Bertrand Piccard and Brian Jones became the first people to circumnavigate the Earth in a hot air balloon in 1999. It was also the year 55 per cent of Australians voted against becoming a republic in a referendum, and New Zealand elected its first female prime minister, Helen Clark. It was also the year that eBay launched its Australian online auction site.
Ten years and 173 million items later, eBay Australia is celebrating its birthday in style, with a five-metre high, three-tier birthday cake adorned with thousands of tiny cupcakes. But although eBay is an Internet powerhouse, the company had humble beginnings. The eBay story began in September 1995 when Pierre Omidyar, a 28-year-old software developer from Paris, France, wrote the code for a tiny site called AuctionWeb and placed it on his Web site, alongside a page about the Ebola virus.
In order to test the functionality of his new auction site, Omidyar listed his broken laser pointer as the one and only item for auction. To his surprise, it sold for $14.83 — to a collector of broken laser pointers. He knew he was on to something and he expanded AuctionWeb to take over his whole domain, Echo Bay Consulting — or www.ebay.com.
eBay’s success has grown exponentially from this simple idea, connecting people around the world who want to buy and sell almost anything and everything to each other. From clothing and gadgets, to cars and even houses, nothing is too big, small or bizarre for eBayers, as a decade of bidding reveals.
The first item to go under the (virtual) hammer on eBay.com.au was a Harmon Kardon amplifier, which sold for $76.00. The most expensive item so far is the last Holden Monaro ever manufactured, which sold for $187,600. Somebody even bought Pat Rafter’s ponytail at a charity auction in 2001.
Since its launch in 1999, eBay.com.au has grown from 9041 registered users and 94,000 listings a month to more than 8 million users and more than 7 million listings a month today. The site received 5.79 million unique visitors in September and contributes an estimated $2.6 billion annually to Australia’s GDP.
“While eBay was once dominated by second hand items sold by those who want to make a quick buck, the site has also become a mecca for those who love to sell brand new items, those who love a bargain and those that just enjoy the convenience of online shopping,” said Deborah Sharkey, eBay Australia and New Zealand's managing director.
In fact, more than 50,000 Australians use eBay to make a primary or secondary income, with 87 Australian sellers each generating over $1 million in sales in 2008. Melbourne-based Shaun O’Brien is now an eBay entrepreneur. After signing up to eBay.com.au 10 years ago, O’Brien began selling home theatre equipment on the site in the evenings. Eighteen months later he left his day job to make it his full-time career, and 12 months later his wife left her employer to work for the business too. Today they ship approximately 5000 orders per month Australia-wide from their Melbourne distribution centre, and in the past 12 months their eBay business has generated $1 million dollars. O'brian has also become chairman of the Professional eBay’s seller alliance (PeSA).
eBay entrepreneurs Darren and Lucille Pead started their eBay store, GuysStuff, seven years ago when Lucille needed to earn money from home after becoming pregnant with their daughter Emily. The Peads have now expanded the business into two bricks and mortar stores which they run alongside the online store.
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