Earlier this week eBay announced that it had parted ways with Jack Abraham, the founder of Milo (which eBay acquired two years ago) and a centerpiece of the web giant’s blistering push into the local space. Abraham’s departure leaves a vacancy at one of the more important positions in the hyperlocal ecosystem and presents questions about the evolving structure of eBay’s off-line commerce efforts.
Abraham joined eBay after the acquisition of his company Milo in 2010, and for the past two years he served as the director of eBay local, a division of eBay Marketplaces that houses the inventory management technology. Milo powers a handful of other local initiatives including eBay Now, the company’s same-day delivery pilot, the BOPIS (buy online, pickup in store) feature on RedLaser, as well as other integrations on eBay Mobile and eBay.com. Much of the core team from Milo migrated to eBay with Abraham, taking roles under him in the local division.
Local, however, is a means to end for eBay and its CEO John Donahoe. At the core of eBay’s ambitions is the development of a single, “omni-channel” marketplace (run by eBay) in which commerce flows seamlessly between the off-line and online marketplaces. Over the past few years, the company has developed an off-line counterpart (through merger and acquisition) for each aspect of the digital commerce experience: Milo for inventory search, Red Laser for product lookup and discovery, Zong for connected payments, and Where for lead generation. And the hinge bringing the two worlds together and generating revenue for eBay is PayPal.
In a sign of what’s to come, the company rebranded Where as PayPal Media Network last year, bringing the mobile ad network under its payments division and beginning a fusion process that likely will continue in 2013. Walt Doyle, who was CEO of Where at the time of its acquisition and now serves as general manager of PayPal Media Network, spoke about the integration as well as eBay’s larger strategy during a keynote at Street Fight Summit earlier this month.
The question for eBay is whether the local division once run by Abraham will remain intact under a new leader or will be folded into the PayPal batter, so to speak. As PayPal’s off-line product starts to scale beyond the 20-plus partnerships the company has in place with retailers like Home Depot and Best Buy, the contextual value provided by Milo, Red Laser, and Where will be a critical point of differentiation, and bringing the services under one roof could help simplify operations.
UPDATE: A spokesperson from eBay Local tells Street Fight that the company has no plans to either move eBay Local into another division (e.g. PayPal), or, at this time, replace Abraham as head of Local. The eBay Local team will report directly to Abraham’s former boss Dane Glasgow, VP of global product management at eBay Marketplaces.
The spokesperson also provided the following comment from Abraham: “March 15 will be my last day as Director of Local at eBay. Next up for me is a new entrepreneurial endeavor with a focus outside of commerce. eBay’s commitment to local is greater than ever and the eBay Local team is poised for success. This year will bring even more innovation, as well as exciting integration projects with eBay’s mobile and desktop properties. While I will no longer be involved in day-to-day decisions with the team, I am excited to continue my relationship with eBay through an advisory role.”
Steven Jacobs is deputy editor at Street Fight.