July 26, 2021

Who is Pierre Omidyar, the founder of eBay?

Who is Pierre Omidyar, the founder of eBay? (Photo credits: Adobe Stock)

Before the emergence of Amazon, eBay was the first giant in the e-commerce market. Today, the site has largely lost popularity, but it remains a heavyweight in online sales. You can buy collectable coins, smartphones, Lego or even one of the cities from the series “The Walking Dead”. Behind this success story, there is a certain Pierre Omidyar, unknown to the general public. However, this Iranian-Franco-American born in Paris in 1967 is ranked 12th among the greatest fortunes in France according to Challenges, with a heritage estimated at 7.3 billion euros. Find out who this man is behind one of the biggest business success stories of the 21st century.

A Buddhist philanthropist

Born in France to Iranian parents, Pierre Omidyar moved to the United States at the age of six to follow his father, who was a doctor in physics. From an early age, he developed a real passion, even an obsession for computers. When he was in high school, he didn’t hesitate to skip physical education classes to spend hours on the school PCs. He also ended up being “hired” by his director. He was paid six dollars an hour to write programs for the school library. It is therefore natural that he oriented himself at the end of high school towards studies in computer science, at Tufts University near Boston.

Full of talent, Pierre Omidyar is quickly spotted by the pundits of Silicon Valley. He cut his teeth at Claris, an Apple subsidiary, before setting up his first start-up, InkDevelopment, in 1991. Five years later, he sold the renowned eShop company to Microsoft and pocketed a little over a million dollars. dollars. It was with this sum that he founded AuctionWeb in September 1995. Simple hobby at the start, this auction site was a huge success. In January 1997, the site already had two million sales. The company then changed its name, in September of the same year, to become eBay, short for Echo Bay Technology Group, Pierre Omidyar’s consulting company.

In 1998, Pierre Omidyar left the management of eBay to Meg Whitman, just before the company went public. At just 30 years old, Pierre Omidyar became a billionaire. After buying PayPal in 2002, he retired from eBay, even though he retained shares in the company. He then devoted himself to philanthropy, via his investment fund Omidyar Network created in 2003. His struggles? The fight against poverty, the defense of human rights, support for disaster victims, the promotion of education, or even access to information. In 2014, he created his own online media group, called First Look Media. To realize his dream of an investigative press that is both critical and independent, he surrounded himself with renowned journalists such as Glenn Greenwald, a former Guardian journalist behind Edward Snowden’s revelations on the wiretapping of the NSA. He now lives in Hawaii with his wife Pamela and three children, and follows the precepts of Buddhist philosophy. It also finances the Dalai Lama Center for Peace and Education.