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Meg Whitman and eBay

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eBay headquarter Milpitas

(eBay headquater, Sillicon Vally, 2008, copyright@Shanzi)

Who is Meg Whittman? She is the CEO of eBay, and has been in that position for almost ten years, and she is leaving the job on March 31. I don’t personally know her (my friend Wang Jianshuo may have seen her). But from the CNBC show “eBay effect”, I got to know how Pierre Omidyar started eBay from a weekend project to a small online aution site; and Meg and her team transfered it into a global e-commerce power house.

eBay effect
Before joining eBay Meg was a marketing director at Disney, and she has lots of consumer brand experience, which helped differentiate eBay from other competitors in early days, such as OnSale (egghead), uBid. So the vision of eBay is not only helping people buy and sell cheap stuff, it created an online community. In 2004 re-election Dick Cheney said eBay created 400,000 jobs in the US. While the number is arguable, I can appreciate eBay did create a new distribution channel for small business.

Meg also brought management discipline to the company, much like Eric Schmit did to Google.

Side effect
As a side effect, eBay nurtured Google in some way. When people search product using google, it will show the eBay listings. If they click on it, Google got paid by eBay. In Google early days, the revenue from eBay is substantial.

Come of age
eBay survived the dot com, and flourished. It stock increased 13 times of value in 10 years. But its growth also dramtically slowed down in recent years. After all, this market is much smaller than the market Google is in: the advertisement. So eBay is expanding in other areas for growth: such as the buy of Skype for Internet calling; Kijiji and Craigslist for online classified ads; stubhub for online ticketing, etc.

This is not a unique problem for eBay. Amazon, once wanted to be earth biggest store, has dived into web services, outsourcing computer power, and e-commerce expertise. As I read from web, it’s trying to be an e-mall rather than an e-walmart.

Home runs
Paypal purchase in 2000 contributed more than 50% top line and bottom line. Brilliant move.

Mis-steps
eBay Japan lost to Yahoo Japan; eBay China (eachnet) lost to Ma Yun’s TaoBao.

Will the hefty price paid for Skype bring a good return down the road?

(Update) Here is a recent interview with Meg Whitman (Sina, in Chinese).

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