On Tuesday, at the Indus Entrepreneurs conference in Santa Clara, Calif., Benchmark Capital’s newest partner, Matt Cohler, recounted a scene from 2004 that changed his life.
Cohler — then a recent Yale graduate working at the business networking site LinkedIn — was hanging out with his boss, LinkedIn founder and angel investor Reid Hoffman. The two had stopped by the office of PayPal cofounder and investor Peter Thiel, whom Hoffman has known since 1987, when both were undergraduates at Stanford. After a short meeting between the three, said Cohler, Thiel invited him and Hoffman to stick around for a pitch meeting with a young entrepreneur named Mark Zuckerberg.
You can probably guess what happened next.
The baby-faced CEO of Facebook entered the room with serial entrepreneur Sean Parker, with whom Zuckerberg was living at the time, and proceeded to dazzle everyone by detailing his nascent company’s growth trajectory. Thiel and Hoffman invested; Cohler joined Facebook, earning his options the old-fashioned way, by becoming its VP of product management. (In June of this year, apparently having amassed enough shares, Cohler accepted his new job as a venture capitalist at Benchmark.)
The story offered some neat you-are-there moments, except that I’ve heard it told a bit differently. Namely, when I interviewed Reid Hoffman last summer for the San Jose Mercury News, he told me that he introduced Zuckerberg to Thiel — not the other way around.
“What happened was Mark Zuckerberg and Sean Parker ended up being housemates, and I knew Sean and I liked Sean a lot, and so Sean brought him to me,” Hoffman had said. Hoffman wrote Facebook’s first check, he added, but because he was too busy at the time to work closely with Facebook, “I was like, let’s go talk to Peter.”
I emailed Hoffman this morning to ask about Cohler’s recollection and haven’t heard back. For the record, I don’t think Hoffman lied. I’m just curious about the disparity.
Here’s a video of my 2007 meeting with Hoffman. It’s not great — I was about 12 months pregnant at the time and ill-prepared — but if you skip to around the middle of the clip, you’ll find the relevant part of our conversation: