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SPARK OF THE CORPORATE

Adversities have been his constant mates since he was very young; and they don’t seem to relent. Perhaps he is the chosen one to be tested under so many trying circumstances. But he seems to revel in all of those and comes up trumps every time. So, when the board of eBay decided to elevate Devin Norse Wenig (the then President of eBay) to the post of CEO, succeeding John Donahoe, the mandate was clear. Wenig was entrusted with the responsibility of restoring order at the company, along the way – hoping, that he will also be able to bring back the past glory, and be able to win some lost ground to competition (which actually doesn’t exist, it’s only the market forces that perhaps have aided the emergence of other big e-commerce players)

If he had faced them with absolute determination and will, will he be any different when he is helming eBay? Investors, small-time sellers, and workers alike would like to believe no. Whether or not the demerger of PayPal will make it any easier for Wenig to take the fledgling giant forward – time will only tell. But, what everybody in general can expect from a man with such varied experience and capabilities is to definitely atleast stem the rot, if not turn-around the company’s fortunes in the near future. He is up for it and raring to go, as he has always been since the day his father died unexpectedly and young Devin was forced to take over the leadership of the company his father had founded – which did and steadied the ship before moving to his chosen subject - law.

Childhood and education

Devin, born in Flatbush, Brooklyn (NY) to Carol and Dr. Jeffrey Wenig – a toxicologist, was to inherit his father’s enterprising spirit for Dr. Wenig had founded Nastech Pharmaceutical Company (Hauppauge, Long Island).

As for academics, Devin Wenig holds a B.A. degree from Union College and a JD (Juris Doctor) degree from the Columbia University School of Law. He met his future wife, Cindy Lee Horowitz, at the law school.

Forced into entrepreneurialism (father’s factory)

As fate would have it, his chosen field of vocation was to be put aside for a while when things took a tragic turn owing to his father’s unexpected died. This meant that the responsibility of preserving his father’s company and carrying forward his legacy was put on young Devin’s shoulders – who was only 23 years old at the time. But he didn’t shirk or sulk and took over reigns of the company as its CEO and saw through the turbulent times. He even got a venture funding of $5 million for the company in due course.

Do what you love the most (Law)

When he was sure that it had come out of troubled waters and doing well enough, Devin entrusted the company into the hands of a capable professional manager and set about pursuing what he had chosen to make of his career in the first place – law practice- and joined the law firm, Cravath Swain & Moore.

The long stint (Reuters)

After a brief stint with the law firm, Wenig joined Reuters in 1993 and went on to serve the company for eighteen long years in several positions. His first tryst with leadership (after the one he had assumed for his father’s pharma company) happened after he completed a decade at Reuters in 2003 when made President, Business Divisions – serving in that capacity for 3 years until 2006 when was again entrusted with greater responsibility as he was made the COO. Then after a couple of years he was made the CEO of Thomson Reuters Markets (Financial & Media Businesses) in 2008 – in which position he was to serve for almost three-and-a-half-years and gain much insights into the media and internet businesses.

eBay journey

John Donahoe, the then CEO of eBay, persuaded Devin Wenig to join eBay, which he did in 2011 as its President. While the journey wasn’t a whirl-wind success like his previous stints but what Devin was able to help the company achieve was that, at the time of his joining eBay had a customer base of around 90 million and that has constantly increased every year to stand at around 160 million by the time he was elevated to the top post of eBay in July 2015.

Of course, there will be naysayers who are already writing the company off – in terms being an acquisition target. But, what Devin Wenig knows clearly is that it is eBay’s business model that renders it the uniqueness, which is also a challenge as it, to some extent, limits that scope of offerings.

Devin, however, is not one to just sit back and let things take control of the situation. He is well seized of the challenges as well as the opportunities that lie ahead and he has already put into effect initiatives to bring back the glory days of eBay when both the company as well as the people who benefitted most from it – small time sellers of antiques and unique items, as indeed the investors who seem to have lost a bit of patience recently (at least until Wenig became the CEO), were happy. Given his capability and proven track record, one is tempted to believe that Devin Wenig is the man who can turn around the fortunes of eBay. Whether or not he can do it, only time will tell – but regardless of what happens, Devin Wenig will always be someone the young and aspiring entrepreneurs-to-be can look upto for inspiration.

Other Affiliations:

Director, Reuters Research Inc. (2000-Present)
Director, Instinet Group, LLC (2002-Present)
Trustee, The Paley Center for Media (2015-Present)
Quotes
 Over the past few years, the speed of globalization has been astounding. The rate of adoption of the on-demand economy has been breath-taking. Technology, and mobile technology in particular, has driven a secular shift in the way we shop and live, causing the online and offline worlds to meld and fuse
 The transformative effect of smartphones and tablets, not just on our business but also on the entire retail sector, has been staggering. Nobody understood the degree to which these devices would explode distribution and access points, and fundamentally change commerce.
 I believe the five trends I have outlined are capable of delivering another secular shift in commerce. It’s coming, and for companies ready to embrace it, there’s a $14 trillion opportunity at stake“.(The age of everywhere, truly global trade, virtual reality as a retail tool, on-demand inventory and supply, and sustainable shopping)
 We need to show the spectrum of products on eBay and be able to show groupings of products that fit together. With better search and better merchandising we can drive people to browse and discover products on eBay
 EBay has to stand for something unique in the world.
 EBay is at its best when we enable small and medium-sized brands and merchants to present unique inventory to shoppers who love to shop
 I don't think we want to be like anybody else. You'll define us in a couple years not by how much we compare to our big competitors, but by how little we compare to them.
 eBay started down the tail and eBay aggregated a long fragmented set of goods. I now look at what's happening in digital content away from big movies and music, and I say how do we get small artisans and creators of niche content to better monetize in an advertising dominated world. That might be an opportunity for us..
 I think the hallmark of our company has been discipline and capital allocation. We are acquisitive but we're tough on ourselves. We don't buy things just for the sake of buying them to get bigger.
 We don’t want to do and sell everything.That’s not the winning hand.
 There was a robust eBay before PayPal, and there will be a robust eBay after PayPal.
 When I joined eBay, there was no real clarity of accountability, and no one was clear about what they were doing.You would get into meetings with over 100 people and no one would know what they were responsible for.
 The brilliance of eBay and the challenge is that this marketplace model has created the world’s biggest store. But if you are not coming to eBay with a purpose, it can be very hard to shop.
 I never say never about anything, but there is no focus on selling the company right now.
 I don’t wake up worrying about payments. We will see how the relationship with PayPal will evolve.
 There will be clarity and simplicity that happens with the spinoff. At eBay we all worked to invest in and create PayPal, and eBay did a lot of things to help PayPal.
 I'm trying to prove you can build a great enduring internet company that lives past its founder. The next chapter at eBay is going to be about courage.
 The brilliance of eBay’s model is its greatest challenge. It’s a friction-free marketplace, which means sellers can sell anything they want, and that makes it complicated.
 It’s about making things more simple. We want to improve all of these things in 2016.
 The last thing we should do is compete with Amazon on shipping," - UberRush - delivery network.
 There’s going to be a few great e-commerce companies and eBay will be in one of those.

Hope viewers caught up the spark…

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