Pierre Omidyar

Pierre Omidyar

Omidyar in 2007
Born (1967-06-21) June 21, 1967
Paris, France
Residence Henderson, Nevada, United States[1]
Nationality Iranian-American
Occupation Founder of eBay
Founder and CEO of Honolulu Civil Beat
Founder of Ulupono Initiative
Net worth Increase US$8.1 billion (September 2016)[2]
Board member of eBay
Spouse(s) Pamela Kerr Omidyar

Pierre Morad Omidyar (Persian: پیر مراد امیدیار, born June 21, 1967) is a French-born Iranian-American entrepreneur and philanthropist. He is the founder of the eBay auction site where he served as Chairman from 1998 to 2015.[3] He became a billionaire at the age of 31 with eBay's 1998 initial public offering (IPO).[2] Omidyar and his wife Pamela are well-known philanthropists who founded Omidyar Network in 2004 in order to expand their efforts beyond nonprofits to include for-profits and public policy.

Since 2010, Omidyar has been involved in online journalism as the head of investigative reporting and public affairs news service Honolulu Civil Beat.[4] In 2013, he announced that he would create and finance First Look Media, a journalism venture to include Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras, and Jeremy Scahill.[5][6][7]


Early life

Omidyar was born in Paris, the son of Iranian immigrant parents who had been sent to France by their parents to attend university. He was given the name of Parviz by his Iranian parents.[8] His mother, Elahé Mir-Djalali Omidyar (Persian: الهه میرجلالی امیدیار), who did her doctorate in linguistics at the Sorbonne, is a well-known academic.[9] The name of his father, a surgeon who worked as a urologist at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, is undisclosed. Due to his father's work the family moved to the United States when Omidyar was a child.[9]

His interest in computers began while he was a ninth-grade student at The Potomac School in McLean, Virginia. He graduated from St. Andrew's Episcopal School in Potomac, Maryland, in 1984. He graduated from Tufts University in Medford/Somerville, Massachusetts, with a bachelor's degree in computer science in 1988. Shortly after, he went to work for Claris, an Apple Computer subsidiary, where he worked on the team that upgraded MacDraw to MacDraw II. In 1991, he co-founded Ink Development, a pen-based computing startup that later was rebranded as an e-commerce company and renamed eShop.

eBay and later career

Omidyar with Richard Branson

In 1995, at the age of 28, Omidyar began to write the original computer code for an online venue to enable the listing of a direct person-to-person auction for collectible items. He created a simple prototype on his personal web page, and on Labor Day, Monday, September 4, 1995, he launched an online service called Auction Web, which would eventually become the auction site eBay.[10] In May 2003, eBay was successfully sued by Thomas Woolston for patent infringement of (a "Buy It Now" feature, for) online auction software that Woolston had invented in the late 1990s.[11] The service was hosted on a website Omidyar had originally created for information on the Ebola virus.[12][13] The first item sold on the site was a broken laser pointer. Omidyar was astonished that anyone would pay for the device in its broken state, but the buyer assured him that he was deliberately collecting broken laser pointers. Similar surprises followed. The business exploded as correspondents began to register trade goods of an unimaginable variety.

Omidyar incorporated the enterprise; the small fee he collected on each sale financed the expansion of the site. The revenue soon outstripped his salary at General Magic and nine months later, Omidyar decided to dedicate his full attention to his new enterprise.

By 1995, when Omidyar signed a licensing deal to offer airline tickets online, the site had hosted 250,000 auctions. In the first month of 1997, it hosted two million. By the middle of that year, eBay was hosting nearly 800,000 auctions a day.[10]

In 1997, Pierre Omidyar changed the company's name from AuctionWeb to eBay, and began to advertise the service aggressively. The name "eBay" was the second choice that Omidyar wanted for the website. His first choice for the website was already registered to a Canadian mining company, Echo Bay Mines. He originally wanted the "Echo Bay" name because of the recreational area near Lake Mead, Nevada because it "sounded cool." When he found out that echobay.com was taken, he simply dropped the "cho", and ebay.com was born.[14] Not wanting to make a second trip to Sacramento, he settled quickly on "eBay". The frequently repeated story that eBay was founded to help Omidyar's fiancée trade Pez candy dispensers was fabricated by a public relations manager in 1997 to interest the media. This was revealed in Adam Cohen's 2002 book,[15] and confirmed by eBay.

Jeffrey Skoll joined the company in 1996. In March 1998, Meg Whitman was brought in as president and CEO, and continued to run the company until January 2008, when she announced her retirement. In September 1998, eBay launched a successful public offering, making both Omidyar and Skoll billionaires. As of July 2008, Omidyar's 178 million eBay shares were worth around $4.45 billion.[16] Omidyar is also an investor of Montage Resort and Spa in Laguna Beach, California.

In 2010, Omidyar launched online an investigative reporting news service, Honolulu Civil Beat, covering civic affairs in Hawaii. The site has been named Best News Website in Hawaii for three consecutive years.[17] On September 4, 2013, Honolulu Civil Beat started a partnership with The Huffington Post, launching the weblog's latest regional addition, HuffPost Hawaii.

In 2013, prompted by the Edward Snowden leaks,[18] Omidyar announced the creation of First Look Media, a journalism venture launched on February 10, 2014 with The Intercept and including such journalists as Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras, Jeremy Scahill, Dan Froomkin, John Temple, and Jay Rosen.[6][19]

Film production

Omidyar has been part of the executive producer team for the following films.

Omidyar Network

Main article: Omidyar Network

Omidyar Network is a philanthropic investment firm dedicated to harnessing the power of markets to create opportunity for people to improve their lives.[22] It was established in 2004 by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar and his wife, Pam. The organization invests in and helps scale innovative organizations to catalyze economic, social, and political change. To date, Omidyar Network has committed more than $992 million to for-profit companies and nonprofit organizations that foster economic advancement and encourage individual participation across multiple investment areas, including Property Rights, Governance & Citizen Engagement, Education, Financial Inclusion and Consumer & Internet Mobile. [23] In 2010, he and his wife established, along with Richard Branson and the Nduna Foundation (founded by Amy Robbins), Enterprise Zimbabwe.[24]

Personal life

Omidyar and his wife live in Henderson, Nevada.[25] According to Forbes, his net worth was $8.5 billion (US) as of September 2013, making him the 123rd richest person in the world.[2]

Awards and honors

See also

Further reading


  • Cohen, Adam (2002), The Perfect Store: Inside eBay, Back Bay Books, ISBN 978-0-316-16493-1 
  • Viegas, Jennifer (2006), Pierre Omidyar: The Founder of eBay, Rosen Publishing Group, ISBN 978-1-4042-0715-8 


  1. "Pierre Omidyar's House". Virtual Globetr6vvccvffyotting. Retrieved February 28, 2015.
  2. 1 2 3 Pierre Omidyar - Forbes, Forbes.com. Accessed September 13, 2015.
  3. Viegas 2006, p. 13
  4. "Hawaii News - Honolulu Civil Beat - Investigative Reporting". Civil Beat.
  5. "The extraordinary promise of the new Greenwald-Omidyar venture (UPDATED)". Columbia Journalism Review.
  6. 1 2 "Here's Who's Backing Glenn Greenwald's New Website". Reuters via HuffPo. October 15, 2013.
  7. Jay Rosen. "A First Look at NewCo's structure". Pressthink.org.
  8. Viegas 2006, p. 14
  9. 1 2 Viegas 2006, p. 16
  10. 1 2 "Pierre Omidyar Biography".
  11. BARISIC, SONJA (June 12, 2007). "eBay in Patent Fight Over 'Buy It Now'". Associated Press. A small Virginia company in a patent fight with eBay Inc. asked a federal judge Tuesday to stop the online auction powerhouse from using its "Buy It Now" feature allowing shoppers to buy items at a fixed price
  12. Erin Griffith (October 16, 2014). "eBay started as a website about Ebola". Fortune. Retrieved November 5, 2014.
  13. Kyle Alspach (October 17, 2014). "Ebay began as a site about Ebola, but it's a mystery what was on it". BostInno. Retrieved November 5, 2014.
  14. Viegas, Jennifer (2007). Pierre Omidyar: The Founder of eBay. New York: The Rosen Publishing Group, Inc. p. 52. ISBN 1-4042-0715-5.
  15. Cohen 2002
  16. "EBAY: Major Holders for eBay Inc. - Yahoo! Finance". Finance.yahoo.com. Retrieved 2010-02-25.
  17. "Civil Beat Named Best Hawaii News Website for the Third Year in a Row". Retrieved 2013-09-08.
  18. Rice, Andrew (November 2, 2014). "The Pierre Omidyar Insurgency". New York Magazine. Retrieved 4 November 2014.
  19. "NYU's Jay Rosen to join Omidyar venture". Politico.
  20. Kilday, Gregg (August 7, 2014). "Robert Kenner's Doc 'Merchants of Doubt' Goes to Sony Pictures Classics - Hollywood Reporter". Hollywoodreporter.com. Retrieved December 26, 2015.
  21. Chang, Justin (September 3, 2015). "'Spotlight' Review: Michael Keaton Stars in Drama About Catholic Abuse Scandals". Variety.com. Retrieved December 26, 2015.
  22. Guth, Robert A. (October 22, 2008). "EBay Founder's Philanthropic Firm to Donate More". The Wall Street Journal.
  23. "Omidyar Network". Retrieved 7 September 2016.
  24. New York Times: "Branson Charity Focuses Aid Effort on Zimbabwe" By STEPHANIE STROM September 20, 2010
  25. "Pierre Omidyar's House". Virtual Globetrotting.
  26. "Hall of Fame - EY Entrepreneur Of The Year." Hall of Fame - EY Entrepreneur Of The Year. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Apr. 2015. Search: "Pierre Omidyar "<http://eoyhof.ey.com/#!/search>.

External links

Business positions
Preceded by
New title
Chairman of eBay
1995 2015
Succeeded by
Thomas J. Tierney
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