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Jack Selby — Complete Biography, History, and Legacy


Jack Selby’s record of success across technology, finance, and media all traces back to his pivotal early role at PayPal. As one of the online payment giant‘s original executives, Selby benefited immensely from PayPal‘s sale to eBay, joining the elite ranks of the so-called "PayPal Mafia."

Since then, Selby has flexed his entrepreneurial abilities both collaborating with his former PayPal colleague Peter Thiel and also forging his own path breaking into Hollywood. Today Selby leverages his business acumen, network, and wealth to support innovative startups and unique indie films alike.

This complete biography explores who Jack Selby is today as a financier and producer, along with the experiences that brought him the means to pursue twin passions in very different spheres.

Early Life and Education

While details on his early life are scant, Jack Selby is known to have been born circa 1975 in the United States before attending Hamilton College in New York. He graduated Hamilton in 1996 with a bachelor’s degree in economics.

This economics acumen likely supported his burgeoning interest in investments and markets. Shortly after graduating, Selby worked abroad in Germany for several years in unspecified financial roles.

Rise at PayPal (1999-2002)

Upon returning stateside in 1999, Jack Selby joined Confinity as Vice President of Corporate Development. Confinity was a payments and cryptography startup based in California building online payment infrastructure.

Recognizing the potential for internet payments early on, Selby helped shape Confinity’s products and broker key partnerships. One Confinity co-founder Max Levchin called Selby “instrumental in cementing business and banking relationships.”

The following year, Confinity chose to merge with fellow payments firm started by Peter Thiel. Together they re-launched as PayPal in 2001 and brought Selby on as Senior VP of Corporate Development.

At PayPal, Selby helped drive major growth initiatives including PayPal‘s 2002 IPO and relationships with eBay that culminated in acquisition. Revenue grew over 400% during Selby’s 3-year tenure.

Former colleagues like venture capitalist Keith Rabois recall Selby as “ambitious, curious, and talented – a standout even in PayPal’s stacked executive roster.”

Launching Clarium Capital (2002-2009 Peak)

Flush with cash from the eBay-PayPal sale and hungry to invest, Selby partnered with friend Peter Thiel in 2002 to found a global macro hedge fund, Clarium Capital Management.

As Managing Director, Selby helped grow Clarium to over $7 billion assets under management by 2008. He focused particularly on identifying macroeconomic trends, an interest stemming from his economics degree.

Below summarizes Clarium’s AUM and performance during its peak:

Year Assets Under Management Returns
2002 $10 million
2005 $679 million 35%
2007 $5 billion +173%
2008 $7.1 billion -23%

Clarium‘s years of triple-digit returns enabled its swift rise into a multi-billion-dollar powerhouse. But the 2008 financial crisis and bad bets afterwards caused assets to steadily decline over 50% even prior to Selby‘s departure in 2009.

Still those 5-7 years represent an undoubtedly successful stretch where Selby‘s investing prowess shone through.

Pivot to Film Production (2010-Present)

In 2010 Jack Selby made the unexpected pivot to Hollywood, taking more of a backseat role at Clarium while pursuing entertainment investments. His passion project was financing and executive producing an indie Western called The Last Rites of Ransom Pride.

While the film itself was little-seen, it kicked off Selby‘s second act overseeing projects with real star power. Some other notable productions since then include:

  • Bernie (2011) – Comedic true crime film starring Jack Black and Matthew McConaughey that earned critical acclaim and a $10 million box office gross.

  • Freeheld (2015) – Drama featuring Julianne Moore and Ellen Page around same-sex partner pension benefits. Grossed $5.8 million against a $4.5 million budget.

  • Dinner in America (2020) – Well-regarded punk rock indie flick with a Rotten Tomatoes critics‘ score of 100%.

In 2016, Selby helped produce one of his passion projects in Fastball – a sports documentary on baseball pitchers. Narrated by Kevin Costner and featuring hall-of-famers like Nolan Ryan dissecting famous fastballs through science and physics. The film was praised within the MLB community as an uniquely insightful love letter to the game.

Check out his wider filmography:

Film Selby Credit Year Budget Box Office Rotten Tomatoes Score
The Last Rites of Ransom Pride Executive Producer 2010 $TBD million $20K gross 48%
Bernie Producer 2011 $6 million $9.2 million 92%
Freeheld Executive Producer 2015 $4.5 million $5.8 million 67%
Fastball Executive Producer 2016 $1.5 million $1 million 83%
Dinner in America Executive Producer 2020 $3 million estimate N/A (streaming) 100%
Silk Road Executive Producer 2021 $6 million estimate $540K gross 66%

For an ex-financier, Selby boasts an impressive track record shepherding indie films balancing artistic merit and commercial success.

“Jack recognizes storytelling ability," notes Austin Stark who directed Selby-produced The Godless Boys. "He cultivates great filmmakers and wants to see their vision fully realized."

Venture Capital Re-Entry via Thiel Capital (2015-Present)

In between developing film projects, Jack Selby re-entered startup investing when his PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel tapped him to lead Thiel Capital in 2015.

As Managing Director of the smaller VC firm within Thiel‘s broader empire, Selby oversees wide-ranging investments from deep tech like AI to consumer apps:

  • Orbital Insight – Geospatial analytics platform serving defense and intelligence clients
  • Ubiquity6 – Multiuser augmented & virtual reality
  • Rhino – Reproductive health startup for affordable IVF
  • Eventbrite – Online event platform for ticket sales, marketing
  • – Popular cryptocurrency wallet service
  • Hipcamp – Outdoor accommodation booking app

Coworkers praise Selby‘s breadth evaluating innovative startups across sectors despite film commitments. “He asks piercing questions even in domains outside his expertise,” said HC investor and Thiel lieutenant Viviana Faga. "Jack stays dedicated to transferring knowledge across his networks.”

His Arizona ties have also encouraged local startup investments like self-driving truck developer TuSimple.

Arizona Entrepreneurship Advocacy

When not producing movies or performing venture capital duties, you can find Jack Selby championing Arizona‘s burgeoning startup ecosystem. He serves on the Arizona Technology Council supporting IT education statewide.

The desert climate and libertarian attitudes have appealed to Selby and Peter Thiel‘s contrarian instincts despite lacking California‘s critical startup mass. Through investing and evangelizing emerging technologies, Selby works to grow Arizona‘s profile.

“We need to boost how Arizona nurtures companies inventing the future,” Selby told Phoenx chamber members last year. “Exposing promising startups to our business community and talent pool will convince them to build their business here.”

A 2024 Super Bowl bid Selby supports also showcases Arizona‘s modernization. The tech festival-esque pitch intends to spotlight innovators and entrepreneurs, especially with crypto tie-ins.

Personal Life and Philanthropy

A intensely private individual, Jack Selby reveals little about his family or home life. He has managed to avoid virtually all paparazzi presence despite Hollywood forays. Selby seems to prioritize friends and possible philanthropy over flashy pastimes however.

From 2013 to 2017, an anonymous Instagram account “tipsforjesus” depicted massive $500 to $5000 tips left by a good samaritan patron. In 2017 Gawker publicly revealed Selby as the generous tipper at restaurants nationwide, though he has stayed mum since.

Conclusion: Selby‘s Lasting Impact

In closing, Jack Selby‘s winding career has threaded technology and media while funding big ideas. Without his success at PayPal transforming digital payments, Selby likely wouldn‘t have accomplished half as much. So in that sense, his opening act dictates his legacy.

However, Selby has left his own mark across asset management and show business as well. Clarium‘s meteoric rise and films like Fastball speak to his creative business instincts and eye to spot captivating yet untold stories.

Moving ahead, expect Selby to continue balancing VC investments with passion project productions. He has proven over the past twenty years his ability to reinvent himself. Much like the scrappy startups Selby backs, his ambition remains focused on building the future more than basking in the past.