Devin Wenig, eBay CEO since July of 2015, talked about eBay vs. Amazon at the Recode conference:
It’s all about perception, Wenig said onstage at the Code Conference, and eBay isn’t just an auction site anymore. But it’s also not trying to be Amazon.
“That’s why we sell $90 billion worth of stuff a year,” Wenig said. “I think there’s an idea that I need to be like Amazon. I don’t. The world doesn’t need an almost-as-good Amazon. They need a better eBay.”
“I’d rather have a billion unique items that arrive in three days than a billion commodity items that arrive in an hour,” he said. “That’s our business and that’s why we’re unique.”
There is some truth to that but he stops half way to the destination.
At eBay’s core is not a selection of a billion unique items. That’s the effect, not the cause. At eBays core is a peer to peer (P2P) model.
eBay was the first company to successfully leverage the power of direct P2P connections. (Google was the second one.)
Looking through this lens, the acquisitions of PayPal and Skype made perfect sense. eBay just didn’t know what to do with them. (PayPal’s vertical integration into eBay was not only the main reason for buying it but also kind of a no-brainer. PayPal is big today, but it never fully realized its potential under eBay. Let’s not talk about Skype.)
Some time over the last decade, eBay forgot what the company made big and special. This is a shame because there are now at least two very big companies that are doing something where eBay should either be an investor or a competitor in the same space they are in:
Imagine a P2P juggernaut called eBay, having its hands in anything that uses networks to fundamentally change existing markets.
Think of an eBay building a P2P infrastructure. An eBay acting like a sort of AWS for the “sharing economy”.
Instead, eBay went after brick-and-mortar retail, trying to be a partner for the shrinking ones, and let its marketplace even fall behind Amazon’s marketplace in the US.
Given all this, if anything the current buzzword Wenig should be going after in his interviews is hence not AI but the blockchain.