Pierre M. Omidyar (Persian: پیر امیدیار, born June 21, 1967) is a French-born Iranian-American entrepreneur and philanthropist/economist, and the founder/chairman of the eBay auction site. Omidyar and his wife Pam are well-known philanthropists who founded Omidyar Network in 2004 in order to expand their efforts beyond non-profits to include for-profits and public policy. Omidyar Network is a philanthropic investment firm committed to creating and fostering opportunity for people around the world.
According to Forbes magazine, as of March 2008, he is the 120th richest person in the world.
Born in Paris, France to Iranian parents, Omidyar moved to the US at the age of six. Growing up in Washington, D.C., he developed an interest in computing while at St. Andrew's Episcopal School in Bethesda, Maryland. He graduated from St. Andrew's in 1984, and in 1988, he graduated with a degree in computer science from Tufts University. Shortly after, Omidyar went to work for Claris, an Apple Computer subsidiary, where he helped write MacDraw. In 1991 he co-founded Ink Development, a pen-based computing startup that was later rebranded as an e-commerce company and renamed eShop.
eBay and later career
The site was launched on Labor Day, Monday, September 4, 1995, under the more prosaic title of "Auction Web"; it was hosted on a site Omidyar had created for information on the ebola virus. Auction Web was later renamed "eBay", after Echo Bay, Omidyar's consulting firm, when "echobay.com" was unavailable. The service was free at first, but started charging in order to cover Internet service provider costs.
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 till Jan 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. With eBay's stock plummeting in recent months, Omidyar's eBay shares are now worth closer to $2.65 billion.
Prior to founding eBay, Pierre co-founded Ink Development Corp., later renamed eShop and acquired by Microsoft. After graduating from Tufts with a B.S. in computer science, he joined Claris, a subsidiary of Apple Computer, as a consumer software engineer. Today, Pierre serves as a trustee of Tufts University, Punahou School and Santa Fe Institute, a director of Meetup, and chairman of eBay Inc.
Mr. Omidyar is also a private owner of Montage Resort & Spa in Laguna Beach, California.