Case 5: Ebay

The Case

Who would have thought a company created to allow us sell off items we no longer want would one day become one of the best-known companies in the world.

I doubt Pierre Omidyar could have predicted this level of success, when as a 28 year old, he started a side hustle in September 1995 called AuctionWeb. Even the business model, predicated on generating revenue from sellers who list items on the site, is reputed to only have been introduced when Pierre’s internet service provider increased his monthly tariff from $30 to $250 because of the traffic on his site.

That site, coded by Pierre himself, became known as eBay in September 1997 and today generates revenues in billions of dollars as shown in the chart below.

Ebay Chart

Curiosity often leads me to ask the question ‘how did the company achieve so much?’ and this drove me to investigate what eBay’s mission statement is, afterall, every good company makes strategic choices which are authentic to its mission. It is interesting to find that eBay describes its purpose as to ‘pioneer new communities around the world built on commerce, sustained by trust, and inspired by opportunity’. And I agree, it really must take trust to give money to someone you’ve never met and who is, most times, not an established business structure, expecting them to honour their promise and send you the products you bought off them.

Lest I digress, today’s focus is not on the nuances of eBays operation but on investigating the life lessons we can learn from eBay:

1. Firstly, every successful enterprise starts with an idea that fixes a problem that irritates you. Chances are that if you need a solution to a problem, many others do too. Pierre needed a platform where he could auction used items, he fixed this and realised many of us also had that problem. Isn’t it true that the best innovations are simply ideas that solve pain points? So, your action point as you build to significance, our theme for this year in MAPHer Ltd is to jot down your pain points and then spend time brainstorming solutions to them. When you find those solutions, SHARE THEM!

2. Talking about sharing your solution, it takes me to the second life lesson we can learn from eBay: true success only comes when it benefits others. Even now, I recollect people who have become wealthy by having an eBay shop. Many micro-preneurs have had the opportunity to advertise their wares and sell them to a wide array of customers, at minimal cost. I often talk about the LW, LF, LO framework in describing success that creates significance and personal satisfaction. Your second task is therefore to look at the luxuries you enjoy today and decide how you can better the lives of others with it. I chose to share my life hacks through vlogs and I love when I get a message telling me how beneficial it has been to others. So, what’s in your hand and how can you use it to help others be better?

I could draw even more life lessons from eBay, but I will stick to these two for now and hope that you follow through with applying them to your life.

I look forward to hearing your success stories. Remember, a simple idea that makes your life better can also make the lives of many others better and open the doors to abundant riches for you and your world.