PayPal was founded in December 1998 by recent college grad Max Levchin and hedge fund manager Peter Thiel. The company went through several ideas, including cryptography software and a service for transmitting money via PDAs, before finding its niche as a web-based payment system. That service became wildly popular for online vendors, especially eBay sellers, who preferred it to traditional payment methods. PayPal went public in early 2002 and was acquired later that year by eBay for $1.5 billion.
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