Pierre Omidyar and the eBay Success Story

Pierre Omidyar photo

Pierre Morad Omidyar is an Iranian French-born American business entrepreneur, media house owner, and philanthropist better known as the chairman and founder of the auction site eBay.com. After the IPO of eBay in 1998, he became an overnight billionaire at age 31 years. Omidyar owns about 178 million shares or 10 percent of eBay. His eBay stake along with his other business ventures make his total net worth to be about $8.1 billion as per Forbes as of May 2015.

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Omidyar has regularly features in the list of 100 wealthiest people in the world. He was National Winner of the EY Entrepreneur of The Year in 1999. He lives in Hawaii along with his family and has homes in Mexico, Montana, Nevada, and Southern California. He also plans to develop homes and resorts in Hawaii.

Background and Early Life

Pierre Omidyar was born on 21st June 1967 in Paris. His parents had immigrated to France from Iran. His father was a surgeon while his mother was a renowned academic who got her doctorate in linguistic from Sorbonne.

When Pierre was a child, his parents moved to the US after his father was offered a residency at the Johns Hopkins University Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland. His mother found work teaching Persian Studies at Georgetown. The couple separated when Pierre was still a young boy.

Pierre attended Potomac, Maryland’s St. Andrew’s Episcopal School and graduated in 1984. He became interested in computers when he was in the 9th grade and compiled his first code for the school library’s book cataloging program. He then attended Tufts University in Somerville/Medford in Massachusetts and graduated in 1988 with a Bachelors in computer science.

Career and Success Story

After graduating from college, Pierre started working for a subsidiary of Apple Computer called Claris. His team was responsible for upgrading MacDraw to MacDraw II. He co-founded a pen-based computing company called Ink Development in 1991, which later got renamed as eShop and rebranded as an e-commerce company. It was eventually acquired by Microsoft in 1996.

eBay: Omidyar started writing a program in 1995 for an online place that enabled direct listing of buyers and sellers for collectible items. The prototype was created on his personal webpage and the online service known as Auction Web was launched on Labor Day in 1995. This service will eventually go on to become eBay, the global auction site.

  • The first item that was traded on the site was a laser pointer in a broken state. Pierre could not believe that there were buyers for broken collectibles, but the buyer informed him that he was deliberately collecting laser pointers that were broken. Pierre came across many such surprises in the immediate future. Soon, thousands of people began to register on the site for trading all kinds of goods, thereby causing the business to just take off.

pierre omidyar picture

  • Omidyar charged 25 cents to $2 for an auction notice posting and also took a small percentage from the sale. He used this money to expand the site and incorporate the enterprise. As business and revenue from the site grew exponentially, Pierre quit his current job of 9 months from General Magic, an Apple backed Internet phone venture, and dedicated his complete energy and time to eBay.
  • After signing a licensing deal in 1996 to provide airline tickets over the web, eBay had hosted nearly 250,000 auctions. It grew to 2 million by Jan 1997 and to around 800,000 auctions per day by mid-1997.
  • The company’s name was changed to eBay in 1997 and aggressive advertising followed. Pierre had initially chosen the name ‘echobay’ for the site. However, as the name was already taken and registered, he came up with the name eBay at random because he did not want to make another excursion to Sacramento.
  • Jeffrey Skoll joined eBay in 1996 and Omidyar was named as the Chairman of eBay in 1998. During this time, eBay boasted of revenues of about $750 million and over 2 million members. Omidyar brought in Meg Whitman as the CEO and president in 1998. She expanded the business and its services to Canada, Australia, Germany, the United Kingdom, and Japan, etc., via joint ventures, acquisitions and new site launches. She retired in 2008.

Other business ventures

Pierre has invested in Laguna Beach, California’s Montage Resort and Spa.

  • In 2010, Pierre launched “Honolulu Civil Beat,” an investigative news service that reported over the web. It covered the local civic and political news and was voted as the Best News Website in Hawaii for 3 successive years. In 2013, it got into a partnership with The Huffington Post and launched the HuffPost Hawaii.
  • After the Edward Snowden leaks of 2013, Omidyar launched a journalism venture and digital magazine called First Look Media in 2014. It includes journalists like Laura Poitras, Glenn Greenwald, Dan Froomkin, and Jeremy Scahill, etc.

Pierre Omidyar – Philanthropy

Pierre Omidyar photo

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  • Pierre Omidyar and his wife Pamela are well-known philanthropists. They founded the Omidyar Network in 2004. The organization focuses on using the power and scope of markets, via nonprofit organizations and for-profit companies, to make opportunities for people so that they can live a better life. It invests in innovative enterprises and helps them bring about political, social, and economic change.
  • Omidyar and Pam are members of The Giving Pledge of Warren Buffet.
  • Pierre and his wife along with the Nduna Foundation and Richard Branson established “Enterprise Zimbabwe” in 2010.
  • Pierre and Pam have donated nearly $115 million to the “Humanity United foundation” for fighting against trafficking of humans and funding non-profits for anti-slavery.

Personal Life and Trivia

pierre omidyar wife pamela kerr

  • Pierre Omidyar is married to Pamela Wesley. The couple have 3 children. The family moved to Hawaii in 2006. They now stay in a beach front mansion spread across 5,800 sq. ft., in Honolulu’s posh Kahala neighborhood.

Pierre Omidyar house pictures

pierre omidyar home pictures

pierre omidyar home

pierre omidyar house images

pierre omidyar house photos

pierre omidyar house

  • Omidyar has concerns that natural disasters can cut the island off from other parts of the world. Hence, he has invested in organic farming, renewable energy, and community building organizations as well as funded local initiatives for sustainable food.

Gulfstream G650 pierre omidyar jet

pierre omidyar gulfstream 6G50 jet plane

  • Omidyar owns a technologically advanced luxurious Gulfstream G650 private jet. The ultra-high-speed and large cabined business jet is one of the most opulent planes in the world. It can fly non-stop for 7000 nautical miles and can seat 4 crew and 8 passengers.
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