I just finished reading The PayPal Wars by Eric M. Jackson who was the former head of marketing at PayPal. This book is a must read for anyone who is thinking about starting a company or has started a company.
It tells the inside story of PayPal from when it was startup called Confinity all the way to its sale to Ebay.
There were three main themes that I really enjoyed from the book.
PayPal did not hesitate to hire smart people, even if they did not have a job in mind. During the author’s first two days on the job, he has to find a place for himself to work in the company. PayPal’s management team did not mind moving smart people around the company, even if they had no previous experience in the area.
PayPal also had a philosophy of meeting its customers’ needs. Whenever there was a problem on the business side, the management team looked for solutions that were product driven. For example, when PayPal was loosing millions of dollars per month on free transactions, instead of forcing users into paying accounts, risking user loyalty, they designed new features to funnel users into paying accounts.
The most important aspect of the book, not to mention PayPal’s success, was its open, entrepreneurial culture. This meant that anyone in the organization could bring ideas to the table and have them taken seriously. If they were good ideas, they would be implemented. It did not matter if the idea came from a recent hire or the CEO. By empowering everyone in the company to think about all issues, it forced everyone to always be thinking about the big picture and way to improve the company.
Its also amazing how many of the people who worked on PayPal started new, incredibly successful companies. The PayPal Mafia has founded YouTube, Yelp, LinkedIN, Slide, WorldNetDaily, Digg and others and has funded Facebook.
There are some great stories of obstacles that the PayPal team had to overcome, along with power struggles and disagreements. This book is a must read.