Online auctioneer eBay’s hot new social commerce platforms aren’t coming from the giant Internet marketplace’s California headquarters. They’re conceptualized and launched by a team of 14 young Israeli geeks (and Marti, their “inspiration dog”) on Tel Aviv’s yuppified Rothschild Boulevard.
Marti is the first to greet visitors to eBay’s Israel Social Center (ISC), opened in July last year. Right on the dog’s four heels comes Ron Gura, the former Israeli air force lieutenant who runs the ISC along with his sister-in-law, Maya Gura, and his Haifa childhood chums Matan Bar and Erez Dickman. (Another partner, Guy Schory, now heads new ventures for eBay Inc.)
In 2009, the friends had cooked up The Gifts Project to facilitate online group gifting. After a successful pilot as eBay Group Gifts during the 2010 holiday shopping season, the enterprise was acquired by eBay and morphed into the ISC — a self-contained, offline innovation development center under the purview of Don Bradford, eBay’s social commerce vice president.
Bradford drops by from San Jose once every quarter, and eBay top banana John Donahoe came in September, declaring that “Israel is one of our industry’s leading hubs for technology innovation and talent.” And eBay owns Netanya-based shopping.com, and its PayPal subsidiary bought Tel Aviv’s Fraud Sciences in 2008.
Although eBay Group Gifts remains ISC’s flagship product, other ideas are finding their way to cyberspace from the whiteboard in the office “thinking room.”
“We tapped into a few other low-hanging fruits on the eBay tree,” Gura said. “Maybe the lowest-hanging fruit was what ended up as Go Together, a new product we launched on StubHub, eBay’s $2 billion ticket vertical.”
The assumption underlying Go Together is that nobody goes alone to sporting events and concerts, yet it’s a hassle to get a group of friends organized and paid up. Go Together facilitates onsite group seat selection and payment. It also streamlines carpooling arrangements, suggests nightspots near the venue and helps nab a premium parking spot.
ISC is also piloting Stuff by eBay. It maps online purchases for up to the past seven years, culling all the info it needs (with permission) from the receipts sitting in the user’s e-mail box. This visual e-commerce shopping profile not only makes it easy to keep tabs on purchases but also makes reselling a breeze because it provides a product photo and prefilled spec fields.
Stuff also generates new product recommendations, alerts about price drops and recalls, and data on payment methods, return policies, warranties, shipping tracking and complementary products.