I joined eBay in Germany in early 2001. At a time when we were less than 100 people who all believed that we can and will change the world.
And change the world we did. I will never forget meeting an eBay seller at an event in Orlando, Florida, who told me that she sells a particular doll mostly to collectors in Germany. And that she essentially didn’t have an income before she started selling on eBay. At the time I met her she made about $5,000 per month, had golden PowerSeller status on eBay, made friends with lots of her customers. She sat in a wheelchair.
We made the world better by enabling people to sell and buy on the Internet — on a level playing field.
Two years later I found myself in a meeting where we spent four hours discussing how “we can squeeze more money out of our sellers”. That was the day I decided to quit eBay. It wasn’t about making the world better, it wasn’t about creating change, it wasn’t about helping people — it was all about making more money and growth. Growth which was needed to support our stock price.
This is the downfall of every publicly traded company. The moment your stock price falls you start to act differently. Google’s “Don’t do evil”? Bullshit. Facebook’s “social mission — to make the world more open and connected”? Bullshit. Once you are owned by shareholders there is only one thing which counts: Growth, revenue and profits.