Now he’s putting that foresight to use in an entirely different way. In 2004, he established Omidyar Network with his wife, Pam. Structured much like a traditional investment firm, it provides funding to for-profit and nonprofit organizations across many sectors. The one thing these portfolio organizations have in common: positively shaping the world.
Funded with over $290 million provided by Pam and Pierre, Omidyar Network has made investments in areas of microfinance, property rights, government transparency, copyright-free media, education, social media, and more. A lot of these choices aren’t traditionally philanthropic. Rather, they’re anticipating and harnessing the forces that will make a difference in the world years or even decades from now.
There may be a world of difference between DonorsChoose, an online charity that makes it easy for people to make school donations, and Wikia, a wiki-hosting service. But both harness the power of crowds of people to make vital funding and information available to the people who need it most. For this innovative approach to making an impact, Omidyar Network received the Sumazi award for “Startup Most Likely to Change the World” at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference.
Last month, Omidyar Network invested $15 million in Change.org, a site that helps regular people create and promote powerful petitions for change. You can see a trend taking shape.
So when you ask what has enabled Pierre Omidyar to become not just one of the most successful entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley, but in history, his ability to predict what people want and will use distinguished him from his peers. He was much like Steve Jobs in that way.
But now, in this new act of his career, it’s clear there’s been another quality behind his success: the desire and ability to see what will help people.
eBay wouldn’t have succeeded without Omidyar’s commitment to creating a flawless user experience and introducing new features that would help people do things they didn’t even know they needed — from buying Tiffany lamps to airline tickets. Now, he’s turning that creative, empathetic talent to shape the future of philanthropy.
It’ll be interesting to see what he does next.
Copyright 2013, VentureBeat