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Iranian-American economist Pierre Omidyar is best known as the founder and chairman of eBay, the online auction website.
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Unlike many other high-tech entrepreneurs, Omidyar didn't set out to become an Internet tycoon. Born in Paris, he moved to Maryland as a child when his father accepted a residency at Johns Hopkins University Medical Center. He wrote his first computer program at age 14, to catalog books for the school library. He graduated from Tufts University in 1988 with a degree in computer science and went to work for a company that developed Macintosh software. Later, he worked for the Apple subsidiary Claris, then helped start a software company in 1991 called Ink Development Corp. The company later changed its name to eShop and was purchased by Microsoft in 1996.
Omidyar then joined General Magic, an Internet phone venture backed by Apple. However, by then his auction site was growing by leaps and bounds. Nine months after the company's first auction launched, he quit his day job to devote himself full time to eBay.
In May 1998, Omidyar was named eBay's chairman, at which time he announced the appointment of Meg Whitman as president and chief executive officer. Ebay continued to thrive under the direction of Whitman, who expanded eBay's services through new site launches (in Australia, Canada, Germany, Japan, and the United Kingdom), acquisitions, and joint ventures.
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