Pierre Omidyar

Who knew eBay would do so much?

Pierre Omidyar is the founder of eBay, the well-known auction site that changed the way people sell merchandise to one another. In the process, he became a billionaire many times over. Omidyar was working full time in 1995 when his girlfriend mentioned that when she was younger, she collected Pez candy dispensers, and although many people collected these items, there wasn't a process for them to sell to each other. Being good with programming code, he created a simple website called Auction Web that made person-to-person auctions possible. Two years later, he quit his day job and renamed the company eBay. It went public a year later in 1998. We know what happened after that.

Omiydar is number 39 on the Forbes 400 list of richest Americans, at an estimated $7.7 billion. More important than his wealth is his contribution to philanthropy. He's been on the Slate 60 most charitable Americans list each of the last five years with an average annual contribution of $100 million. Much of the funds went to starting the Omidyar Network in 2004: $200 million to for-profit investments and $200 million for nonprofit projects. The goal is to use public-private partnerships to leverage a community's strengths, making lives better in the process.

The single biggest individual grant since the formation of the Omidyar network is a $100 million gift to Tufts University in 2005 to create the Omidyar-Tufts Microfinance Fund. While intended as an endowment, the goal will be to invest in profitable microfinance projects. Half of the income from those investments will go to Tufts' programs, etc., while the remainder will go to further microfinance projects. This partnership believes it can make a difference. To that end, it continues to seek additional investments from other philanthropists interested in doing well by doing good.

Other projects Omidyar has closely associated with include: Kaboom, an organization building play spaces for every child in America, Prosper, the person-to-person lending company based in San Francisco, Feedster, the RSS feed aggregator and Ashoka, the leading organization supporting social entrepreneurs in America. 

With his wealth came a great deal of responsibility. Pierre Omidyar is using these funds to help as many people as possible. From the looks of the list on the Omidyar Network website, he's doing an excellent job.

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