What kind of startups is eBay interested in?

Director of Corporate Strategy, Erik Stuart, talks about what's hot in commerce

Investor interview by Chris Caceres
January 21, 2009
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Erik Stuart, director of corporate strategy for eBay is always looking for companies the Internet giant can aquire.  His job is to look at startups and determine whether they fit into the eBay fold.  In this interview with Bambi Francisco, Stuart shared what kind of companies and services eBay will be keeping a close eye on in 2009.

"eBay is always looking for good companies that are good business opportunities and can improve our capabilities," explained Stuart.  These fell under the category of what he described as, Exploratory shopping.  "Exploratory shopping," Stuart explained could mean, "visual search, social shopping, or any better way to browse products."  Some of the companies he specifically mentioned which fall under this category were:

ThisNext- which gives recommendations from individual people they think may match the user's taste.

Stylefeeder- which delivers automated recommendations for products based on a collaborative filtering mechanism.

Kaboodle- which presents recommenations based on presentations of personal wishlists.  

Is eBay keeping a close watch on these companies?  The answer is Yes.  Stuart explained, "We'll keep an eye on all these types of companies and once one of them starts showing user traction, eBay will be right on it." 

So why is eBay yet to acquire any of these 'up and coming' startups attempting to change the way we shop online?

Stuart believes none of the companies in this current trend are compelling enough yet.  Many startups are looking for exits in 2009, and unfortunately Stuart explained he's seen less innovation recently as opposed to 3 years ago pointing out the fact that valuations are less "insane" than they were 9 to 12 months ago.

All in all, Stuart established the fact that, "Good companies that are showing business success are still going to command a reasonable price for an exit."

eBay is set to report Q4 results at the close of day Wednesday.

Check out the video for the full interview.

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