Earlier in the fall semester, M&T had the pleasure of welcoming back to campus Lee Hower, an M&T alumnus (’00) who, since graduation, has worked with and invested in early stage tech start-ups. Mr. Hower talked about his experiences as an early employee of PayPal. When asked what it was like to work with Elon Musk, he responded that a take-away he learned was that who you work with matters perhaps more than what you do. Surrounding himself with passionate and motivated people made his time as product manager and business developer through PayPal’s IPO in 2002 worthwhile.
Mr. Hower continued by talking about how Reid Hoffman, a co-worker at PayPal who was Executive VP around the time of PayPal’s sale to eBay in 2003, came to him with an idea for an online network for building business connections. Mr. Hower hopped on-board as a founding member of what would eventually become LinkedIn. He holds one of the first profile ids on LinkedIn (he is 1212 and Reid Hoffman is 1213). When asked what the 1,211 profiles before him were, he said they were mostly test accounts used during development. Serving as Director of Corporate Development at LinkedIn, he was intimately involved in securing venture capital backing. When asked whether LinkedIn had an easy time getting venture-backed, Mr. Hower said that they actually had a lot of trouble. During Series A, they faced skepticism from a lot of firms as they had a user-base only in the tens of thousands at the time and would not start generating revenue for another year. After his work at LinkedIn, he moved back to the east coast and joined Judith Capital in 2005, an early-stage venture capital firm based outside of Boston. Since 2010, he’s been a co-founder and partner at NextView Ventures. Mr. Hower is also an advisor and director at Multiply, Inc, a Board Observer of FanIQ and SkyVu, Inc, and an advisor to Swipely. During his time at Wharton, he was selected as Wharton’s Commencement Speaker.
Always humble, Hower attributed a lot of his success in early start-ups to luck. He couldn’t have imagined at the time how successful either PayPal or LinkedIn would be but he definitely saw the importance of seizing opportunities and taking initiative. He thought M&T really gave him a head-start with what he wanted to do in his career in terms of forming lasting friendships and learning skills that would help him later on in life from both a business side and a more quantitative tech side.