Happy Birthday Pierre Omidyar: Hobby Turned Into eBay, the World’s First Online Auction Site

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Very few can grow from coding for fun to becoming a billionaire at the age of 31. Confucius once said, “Choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life” and this young man seems to have lived his life by it. Iranian by birth and American by nationality, Pierre Morad Omidyar, is better known as the Founder of eBay Inc. (NASDAQ:EBAY), was born on this day in 1967.

Parviz, who turned Pierre, lived his first six years in Paris, France and was fascinated by gadgets at a very early age. He was the proud owner of the calculator, which then cost $100, and the curious kid he was, he broke it and attempted to put it back together, which he wasn’t as successful with. By the time he moved into his 11th Grade, he had programmed software that could help schedule classes.

His passion for programming started while he was a student at The Potomac School in Virginia and grew as he graduated from Tufts University with a degree in computer science in 1988. He was also involved in building MacDraw for Claris, the Apple subsidiary that was bundled with the Macintosh computers.

In 1991, Pierre helped start a software company called Ink Development Corp which became eShop and got acquired by Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ: MSFT) in 1996. At 28, he started a website to enable direct person-to-person auction for collectables, as a hobby, which he called Auction Web. As it slowly started garnering momentum, he began to charge a fee of up to $2 for listing and a small commission on every sale to finance the expansion of the website and continued to work at General Magic, his day job. Only after his revenue from “Auction Web” overshot his salary, in nine months, he realized that he had developed a business with great potential.

On his 56th birthday today, we bring some interesting yet less-known facts about Pierre Omidyar:

1. His first job involving computers, however, was for $6 per hour, and he was formatting entered data into a layout that the librarian for library card printing.

2. He launched the prototype of Auction Web on his personal web page on 4th September 1995, which was Labor Day.

3. The first item he sold on the site was a broken laser pointer, whose buyer, surprisingly, was deliberately collecting broken laser pointers.

4. Jeffery Skoll joined Auction Web in 1996, and it was called that, until 1997, when they changed its name to eBay as that was the closed .com domain they could procure to “echo bay”, the name Pierre liked.

5. In September 1998, eBay went public, and their IPO was so successful that Pierre’s shares of 178 million were worth $4.45 billion.

6. In 1999, when eBay suffered service disruptions and was down for more than 22 hours, he along with eBay CEO, Meg Whitman, called their top 10,000 users to personally apologize for the inconvenience.

7. Pierre Omidyar, along with his wife Pamela, also runs the Omidyar Network and has invested $115 million and pledged to spend another $50 million by 2016, in their Humanity United foundation, which is funding 85 antislavery non-profits.

8. In 2020, Omidyar stepped down from the board of eBay as part of a wider restructuring of the company. He has, however, remained active in the business and has kept his position as director emeritus.

9. The total net worth of Pierre Omidyar is $8.6 as of June 2023, which makes him the 249th richest person in the world.

This just proves that the greatness of Pierre Omidyar is beyond just what he is known for. We wish him an amazing life ahead with health and wherewithal lasting long enough to fulfil his dreams.

The post is a part of a B’day Series where we celebrate the birthday of renowned personalities from the Tech Industry, very frequently. The series includes Entrepreneurs, C-level Executives, innovators or renewed leaders who moved the industry with his exponential skill set and vision. The intent is to highlight the person’s achievements and touch base the little known, but interesting, part of his life. You can see the list of all earlier celebrated tech personalities, including Mark Zuckerberg, Marissa Mayor, Sean Parker, Andy Rubin, Julian AssangeSir Richard Branson, and Sergey Brin, by following this link or subscribing to your daily newsletter.

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