Pierre Omidyar and the Founding of eBay

On this day, June 21 in the year 1967, the man who created the largest internet auction site was born in Paris, France. His name is Pierre Omidyar, the founder of eBay. According to forbes.com, his net worth reached $16.6 billion as of June 21, 2020 and ranked 118 among the richest in the world.

Pierre Omidyar
Pierre Omidyar (Credit: techcrunch.com)

Pierre was the son of Iranian immigrants to France and later to the United States when he was still a child. His father was a surgeon while his mother was a linguist with a PhD. He finished a degree in computer science from Tufts University in Massachusetts in 1988. His first work was with a subsidiary of Apple Computer. Later, he joined three of his friends to establish Ink Development which evolved into E-shop. In 1996, E-shop was sold to Microsoft.

In 1995, Pierre launched Auction Web, a site for person-to-person auction of collectible items. The first product sold was a broken laser pointer. As the number of users exploded, he incorporated the site as sole proprietorship. He resigned from his work at General Magic when the revenues from his website outstripped his salary. The following year, he recruited Jeffrey Skoll, a software engineer to be the first president when the company was incorporated. Growth was phenomenal. In the first month of 1997, the number of auctions ballooned to 2 million from less than a million for the whole year of 1996.

In September, 1997, the name of the site was changed to eBay.com. In 1998, Meg Whitman was appointed CEO. Later that year, the company went public. As the price of its share tripled on listing day, Pierre went from an unknown programmer 3 years ago to a billionaire celebrity.
In 2002, eBay purchased Paypal to become its main payment processing option.

At present, eBay is present in 30 countries. With his billionaire status, Pierre launched online media news service, Honolulu Civil Beat. He is also the founder of First Look Media that involves prominent journalists. In 2016, he quietly set up Omidyar Technology Ventures, a venture capital firm.

Pierre is married to Pamela. Together, they manage Omidyar Network, a foundation that donates funds to both profit and non-profit organizations.

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