Pierre Omidyar is the business magnate and philanthropist who is famous for having revolutionized the field of e-commerce, with his online bidding website, ‘eBay’. His vision for change, coupled with a strong belief and trust in humanity, has generated groundbreaking innovations and inspired people around the world to “think big” about what’s possible. Pierre is one of richest people in the world, having made his fortune of over $21billion
Pierre Morad Omidyar was born to Iranian settlers, Elahé Mir-Djalali Omidyar, and her husband, in Paris, on June 21, 1967. His mother was a renowned linguistics scholar, and his father was employed at the ‘Johns Hopkins University’ as a surgeon.
The family later settled down in the U.S, where the young boy attended the ‘Potomac School’, Virginia. He completed his secondary education in 1984, from ‘St. Andrew’s Episcopal School’ in Maryland.
In 1991, this software enthusiast, along with Arnold Blinn, Greg Stein, Will Poole, and Matt Kursh, founded a small-scale pen computing firm named, ‘Ink Development’. Two years later, the founders of ‘Ink Development’ rechristened the company to ‘eShop’, and began focussing on e-commerce.
Having a passion for computer science, as a young man Pierre Omidyar began his career with ‘Claris’ software company, and helped his team develop ‘Apple Inc’s application ‘MacDraw II’. Soon, he gave new meaning to his latent ambitions of launching a business, beginning with the establishment of ‘Ink Development’. This soon came to be known as ‘eShop’, dealing in products like the ‘InkWare Photo’, and ‘InkWare NoteTaker’. Eventually, he launched ‘eBay’, and by the time he turned 31 years old, he had earned billions of profit. ‘eBay’ had introduced its own stock market, and soon the company’s shares brought home an income of approximately $4.45 billion. In 1999, Pierre won the ‘EY Entrepreneur of The Year’ award, for his successful venture, ‘eBay’.
In 1995, Omidyar inaugurated an internet site called ‘Auction Web’, which allowed users to buy and sell items online. Within a span of one year, the brilliant businessman acquired the license to sell airplane tickets on the site. In 1996, he also hired the proficient engineer, ‘Jeffrey Skoll’, to work with him on ‘Auction Web’. Later on ‘Auction Web’ was renamed as ‘eBay’, after his initial choice of ‘echobay’ was already in use. During the same period auctions of items on sale had hit an average of 800,000 per day. The ‘eBay’ business continued to excel, bringing home billions for all the co-founders of the website.
After creating eBay in Pierre turned much of his focus to philanthropy and, along with his wife Pamela Wesley, biology graduate and cofounder in most of his ventures, began building the foundation for a life dedicated to empowering people, fostering change, and tackling important issues on a global scale.
He became one of the first of the Silicon Valley elite to pursue philanthropy, and since founding the Omidyar Network in 2004, his commitment to improving the world has only increased. The Omidyar Network has allowed Pam and Pierre to become philanthropic innovators and investors, funding creative and unique efforts that can both tackle problems and ensure sustainability.
Pam and Pierre have also pioneered a number of other foundations to address directly some of the most pressing issues in the world today. HopeLab, which was founded by Pam in 2001, focuses on using cutting edge technology to engage young people and improve their health. What started as an idea to create a video game to help kids fight cancer gradually became much bigger and even bolder. With a generation that sees technology as second nature, HopeLab is leveraging that innate connection to bring about behavior change, enhance human connection, and increase capacity for self-efficacy. Like a spoonful of sugar with medicine, kids are having enough fun that the lessons learned hardly seem like lessons at all.
Humanity United, another of their projects, was founded in 2008 to bring new approaches to some of the biggest and most challenging problems facing mankind, including human trafficking, mass atrocities, and violent conflict. Again, the search for a unique approach is paramount, especially since many of these troubles have existed for as long as human history. The global reach of the foundation is particularly impressive, confronting diverse issues – peace building in Sudan, treatment of migrant workers creating the World Cup facilities in Qatar, and forced labor in the Thai seafood industry. As Pamela said, “When humanity is united, we can act together to create a powerful force for human dignity.”
What is even more remarkable is that these enormous efforts only scratch the surface of Pamela and Pierre’s work so far. While they have maintained a modest lifestyle, the total scope of their work is a challenge to comprehend fully. They are just as enthusiastic about local initiatives in Hawaii as they are about national efforts for fair representation through the Democracy Fund. Most recently, they have become passionate advocates for free speech and trustworthy journalism through the global media platform The World Post and First Look Media. Jeff Skoll, another Carnegie Medalist who is a close friend and colleague put it succinctly: “Pierre is dedicated to social change and he will, deservedly, someday be acknowledged as the Rockefeller or Carnegie of our times.” With their all-encompassing approach and focus on innovation, Pam and Pierre have quickly become the 21st century model of philanthropists.
While their portfolio of philanthropic work spans multiple geographies and areas of focus, it is bound by a single belief that people are inherently good and capable, but don’t always have access to opportunity. Pierre and Pam are deeply committed to increasing this access wherever possible and addressing inequities through innovative, long-term solutions.
Some of his money went into providing a share of the capital belonging to California-based, ‘Montage Resort and Spa’. Recently, Omidyar also established the online news service, ‘Honolulu Civil Beat’, providing information on events occurring in Hawaii. The internet news website too has been doing well, and has earned quite a name for itself in the field of investigative journalism. According to many, this accomplished business tycoon is going strong, and looks set to reach the stars, when it comes to innovative online undertakings.
In 2010, Omidyar, along with Pamela, Richard Branson, and the ‘Nduna Foundation’, founded the ‘Enterprise Zimbabwe’, as a venture aimed at helping the nation develop their economy.
Omidyar has concerns that natural disasters can cut the Hawaii off from other parts of the world. Hence, he has invested in organic farming, renewable energy, and community building organizations as well as funded local initiatives for sustainable food.
Pierre and Pamela have three children.