12:06 PM

Ebay founder gets BW star treatment

by Doug Millison for SiliconValleyWatcher.com

Ebay founder, Pierre M. Omidyar is the subject of an extremely flattering Business Week profile in the magazine's "The Great Innovators" series.

I had a chance to meet Omidyar at a new web site showcase back in the mid-1990s when Ebay still had a simple all-text interface but was already making money. Everybody who saw it pronounced it a killer business opportunity. Omidyar came across as a very good guy, too.

Nearly a decade later, Business Week heaps on the praise:

Today, eBay Inc. (EBAY ), as it's now known, has catapulted from its early days as the place to trade Beanie Babies to become the Web's most powerful corporate enterprise in its own right, worth more than $70 billion. So far this year, more than a billion items have been listed for sale on eBay, from antique doilies to 2005 Hummers (GM ). Were eBay a country, its expected gross sales of $34 billion this year would rank as the 59th largest gross domestic product in the world, just behind Kuwait. "It is an economy of its own," says economist W. Brian Arthur of the Santa Fe Institute.

That's largely thanks to Omidyar's original insight: The Web's real power lies in its ability to connect people instantly around the world, so buyers and sellers alike can share near-perfect information about prices, products, and each other. By putting in place a few key rules, such as a feedback system in which buyers and sellers rate each other, Omidyar sparked a vibrant community that numbers 125 million members worldwide. To a remarkable degree, those millions govern themselves. It was they, not eBay managers, who decided to start selling cars and car parts several years ago. That's now a $10 billion-plus business. "The best ideas and the best feedback come from our community of users," says eBay Chief Executive Officer Margaret C. Whitman.

by Doug Millison for SiliconValleyWatcher.com


Pierre M. Omidyar: The Web For The People Business Week, 6 December 2004

What's the story? Doug Millison also edits OnlineJournalist.org, "on a need-to-know basis"