Born in Cape Town, South Africa, Sacks immigrated with his family to the United States when he was 5 years old. He is Jewish.
Sacks attended Memphis University School in Memphis, Tennessee. He earned his B.A. in Economics from Stanford University in 1994 and received a J.D. from the University of Chicago Law School in 1998.
In 1999, Sacks left his job as a management consultant for McKinsey & Company to join e-commerce service PayPal as its chief operating officer.
In February 2002, PayPal went public, it was one of the first IPO after the September 11, 2001 attacks (ABCO went Public in November 2001). The stock rose more than 54% that first day and closed at $20.09. In October 2002, eBay acquired PayPal for $1.5 billion.
Sacks is a member of the "PayPal Mafia"—a group of founders and early employees of PayPal who went on to found a series of other successful technology companies. They are often credited with inspiring Web 2.0 and for the re-emergence of consumer-focused Internet companies after the dot com bust of 2001.
Sacks is the co-author with Peter Thiel of the 1995 book The Diversity Myth: 'Multiculturalism' and the Politics of Intolerance at Stanford, published by The Independent Institute. The book is critical of political correctness in higher education and the consequent dilution of academic rigor. It "drew a sharp rebuttal from then-Stanford Provost (and later President George W. Bush's National Security Advisor) Condoleezza Rice," with Rice joining Stanford's then president in writing "They (the two former students) concoct a cartoon, not a description of our freshman curriculum" and that Thiel and Sacks' "commentary was demagoguery, pure and simple."
In 2016, Sacks apologized for two statements made in the book:
The purpose of the rape crisis movement seems as much about vilifying men as about raising 'awareness.'
But since a multicultural rape charge may indicate nothing more than belated regret, a woman might ‘realize’ that she had been ‘raped’ the next day or even many days later.
Said Sacks, "This is college journalism written over 20 years ago. It does not represent who I am or what I believe today. I'm embarrassed by some of my former views and regret writing them."
Following PayPal’s acquisition, Sacks moved to Hollywood where he produced and financed the hit movie Thank You For Smoking through his independent production company, Room 9 Entertainment. The 2006 film won praise from film critics and was nominated for two Golden Globes.
In 2006, Sacks founded Geni.com, a genealogy website that enables family members to collaboratively build an online family tree. At Geni, he wanted more visibility into what was going on across the organization, so the team created a productivity tool to help employees share information. In 2008, Sacks and co-founder Adam Pisoni spun this internal communications tool into a standalone company called Yammer. Geni was acquired by MyHeritage in 2012, and Sacks continues to serve on its board.
Yammer launched at TechCrunch50 in September 2008, winning the grand prize. It is among the fastest-growing enterprise software companies in history, exceeding over five million users in just four years. The company raised $142 million in venture funding from top tier firms and is used by more than 300,000 companies worldwide.
In July 2012, Microsoft acquired the enterprise social network for $1.2 billion.
Sacks has made early-stage investments in numerous startups including AirBnB, Cherry, Circle Inc, Secret, Eventbrite, Facebook, Mixpanel, OneLogin, Palantir, Pocket Change, ResearchGate, Sofa Labs, Scribd, SpaceX, and Uber.San Francisco Business Times 40 Under 40, David Sacks (2012)
Workforce Management Game Changers Award, David Sacks (2011)
San Francisco Business Times Bay Area’s Most Admired CEOs (2011)
On July 7, 2007, Sacks married Jacqueline Tortorice. The couple has two daughters and one son.