Buying and Selling with Pierre Omidyar

Pierre Omidyar

"Give the individual the power to be a producer as well as a consumer."

- Pierre Omidyar

Buying and selling can be traced back to the days when people are dependent to one another. Since people depend on one another for almost everything to fulfill what they want, people everywhere has needs. And as the internet become a part of of the modern world where billions of people are connected to a single network of networks, buying and selling has never been easier than they ever were before.

Pierre Omidyar is the founder of what is now the world's leading online marketplace: eBay, the chairman of the company is a character renowned for his innovative business ideas.

Founded in 1995, eBay Inc. is an American multinational internet consumer-to-consumer corporation that manages, an online auction and shopping website in which people and businesses buy and sell a broad variety of goods and services worldwide. eBay is one of the notable success stories of the dot-com bubble which is now a multi-billion dollar business with operations localized in over thirty countries.

Early Life

Pierre Morad Omidyar (Persian:پیر مراد امیدیار), was born on June 21st, 1967, from France to Iranian immigrant parents who had been sent by his grandparents to attend university. His mother Elahé Mir-Djalali Omidyar (Persian:الهه میرجلالی امیدیار), who did her doctorate in linguistics at the Sorbonne, is a well-known academic. His father was a Iranian surgeon. The family moved to the US when Omidyar was 6 years of age.

Unlike many other high-tech entrepreneurs, Omidyar did not set out to become an internet tycoon. Born in Paris, he moved to Maryland as a child when his father accepted a residency at Johns Hopkins University Medical Center. He wrote his first computer program at age 14, to catalog books for the school library.

He graduated from Tufts University in 1988 with a degree in computer science and went to work for a company that developed Macintosh software. Later, he worked for the Apple subsidiary Claris, then helped start a software company in 1991 called Ink Development Corp. with three friends.

The company included an internet shopping segment and was later renamed eShop Inc. Omidyar worked as a software engineer for eShop until the end of 1994, when he became a developer services engineer for General Magic, a mobile communication platform company. In 1996, eShop was sold to Microsoft, but Omidyar remained fascinated by the technical challenges of online commerce.

The Auction Web: eBay

When Pierre Omidyar was having dinner one night in 1995 with his girlfriend, an avid Pez collector. She bemoaned the lack of collectors in the San Francisco Bay area, and Omidyar suggested using the internet to find trading partners. And later on a long holiday weekend when he was 28, Omidyar wrote the original computer code for what eventually became an internet brand - the auction site eBay.

The site was launched on Labor Day, Monday, September 4, 1995, as "Auction Web", hosted on a site Omidyar had created for information on the Ebola virus.

Auction Web was later renamed "eBay". The service was free at first, but started charging in order to cover internet service provider costs. The word 'eBay' was made up by Omidyar when he was told that his first choice for his website, 'echobay,' had already been registered. He then came up with 'eBay.'

Omidyar then joined General Magic, an internet phone venture backed by Apple. However, by then his auction site was growing astonishingly fast. Nine months after the company's first auction launched, he quit his day job to devote himself full time to eBay.

Jeffrey Skoll joined the company in 1996 as the very first employee and the first President. In March 1998, when Omidyar was named eBay's chairman, Meg Whitman was brought in as President and CEO when the company had 30 employees and revenues of approximately $4 million.

During her time as CEO, the company grew to approximately 15,000 employees and $8 billion in annual revenue by 2008. She expanded eBay's services through new site launches (in Australia, Canada, Germany, Japan, and the United Kingdom), acquisitions, and joint ventures. She continued to run the company until January 2008 when she announced her retirement.

In September 1998, eBay launched a successful public offering. The share price nearly tripled on the first day of trading and Omidyar's holdings made him a billionaire overnight. As of July 2008, Omidyar's 178 million eBay shares were worth around $4.45 billion.

By the end of 1998, the company boasted 2.1 million members and generated $750 million in revenues, enough business to attract the attention of e-commerce giant, which started running its own auctions in 1999.

Smaller auction sites have joined the fray, as have conventional marketers like clothing companies, who started offering auctions on surplus products. So successful did the online auction site become that some industry observers predicted that Internet auctions would become the dominant e-commerce model in the future.

The rapid expansion of eBay's traffic did not come without pains and troubles. In 1999 the company suffered a number of service interruptions, one of the many lasts 22 hours, but Omidyar moved quickly to regain the confidence of the site's customer base.

The company made 10,000 phone calls to the site's top users to apologize for the interruption and assure them that everything possible would be done to keep the site up and running in the future. As other online ventures fell victim to the bust of 2000, eBay continued to grow and prosper.

In January 2000, Omidyar accepted his first board position outside of eBay. He joined the board of directors of ePeople, an online marketplace for technical support. In 2010, Omidyar launched an online news service in Honolulu called Civil Beat that covers civic affairs in Hawaii. In 2002, eBay acquired the online payment processing firm PayPal, which it uses to process most of its online transactions, compelling many online sellers to employ the service.

At the same time, eBay diversified its services, allowing sellers to engage in fixed-price and "best offer" sales as well as conventional auctions. Software developers can create applications to integrate into the site through the eBay Developers Program.

In 2005, eBay opened a category for buying and selling surplus industrial machinery and business equipment. Many large companies now use eBay to set prices for their products and services.

Omidyar is also an investor of Montage Resort & Spa in Laguna Beach, California.

Wealth And Philanthropy

Pierre Omidyar has a net worth of $8.1 billion as of September 2016. He is also one of the richest Iranian and also one of the richest French person.

Aside from eBay, another key element that Pierre Omidyar deserves recognition for is his work as a philanthropist. In 2004, with the aid of his wife, Pamela Omidyar, Pierre set up the Omidyar Network. This innovative cause aims to provide organizations with funding to support the creation of life changing opportunities for those in the most need. It encourages economic and social changes to take place, and supports businesses that have the main aim of doing just this.

Pierre Omidyar serves on the Board of Trustees of Tufts University, The Santa Fe Institute and The Omidyar Foundation. In November 2005, Pierre and Pamela Omidyar announced their gift of $100 million to endow the Omidyar-Tufts Microfinance Fund.

At the time, it was the largest gift in the history of Tufts University, as well as the largest private allocation of capital to microfinance by any individual or family. The fund, administered by the Board of Trustees of Tufts University, invests in international microfinance initiatives designed to empower people in developing countries to lift themselves out of poverty.

In 2010, Pierre Omidyar joined Microsoft founder Bill Gates and investor Warren Buffett on the list of 40 billionaires pledging to donate at least half their wealth to charity. In fact, Pierre and Pamela Omidyar have resolved to give away all but one percent of their fortune over the next 20 years.

In October 2013, Omidyar commits $250 million for a new media venture First Look Media with journalist Glenn Greenwald as his separate work from Omidyar Network and Democracy Fund, and as part of my growing interest to preserve and strengthen the role journalism plays in society.

Greenwald joined Omidyar after he left the Guardian, where he has broken a series of stories on the National Security Agency (NSA), based on documents from whistleblower Edward Snowden. It was first launched on February 10, 2014 with The Intercept, and includes journalists Laura Poitras, Jeremy Scahill, Dan Froomkin, and Jay Rosen.

Personal Life

Pierre Omidiyar married Pamela Kerr in 1999. Pamela, as an avid Pez collector, now owns more than 400 Pez dispensers in her collection. Omidyar is also a private owner of Montage Resort & Spa in Laguna Beach, California.

An inspirational figure within the entrepreneurship world, Omidyar has proved that unique ideas really do have a space in the modern market if there is enough will and drive to persevere through the challenging time, and a desire to spread the word to prospective customers.

Pierre Omidyar has proved that unique ideas really do have a space in the modern market if there is enough passion to persevere through the challenging time.