I had breakfast with Meg Whitman…Ebay’s CEO this morning

Alright, I wasn’t alone. The Technology Association of Iowa put together a breakfast at the Embassy Club downtown where Mrs. Whitman spoke.  It was a nice and intimate setting with about 60 people. 

We got to hear some nice factoids about Ebay.  For example, did you know that:

  1. Ebay took 1 round of funding for $2.5 mil.  That’s it.  They’ve been profitable for most of their existence and took the round to hire good people and get more cred.  Nice.  The founder gave up about 35% for that funding.  Next to GOOG, this is the most profitable venture deal in history it seems.
  2. The original code for Ebay was developed over a labor day weekend by a dude. 
  3. The first item sold was a broken laser pointer.  The founder sold it for $15.00.  He had purchased it new for $20.00.  "Hey I’ve got something here" lights went off.
  4. Today, 40% of Ebay’s business is fixed price (BUY NOW) vs. auction.
  5. Ebay will do $18billion in automobile transactions this year.  They had no idea autos would ever sell on Ebay.
  6. Whitman tried to buy PayPal a few times.  Each time she scoffed at the large sums that PayPal wanted.  First it was $500mil. She countered with $300 mil.  PayPal said no.  In the end, PayPal said $1.5 billion….and she said yes.  She takes credit for the "mistake" of waiting too long to buy PayPal.  That wait cost them an extra billion.
  7. Ebay encourages mistakes.  Excellent.
  8. PayPal will be using Skype to create a Western Union style disrupter where people can send money across the world via PayPal.
  9. Ebay/PayPal is getting into micro-lending.
  10. Whitman believes fully that you should hire ahead of the curve…and put people in place that will be over qualified now…but will see the business come to them as it explodes.

Perhaps the greatest thing I heard this morning was Meg Whitman’s assertion that, "The price of inaction is greater than the price of making a mistake".  Remember that.

This was a great way to start the day.  It’s very encouraging when a Harvard educated billionaire CEO’s thinking is pretty much aligned with the way you think about business and technology. 

Her markets to watch in the future….Pork Bellies and Orange Juice futures.  Just kidding. 

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