The Paypal Wars: Battles With Ebay, the Media, the Mafia, and the Rest of Planet Earth (英语) 平装 – 2012年5月31日
Eric Jackson directed the marketing operations for PayPal, the world's leading on-line service, and was instrumental in turning the company into one of the few profitable dot-coms. He graduated from Stanford University with a degree in economics and serves on the Board of Directors of the Stanford Review, a non-profit dedicated to improving education at his alma mater.
Originally recruited away from Anderson by Peter Theil, Jackson writes from the vantage of one accustomed to the ways of the old economy-- strict hierarchy, clearly-defined roles, and an emphasis on structure. Jackson reported to work his first day to find that no one at PayPal was aware he had been hired; after getting over his initial panic, he quickly learned that the new economy prized a different set of values: speed, flexibility, egalitarianism, and, above all, talent. Despite having no prior marketing experience, Jackson quickly learned the ropes and ascended to a position of prominence within the fledgling organization.
Jackson's observations ring true to anyone fortunate enough to have worked in a high-growth tech startup:
* Customer service was playing catch-up to the company's emphasis on growth, with unanswered email queues exceeding 100,000 at times.
* Simple search queries used to generate internal usage reports would threaten to crash the public site due to scaling problems.
* Engineers sparred over which platform to use (Oracle or NT), ultimately developing for both in parallel.
* Upper-management preoccupied itself with inking biz dev deals to increase growth instead of fixing serious site problems that were causing users to leave.
Throughout his narrative, Jackson pulls few punches, and writes with convincing sincerity about the strengths and weaknesses of the company he helped to create:
"I'll certainly acknowledge that our company wasn't beyond media dissection. In fact, we deserved it! We had racked up $92 million in operating losses through the first three quarters of the year against revenues of just $6 million. CNET, The Red Herring, and other media outlets had every right to sink their teeth into a company with such a dangerous burn rate..."
Peter Theil emerges as a true visionary, having originally conceived of PayPal as a way of allowing citizens across the world bypass currency-devaluing actions of their local governments by letting them transfer savings into foreign-denominated currency. While this vision never came to pass, the encompassing nature of his vision seized the imagination of those who toiled to make PayPal succeed. Theil also had the financial acumen to realize that unless he closed his venture round quickly in the spring of 2001, the continuing slide of NASDAQ would scare away the investors he had so carefully brought to the table. He closed a $100 million round just in time by instructing the investment bank not to haggle over the company's valuation-- just to close the round as fast as possible. Had he waited even a few more days, his investors would have fled to safety, and PayPal would have run out of cash.
Some of the most delicious passages of Jackson's account are those which describe the culture of PayPal's ultimate buyer, eBay:
"EBay employees seemed trained to make phone calls to everyone who might have even the remotest interest in the matter and invite them to the yet-to-be-scheduled meeting. After at least two dozen invitations had been extended, a meeting time and location would be scheduled about a week in advance. The following day, like clockwork, the meeting would be rescheduled because of a calendar conflict of a peripheral stakeholder. After several rounds of schedule shuffling, attendees filing into the summit would be handed a thick set of PowerPoint slides filled with bullet points, tables, and an aphorism or two... The duration of the meeting would then be devoted to wading through the voluminous set of slides, with the usual outcome being an agreement to set up a follow-up meeting wo that the issues raised by the slides could be further discussed."
Ultimately, the usurpation of PayPal's innovative culture for eBay's beauracratic one led Jackson, as well as most of his fellow PayPal colleagues, to depart. The strength of PayPal's bench can be readily seen by considering what its members did later--
* Peter Theil became a major figure in the venture arena, where he helped build the then-nascent social network, Facebook.
* Reid Hoffman went on to take the helm of LinkedIn, which has since gone through a successful IPO.
* Chad Hurley and Steve Chen founded YouTube (later acquired by Google).
* Jeremy Stoppleman and Russel Simmons founded Yelp.
* Premal Shah founded Kiva.
* Dave McClure founded SimplyHired.
One of the few downsides of Jackson's compelling account is his insertion of political positions which he presents as if his readers will naturally share his outlook. While not over-wrought, his endorsements of Milton Freidman, Bernie Goldberg, and his sweeping denunciations of regulatory agencies wear on the reader who is otherwise inclined to affirm Jackson's observations on life in a high-growth company. In an afterword which describes the threat posed to eBay and PayPal from an ascendent Google, Jackson intones that "Google's management appears to be overwhelmingly left-wing"-- a pronouncement which is intended to spook the reader.
Despite his politics, Eric Jackson has penned a wonderful time-capsule of the heady days of the dot-com blast. If you are looking for a highly-readable volume which avoids the standard cant while offering a first-hand account of what life is really like in a startup, look no further.
Anyone interested in the challenges that face entrepreneurs in the digital age, as well as the countless people who rely on PayPal and eBay for their livelihood, would find this book well worth reading.
Eric Jackson does a really good job of mentioning a lot of the things that one remembers from the day that made me chuckle with my own memories.
Jeans & T-shirts
Power Point Presentations (for everything)
He also made his tale suspensful, which was refreshing for this type of book. Each sub-chapter had a cliff hanger like a soap opera.
The Afterword published in the latest edition was really interesting as it was a snapshot of "Where are They Now?". Many of the players went on to build other really well known companies post Pay Pal, like Linked-in.
Eric may have been generous to his collegues though when he spoke of the hard work it took to get Pay Pal really moving. One gets the sense it was hard work, but I'm sure his true memories of that time are more exhuasting than he cared to write. The dot com life was brutal, but worth it. It was really fun to read his story and reflect on my own experiences.