EBay Founder Re-Commits to Strengthening U.S. Communities

The September 11 terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C., reinforced the commitment of Pierre Omidyar, founder of online auction site eBay , and his wife Pam to donate most of their considerable personal fortune to organizations and programs that work to strengthen communities around the country, the Wall Street Journal reports.

The Omidyars, whose 24 percent stake in eBay is estimated to be worth about $3.75 billion, plan to give away as much of their fortune as possible to nonprofits that foster community building through education and active citizenship. To that end, the couple established the Omidyar Foundation with a $50 million gift last year and gave $10 million to Tufts University, their alma mater, to help launch the school's College of Citizenship and Public Service.

Pierre Omidyar's strong belief in the power of community stems from his experience building eBay, which he started as a weekend project in 1995. One of Omidyar's first moves at the fledgling company was to create a feedback forum, because, as he told the Journal, he was tired of dealing with complaints from buyers and sellers. But Omidyar soon learned "that [encouraging feedback] became more about creating standards for a way a community operated." Omidyar has said previously that he believes the sense of community and shared responsibility has been lost in America, and he and his wife want to do what they can to restore it.

"One of the good things to come out of [September 11] is that everyone can now see the potential strength of community," Omidyar told the Journal. "There is a real thirst...[among] people out there to connect."

Kara Swisher. "EBay Founder Re-Commits to Strengthening U.S. Communities" Wall Street Journal 10/29/2001.