donderdag, september 29, 2005

eBay 10 Years - 2001

The Year that Was: 2001
"Right now, they are still learning how to turn on a computer." - Karin Stahl

As the world entered 2001, many people were most likely to associate the year with the title of director Stanley Kubrick's acclaimed 1968 science fiction film 2001: A Space Odyssey. Nine months and 11 days later, however, the events of one Tuesday morning would forever change what people remember about 2001.

In response to the September 11 terrorist attacks, the company snapped into action, launching Auction for America to help families of the attack victims. Through Auction for America, sellers listed items with all proceeds benefiting the September 11 Fund and the Twin Towers Fund. eBay contributed all listing fees and final value fees. More than $10 million was raised.

The year presented a number of challenges. Many nations were in the midst of a serious economic downturn. More dot-com companies went out of business. And in the U.S., a series of corporate scandals rocked investor confidence. The high-flying economic times of the late 1990s were clearly history.

In this downcast environment, however, eBay continued to bustle and boom. To refine and improve the online shopping experience as well as to empower people with big ideas but small budgets, the company launched eBay Stores, a way for people to have their own customized online businesses for just a few dollars a month. The international expansion continued to accelerate with the purchase of a majority stake in South Korea's Internet Auction Company; the acquisition of the European auction site iBazar SA; a strategic relationship with the leading Latin American online trading site MercadoLibre, and the launching of new sites in Italy, New Zealand, Switzerland, Ireland, and Singapore.

By the end of the year, eBay was a company of more than 2,500 employees supporting more than 42 million registered users who transacted more than $9.3 billion in gross merchandise volume in more than 18,000 categories—all measures dramatically higher than the year before. Among items sold were the oldest known pair of Levi's (going for $46,532) and a Gulfstream II business jet. The jet, incidentally, went for $4.9 million, the highest amount ever for an item sold on eBay.

In the midst of its own success, eBay continued to think of ways to share its resources with others who needed assistance of various kinds. During the year, eBay Foundation, founded back in the company's pre-IPO days, continued to give generously to organizations and initiatives supporting children, education, volunteerism, community revitalization, and the environment.

In June 2001, a group of eBay employees also shared their time and resources in a very different way—they traveled to an isolated village of 12,000 in Guatemala called San Pedro La Laguna, bringing with them computers, medical supplies, and other items. The goal was for villagers to learn about e-commerce and eventually trade on eBay. The trip was organized by employee Karin Stahl, who had been to the village several times dating back to 1997. Struck by the poverty, rampant disease, and absence of any health care, she made a pledge to help the people there. As Karin quipped: "Right now, they are still learning how to turn on a computer." But, while still in a formative stage, the project was an eloquent expression of the original eBay dream becoming an amazing reality—a single, global marketplace in which everyone has the chance to participate on an equal basis.

Although 2001 had its share of tragedy and setbacks, eBay remained focused on doing its part to change things for the better.

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