Reid Hoffman is the co-founder of LinkedIn. On Wednesday, the internet billionaire made a public apology for his role in financing a group which, he said, helped to spread disinformation during the hotly contested senate campaign in Alabama last year. Hoffman said the group’s work was “highly disturbing” and insisted that he didn’t know what the group was working on when he agreed to fund their project.
Here’s what you need to know about Reid Hoffman:
1. Hoffman Invested $ 750 Thousand in a Group Which Allegedly Used Social Media to Undermine Support for Roy Moore
In 2017, Republican Roy Moore and Democrat Doug Jones were locked in a tight race for a senate seat in Alabama. According to Hoffman, a group called American Engagement Technologies (AET) was involved in trying to discredit Roy Moore and increase voter support for Doug Jones. AET is run by a man named Mikey Dickerson, a former Obama administration official and Google engineer. Under Dickerson’s leadership, AET allegedly created a project known as Project Alabama, which used Facebook and Twitter to try and draw conservative voters away from Roy Moore.
Project Alabama allegedly tried to make it appear that Russian “bots” were backing Roy Moore, in an effort to discredit him. The group also had some connection to the research firm New Knowledge, whose director, Jonathon Morgan, recently admitted to using social media to spread disinformation ahead of the Alabama vote. Morgan said that he was only experimenting and had no intention of actually influencing the election.
Hoffman said that he had invested $ 750,000 in AET but didn’t know about the details of Project Alabama until reading about it in the news. In a statement Wednesday, Hoffman said, “I find the tactics that have been recently reported highly disturbing. For that reason, I am embarrassed by my failure to track AET — the organization I did support — more diligently as it made its own decisions to perhaps fund projects that I would reject.”
2. Hoffman Co-founded LinkedIn & Sits on the Board of Microsoft
Back in 2003, Hoffman co-founded the hugely successful networking site LinkedIn, which he eventually sold to Microsoft for $ 26.2 billion. In 2016, the year that he sold LinkedIn, Hoffman also earned a seat on the board of Microsoft. Hoffman’s ideas haven’t always met with success, though. He was behind the creating of a dating site called SocialNet, which never really took off. In spite of the site’s failures, though, Forbes notes that some think of SocialNet as “the first online social network.”
Hoffman, a member of Greylock Partners, also sits on the board of several nonprofits, including the microlending site Kiva.
3. Hoffman Had Close Ties to the Obama White House
In 2012, when President Obama was running for re-election, Hoffman donated one million dollars to Priorities USA, the Democratic Super PAC. That may have been the start of Hoffman’s close ties to the Obama White House.
He has organized at least one dinner for Obama in San Francisco. He has also had private conversations with Obama and has met with him at the White House. Hoffman was part of a small, select group that was invited to give Obama advice about his next steps after the presidency (the other guests included the author Toni Morrison and the actress Eva Longoria. Hoffman and his wife, Michelle Yee, were also guests at a state dinner for Xi Jinping, the President of China.
4. Hoffman, a Self-Described Loner, Has Published Several Books on Networking
Hoffman grew up in California, the son of left-leaning, activist parents who divorced when he was very young. He says that he remembers being tear-gassed as protests that his father took him to when he was a boy in the 1960s and 70s. Perhaps because of his unusual childhood, Hoffman said that he was always a bit of an outsider. He told the New Yorker, “I felt I was very much in a world of my own. I didn’t meld much in school. I was kind of a loner.”
As an adult, Hoffman has written a number of books about networking and business. His most recent book, published in 2018, is called Blitzscaling: The Lightning-Fast Path to Building Massively Valuable Companies.
5. Hoffman Is Married to His College Sweetheart, Michelle Yee
Hoffman went to Stanford University, which is where he first met Peter Thiel, the co-founder of PayPal. It’s also where he met and started dating Michelle Yee. The couple married in 2004. Hoffman told Wired that he and Michelle run in different circles, at least as far as business goes. “Most of my network in Silicon Valley hasn’t met her—she runs her own life,” Hoffman said. He also told Wired that, given his hectic work schedule, he and Michelle have no plans to become parents. “I work seven days,” he said. “I couldn’t do this if I had children.
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