Episode 25: Max Levchin, Founder & CEO of Affirm, on How HVF (Hard, Valuable, Fun) Has Guided His Founder Journey


Max Levchin is the Founder & CEO of Affirm, a financial services technology company that offers microloans to consumers at the point of sale. Affirm allows shoppers to pay for purchases across multiple months with transparent, fairly priced fees built into every payment.

Max is also the Co-Founder and Chairman of Glow, a data-driven fertility company, and was one of the original co-founders of PayPal where he served as CTO until its acquisition by Ebay in 2002. He has served on several boards such as Yahoo!, Yelp, and Evernote. Max is an engineer by training, serial entrepreneur, computer scientist, investor and philanthropist.

In this Founder Real Talk / 996 crossover episode, we learn how Max used the guiding principle of HVF (Hard, Valuable, Fun) to found Affirm. Max talks about writing a pivotal note to self to crystalize what he wanted to accomplish and how the financial industry is ripe for disruption.

This episode is co-hosted by Glenn Solomon and Hans Tung of GGV Capital.

Highlights From The Episode
03:14 Why and how is affirm hard, valuable and fun?
09:06 There’s obviously a very well established banking industry that you’re kind of going up against in some ways. What about that industry makes it ripe for disruption?
15:08 Can you talk about how you manage to figure out who to underwrite and avoid fraud?
16:29 Given the business you are in, are there any new wrinkles that you’ve had to deal with?
21:13 How have you been able continue to create a differentiated product and what does it take for you to stay ahead of your competitors?
26:27 Some of the merchants that you work with have told us a sales conversion with you has increased by as high as 30%. How are you able to do that?
28:02 What techniques have you used to maintain such a high NPS score
29:41How do you use data as an advantage in your company and when you advise startups, what do you tell them about use of data?
32:42 When you look back in your career, how have you seen yourself grown as a leader?
36:33 Did you come up with the core values on your own before founding the company or was it a team effort?
38:53 How have you approached diversity and inclusion and what have the benefits been for you?
42:33 What made you decide on Pittsburgh and how did you come to the decision to have a second office?
43:54 How do you solve for engineers and product people in different offices?
46:29 What’s your schedule like? How do you feel about working smart vs. working hard?
52:42 Lightning round

If you have any questions you’d like us to ask our guests, or founders you’d like to hear on this podcast, email us at founderrealtalk@ggvc.com.

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GGV Capital is a global venture capital firm that invests in local founders. As a multi-stage, sector-focused firm, GGV focuses on seed-to-growth stage investments across Consumer/New Retail, Social/Digital & Internet, Enterprise/Cloud and Frontier Tech sectors. The firm was founded in 2000 and manages $6.2 billion in capital across 13 funds. Past and present portfolio companies include Affirm, Airbnb, Alibaba, Bitsight, ByteDance (Toutiao), Ctrip, Didi Chuxing, Grab, Gladly, Hello Chuxing, HashiCorp, Houzz, Keep, LingoChamp, Namely, Niu, Nozomi Networks, Opendoor, Peloton, Poshmark, Slack, Square, Wish, Xauto, Xiaohongshu, Yellow, YY, Zhaoyou and more. The firm has offices in Beijing, San Francisco, Shanghai and Silicon Valley. Learn more at ggvc.com and @GGVCapital.