have a look at the top 3.

Aurora Innovation

Co-founder: Sterling Anderson

Headquarters: Mountain View, California

Stage: Public

Sterling Anderson, a specialist in vehicle autonomy, co-founded this self-driving technology startup in 2017 with the aim of expediting the integration of autonomous vehicles.

In December 2020, the startup successfully acquired Uber's self-driving vehicle unit, welcoming Uber's CEO, Dara Khosrowshahi, to its Board. In March 2021, the company revealed an expansion of its partnerships by joining forces with Volvo, in addition to its existing collaboration with truck manufacturer Paccar, to jointly develop and introduce a long-haul trucking product to the market.

Aurora is currently valued at $5.8 billion.

Faire

Co-founder: Jeffrey Kolovson

Headquarters: San Francisco, California

Capital raised: $1.7 billion

Jeffrey played a key role in establishing this curated marketplace, aiming to assist retailers in procuring wholesale merchandise for their stores while alleviating the challenges associated with inventory risk.

Faire uses advanced AI and predictive analytics to provide businesses with valuable capabilities, including product recommendations, demand forecasting, inventory sourcing and management, and the aggregation of merchandise from various wholesalers and distributors.

The company is currently valued at $12 billion.

Glance

Co-founder: Naveen Tewari

Headquarters: Bengaluru, India

Capital raised: $400 million

Making a mark on the 2019 unicorns list with his initial venture, InMobi Group, the Indian adtech magnate Naveen has now achieved his second unicorn, Glance.

Glance serves as a mobile lock-screen tech platform, delivering personalized ad-free content in multiple languages to the lock screens of Android smartphones. As a subsidiary of InMobi, the company has expanded its reach by acquiring the short-form video company Roposo, increased its user base to 115 million users spending at least 25 minutes daily on the platform, and secured funding from Mithril Capital and Google, with a valuation of $1 billion.

These are the top ten tech mafia groups, with many more out there, which we’ll be keeping an eye out for.

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