Is not for nothing that the name of the famous businessman Omidyar, the founder of the world-famous Internet auction eBay and philanthropist, is translated as “the favorite of hope.” But Pierre Omidyar himself interprets it differently: if hope loves him, he will be able to give hope to others.
Omidyar’s principle of doing business is to to work not for money but to change the world. That was the idea of his most famous brainchild eBay. Because everyone can make money there simply by selling their personal belongings.
Way to millions
Pierre Omidyar was born in Paris on the 21st of June 1967 in the family of of Iranian immigrant scientists. His mother finished her doctorate at the Sorbonne, and his father was a surgeon. In 1973 the family moved to USA, the state of Maryland.
Already during the school years the fourteen years old Pierre developed his first program specially for the school online library. And he even got paid for that: 6 dollars per hour of project work.
The interest of young Omidyar to unique programs and developments was growing after that. After leaving school in 1984, Pierre enrolled at the University of Tufts in Massachusetts at the Faculty of Information Technology. Pierre liked to study, to grow in the field of computing programing. He absorbed information like a sponge. After graduation with bachelor degree Pierre Omidyar started a job at Clairs, an affiliate company of Apple Inc. in 1988. His main task was to develop and modernize the graphics editor MacDraw.
In 1991 Omidyar started a new project together with his college friends. The project called Ink Development Corporation. The friends were dreaming about creation of a technology that will allow to get rid of keyboards forever by replacing them with stylus and manual dialing. But the project remained unfinished. But the company created some developments for other commercial online platforms.
In 1994 Omidyar decided to leave the project because he did not see any growth opportunities in that area. But he kept his shares in the company. That was a good decision because after Microsoft bought out the company in 1996, the 29 years old Pierre became a millionaire.
From millionaire to billionaire
Once on the weekend of 1995 Pierre sat down at his working desk wishing to pass the time and started to write a code for an online auction. Everything should be simple and unpretentious: a site visitor scrolls the site with a list of items listed for sale. Every items should have a header, subheading with the seller’s remarks and an initial price. The website supposed a feedback option: a user was able to ask a question regarding delivery, the quality of the good, even try to get to know why the seller has listed for sale his favorite belonging.
On the 3rd September of 1995 Omidyar placed the prototype of eBay on his personal website and called it AuctionWeb. It is hard to believe but the side had no visitors within the first 24 hours of work. But the first deal was made soon. And it was Omidyar’s defective laser pointer and the buyer paid for it $13,83. Pierre was happy to have a first buyer but he was also interested who will need a defective laser pointer. Maybe the buyer did not understand something. Using feedback option he asked his first buyer whether he got it right that the item is defective. And he received an answer: “Of course! I am collector of such defective pointers!”
After observing how the auction works, Pierre defined three simple principles for himself:
- the majority of people participating in the auction is resectable;
- different people participate in an auction and everyone makes his own contribution;
- people like to communicate openly and they show the most kind features because of that.
Three years later eBay conducted IPO. The company shares were so popular that it made Pierre a billionaire at the age of 31.
In 2001 eBay was leading the list of IT companies . Today it has 32 thousands employees, over 25 million sellers and 157 million buyers.
His billions did not affected the principles of Omidyar. He doesn’t drive a car with a price of millions dollars, he prefers his Volkswagen Jetta.
He doesn’t live in a castle, but in a flat which he is renting already several years. His employees adopt his principles and his way of life. Even his competitors are happy to work with such peaceful and correct company.
Usually internet companies aim to sell a lot of goods to bigger amount of people and grow their incomes. The innovative idea of Omidyar was to create a marketplace where ordinary people could buy and sell goods for the price they consider good. Such a method could even help out people suddenly unemployed or in urgent need of money. The creator of eBay not as a company with the help of which you can get rich, but a company that can help other people in need to make money.
Pierre considers himself as a happy man. He is loved by his wife and kids, he has a good family and he has his free time. When Pierre developed his company and made a fortune, he has fully dedicated himself to his family and private life. Now Pierre does not work for money, but money works for him.
Not only eBay
Many millionaires and billionaires try themselves in different areas after they made a fortune. For instance, they try themselves as politicians. But everyone who know Pierre close enough, knows he has no interest in politic. When he decided to leave the company’s management he became only a formal chairman. Now he does not deal with eBay and business issues, but with matters he has been interested in all his life.
In 2004 together with his wife he founded an investment philanthropy company Omidyar Network. The main idea of the company is to promote social entrepreneurship.
In the fall 2013 Pierre founded First Look Media, which idea was to develop journalism cannot be stopped by any government. An online magazine The Intercept was launched a year later.
The main editors became journalist Glen Greenwald and documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras, Pulitzer laureates, who were recognized after the publication of various materials by Edward Snowden and their investigations. After the documents of Snowden were released, a wave swept across the country against the governmental shadowing. Glen and Laura became the main characters in this movement, and Pierre sponsored it.
Omidyar wrote in his blog about a new project, not yet known to anyone: “I want to make active readers out of readers.” The project was ambitious, Omidyar called it “a new medium of mass media.” He and his fellow journalists wanted to formulate a new method for creating content.
«It is always difficult to make a innovation in an already functioning system. But changing the technology by itself, I will change the principle of work of the whole system», — explains Omidyar in his interview to the journalist of New York Times. According to Pierre, Facebook, Google, Twitter and his own eBay made the same with the systems in their area. That means it will work for the new project too.
Pierre invested over $250 millions into First Look Media. All the money invested cover the needs of journalists. The Intercept publishes not only Snowden revelations, but also develops an active criticism of US national security.
Being naturally shy and uncommunicative in a personal contact, Pierre can afford to talk about his interests or express his opinion about current developments on Internet. Such a behavioral difference forced Andrew Rice, a journalist for The New York Magazine, to conduct an entire investigation. He created a psychological picture of Pierre Omidyar in order to get to know, how being so shy, a buddhist, a fan of ex-president Barack Obama, he became one of the toughest critic of current US policy.
Omidyar Network is to donate $100 million for supporting journalists fighting propaganda, according to Forbes. Within a few years, these funds will be transferred to journalists who are going fight “the true reasons for the lack of trust.” Steven King, one of the partner of the fund supports the idea because he believes that the key to successfully deterring the government lies in the independence and criticality of the views of the media. $ 4.5 million will be allocated to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, which published in 2016 a major investigation into the offshore authorities in Panama.
Rules of life of Pierre Omidyar in one line
- Believe in people
When I started eBay, general rule for me was the believe that the majority of people are good. I I support the rule of innocence of man, don’t expect he’s trying to cheat me. That help me not getting disappointed in people. And the confirm it: 99,9% of our deals are honest deals. 120 millions of eBay users learned to trust people they don’t know. We were struck by the idea: «eBay has a big influence around the entire world. Maybe another business models might be successful due to their social consequences?» Influence on the society is a good chance for many companies sharing the principles of eBay.
- Just go and do it
Don’t try to predict and set every your action in order to achieve some goal in the future. Look at USSR – they even did not manage to fulfill their five-years plans. Moreover
- Failures are good
In 1999 eBay faced epic fails. The whole eBay, the whole system stopped working almost for a day and was out of order again for the entire working day. Even CNN covered our failure in the news: “Now we can see the beginning of the collapse of the company”. But I think these problems still were advantageous for us. I am happy we had this failure just in the beginning. Meg Whitman the general manager of eBay who was only one year in the duty, was facing the problems with infrastructure reached such a critical point. And she started the change of the structure. We solved the problems not really fast. It took almost a year. But now we feel this rules working: what doesn’t kill you, make you stronger. Now I can say, it’s true. And while you solve problems you learn thing which will help avoid them in the future.
- Don’t rely on people who knows better
Even if you respect them, even if you think they are real experts, don’t trust them. You will hear often, that you plan something impossible. But all this will be told only due to the the fact that all these people are afraid to act.
- Not everything is so complicated as you see it from the first view
If we look back to the achievements of successful people, we think: “That was not easy for him”. But remember, everything might just look complicated but be very easy in the reality. Although it happens in a different way. You will never know which principle will work for you if you don’t start to do something. So just go and do what you are dreaming about. Try. Learn on your mistakes. Yes, you will fail but they will become your experience. And this experience will help you go ahead.
- Always leave a place for a surprise
Always leave a place for a surprise while building a business. And it will be your success when a surprise will work for you in a fully unpredicted way
- Your company is your transformer
You can often hear about eBay: «It’s a totally new company every quarter!» It’s a real internet business. Everything changes so fast, that every 3 years here can be multiplied by 10 in any other industry.
- Don’t look for destructive innovations
I did not want any destructions. In our company we conduct research and improve new models coming to us on the bottom-up model. We try to enlarge opportunities for every single man. We listen to the needs of the society and implement them in our program. I hope not only our company will follow this principle. It doesn’t matter that the companies which are already for a long in the business will have to leave the field.
- Philanthropy is also a business idea
I am a man with a technical mind. I studied at a technical faculty. But always I was focused on helping people. Even when I chose a technical activity for myself, I always tried to used technologies in order to make the world a better place.
- What eBay changed
Google, Facebook, Twitter and we are creating systems that change the world but we do not change the system of the world by itself. We only create our own system which influences other systems of the world. I think this is the reason many have interest in media. And of course we all want to be a part of the world.
- How to be reach
I have switched this stage «simply reach» and became «insane reach» right away. It looks like that for me: it’s good I can buy now not only one cool car but all cool cars. But when you get so rich that you can have all the cars, they are no longer interesting for you.