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Founder of PayPal Visits Campus, Discusses Big Data and Gender Roles

Valuable data is ubiquitous, and for an entrepreneur like Max Levchin who considers big data to be a “natural resource,” leveraging this information can create endless opportunities for innovation.

On October 21, 2014, the PayPal founder visited Carnegie Mellon University to share his knowledge of development and entrepreneurship and hear new ideas from Carnegie Mellon students during short pitches. Levchin also took time during his visit to participate in a media panel organized and moderated by Dave Mawhinney, co-director of the Carnegie Mellon Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

During the panel, Levchin shifted the focus away from his more omnipresent companies such as PayPal and Yelp, and discussed his recent ventures, Affirm and Glow.

Affirm is a lending company that provides a simpler way to finance online purchases. Users can buy online using Affirm and pay off purchases in easy, fixed monthly payments without hidden fees or the hassle of awaiting approval from a credit card company. Nearly two years after its development, approximately 100 merchants now participate in Buy With Affirm such as Zentail, Casper Sleep, BeautyLish and Faraday Bikes.

Glow is a smartphone app that uses data provided by the user, to help women to better understand and track their reproductive health. The app uses the information provided by each woman and produces personalized data about her body. Since its launch in August 2013, the app has aided more than 25,000 pregnancies, and Levchin estimates that Glow has reduced the need for IVF treatments by approximately four to five percent.

Both of these companies are run by Levchin’s project, HVF, or “Hard Valuable Fun.” HVF was founded in 2011 as the umbrella project for all of Levchin’s data-related activities.  

Moving forward, Levchin hopes to find a way to pay credit to female engineers. He spoke about the significance of closing the gender gap in the fields of computer science, technology and engineering and stressed that he hopes his daughter will have the opportunity to grow up with female celebrity engineers as her role models.