Aug 21

How eBay Got its Start

Category: Business Services

This article was written by Phin Upham

Pierre Omidyar founded AuctionWeb in September of 1995. The company was based out of San Jose, and it was part of a larger group of sites that Omidyar was managing for personal reasons. Omidyar was amazed when his first item sold: a broken laser pointer that went for $14.83. Omidyar even went so far as to ask the bidder if he realized that the laser pointer was broken. The buyer claimed he collected broken lasers, odd, but it was enough to motivate Omidyar to pursue his creation.

Omidyar had the company’s PR team fabricate a rumor that AuctionWeb was created to help his wife sell Pez dispensers. This was an elaborate ruse meant to compensate for the fact that the media didn’t find his actual motives all that interesting.

The site was just a side project until he was asked to upgrade to a business service by his internet service provider. The change in cost is what forced him to seek out a method to monetize the site. Omidyar hired his first employee specifically to process all of the new checks that would come in as the site grew.

Omidyar formally changed the company name to eBay in 1997, after a merger that allowed the company to sell plane tickets. eBay came from Omidyar’s consulting group: Echo Bay, but the name was already taken by a gold mining company. He shortened it to eBay and found the domain was not taken.

When eBay went public in 1998, Omidyar and his partner became instant billionaires.

Phin Upham

About the Author: Phin Upham is an investor at a family office/hedgefund, where he focuses on special situation illiquid investing. Before this position, Phin Upham was working at Morgan Stanley in the Media & Technology group. You may contact Phin on his Twitter page.
No comments

Comments are closed.