‘People are basically good,’ says philanthropist

The Observer

Born: Pierre Omidyar was born in 1967 in Paris to Iranian immigrants. He moved to Washington at the age of 6 and graduated from Tufts University with a bachelor’s degree in computer science in 1988.

Omidyar worked for Claris, an Apple subsidiary, before setting up an e-commerce company that would become eBay.

Best of times: In September 1998, eBay went public, making Omidyar a billionaire overnight. He is now worth close to $9 billion and spends most of his time in Hawaii with his wife and fellow philanthropist, Pamela.

Worst of times: Omidyar became involved in a legal spat with Craigslist founder, Craig Newmark, and its chief executive, Jim Buckmaster, after eBay bought a 25 percent stake in the free listings firm from a disgruntled employee.

He says: “People are basically good,” according to Omidyar.

“I developed an interest in supporting independent journalists in a way that leverages their work to the greatest extent possible, all in support of the public interest. And I want to find ways to convert mainstream readers into engaged citizens. I think there’s more that can be done in this space, and I’m eager to explore the possibilities,” he said.

They say: “When I worked in Honolulu, he was there most days helping the site’s developers write code — Python and Erlang, for those who are keeping track — occasionally chuckling at our newsroom banter, and always eating healthier than anyone else in the room,” said Adrienne LaFrance, former journalist at Omidyar’s Civil Beat.