The History of eBay – Pierre Omidyar And His Amazing Start Up Story

A History of eBay.com

eBay‘s origins lie in San Jose, California. On September 5th, 1995, the American computer programmer named Pierre Omidyar founded a personal auction website called – AuctionWeb. One of the first items that were sold on the site was a not working laser pointer, at the price of $14.83. Astonished, Pierre contacted the buyer and asked him if he really understood that the pointer he bought was actually broken. In the email in which the buyer responded, he wrote: “I’m a collector of broken laser pointers.” ACtually, eBay was just a side work for Pierre. One day his Internet provider told him, that he had to upgrade his account to  “business type”, because of the big traffic to his auction site. The price increase would be from $30 monthly to 8 times more – $250 per month. This made Omidyar start charging the users of the site, who eventually wanted to pay him with no hashes. A big number of signed checks started flowing into his mailbox. So big, that he couldn’t handle them and this is how he hired his first employer –  Chris Agarpao. A year later, in 1996, Omidyar hired Jeffrey Skoll, who served as the company’s first president. Later that year, they began dealing with Electronic Travel Auction in order to sell plane tickets and travel accessories on the site. This partnership turned out to be very extremely profitable for both parties. Till the end of 1996, AuctionWeb hosted about a quarter of a million auctions and this number was rapidly growing. Only for January 1997, the number of hosted auctions for tickets reached the astonishing two million.

eBay Logo

eBay logo – source: http://commons.wikimedia.org

eBay’s success was assured from then on out. In the same successful year, eBay arranged nearly seven million dollars of funding from Benchmark Capital, a venture capitalist firm, and was able to use that money to expand its horizons. Shortly thereafter, eBay hired Meg Whitman as the company’s President and CEO. In March 1998, eBay earned its 500,000th user, held 30 employees, and enjoyed revenues of over four and a half million dollars in the United States. eBay went public as a company on September 21st, 1998. The company’s founder, Omidyar, and its first president, Jeffrey Skoll, who held majority stakes in the company, became immensely wealthy. By the end of the first trading day, eBay was trading for $53.50 a share.

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eBay’s next move was to acquire other companies that could help it run its business. For instance, eBay purchased iBazar, a European version of eBay. In September 2001 eBay acquired 19.5% of MercadoLibre, a big auction site in Latin America, expanding its business on another continent. In February of 2002; not even a year later, eBay purchased the popular online payment entity PayPal. Currently, PayPal serves as a favored method for both eBay buyers and sellers, meaning that eBay’s investment in the company had certainly paid off. In 2008, the company had over 15,000 employees and revenues over $7.7 billion. However, the company lost Meg Whitman to politics that year, so John Donahoe took over as President and CEO as April of 2008 began. In the next year, eBay sold Skype for $2.75 billion with a 30% holding on the company’s equity.

In 2010, eBay successfully acquired the German online shopping club brands4friends.de for $197 million. This move was meant to secure eBay’s position in the fashion industry overseas, which seems like a shocking move for an auction site but was carried out by the major auction site nonetheless. By 2012, eBay enjoyed $3.3 billion in revenue in its first fiscal quarter of business. This was a nearly 30% increase from the first quarter, showing that eBay, though it is a large company, still has room to grow—and it will take advantage of that room.

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Fun Facts About the Company

*  One of the first items sold on eBay was a broken laser pointer for $14.83
*  AuctionWeb became eBay in September of 1997. The name comes from Echo Bay Technology Group, one of Omidyar’s companies.
*  One time, an eBay seller offered a kidney for sale, which was promptly banned as this is illegal organ trafficking.
*  It is illegal to sell Nazi paraphernalia and Native American remains on eBay.
*  At one point, a man tried to sell New Zealand on eBay. It was valued at $3,000 when eBay shut down the auction.

Today eBay is the biggest online auction site in the world, having more than 100 million registered users (2015) from around the globe. These guys traded goods and services amounting $17.9 billion in 2014 and this number has been growing since then. The company has more than 34 000 employees and made a profit from 47 million in 2014. Founded some 20 years ago, the company’s headquarters are still in San Jose, California.

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