Before a recent talk at the Berkeley Entrepreneurs Association, eBay CTO Mark Carges met the founders of student startups while touring SkyDeck, an incubator that helps accelerate the launch of fundable companies with scalable business models out of UC Berkeley – his undergraduate alma mater.
What he wasn’t expecting was to get scanned by a 3D camera used by a student startup called Twindom, which focuses on the future of the photograph by printing out miniature versions of the people in its 3D images.
Carges gamely climbed on a rotating pedestal as other attendees watched the scanning process unfold on a monitor.
“I didn’t know this was the price of admission,” he joked.
That sort of hands-on, in-depth evaluation embodies eBay’s approach to acquisitions and top talent.
“What really excites me about the Bay Area is how there are so many talented individuals – with a lot in this room,” Carges said. “We’re always on the lookout for those entrepreneurs who are working on disruptive technology. At the same time, we’re also interested in individuals and teams who have a great entrepreneur spirit. We want those who are working on inspiring projects and people who want to make an impact.”
During his 45-minute talk, he traced eBay’s journey as a global commerce company focused on four key areas of growth: mobile, local, global and data.
“We focus on these trend areas across all of our business units, and we believe these areas will have the greatest potential for growth and help us fuel the business,” Carges said. “Innovations in any of these four areas impact possibilities in the others. We look for companies that align with our needs and we can help to achieve our goals together.”
And when it comes to talent, “we look for long-term staying power. We want people who want to make an impact.”
For example, when eBay acquired Hunch, a New York-based recommendation engine, the company tapped into the team’s expertise in data to create a personalized feed for shoppers. The team now runs the eBay homepage.
“That’s an important piece of real estate on the web and it’s a tech and talent success story,” Carges said.
He advised student entrepreneurs whose startups get acquisition offers to thoroughly vet each opportunity.
“You’ve got to be very upfront with your wants and needs and be very clear and make sure you’re aligned” with potential acquiring companies, he said. “You should probe hard so you know what’s going to happen to your baby.”