Today, Pierre Omidyar is hailed as the architect of a new age of digital commerce, but the founder of eBay, the world's largest personal online trading community, became a web entrepreneur almost by accident.
In 1995, he created the prototype for an online auction site as an experiment on his personal web page. Almost overnight, visitors by the thousands flocked to the site to trade collectibles and other goods, each of them paying Omidyar a small fee for the privilege. Today, eBay hosts millions of auctions a day, from sites based all over the world. Omidyar's experiment became a publicly traded company and has made him a billionaire several times over.
Pierre Omidyar and his wife Pamela plan to give away all but one percent of their wealth within 20 years. They have already endowed Tufts University's College of Citizenship and Public Service, an initiative designed to "create a community of graduates who can combine successful careers with active participation in public service organizations for social and environmental causes, and politics," while other Omidyar Foundation initiatives are providing emergency communications technology to disaster areas throughout the world.