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39 of 43 people found the following review helpful
Way in the last century, I made my first Internet purchase, from Amazon, and it was so remarkably strange and new that I actually wrote a letter to friends about my experience. Such purchases now are of course nothing to write home about, and the process of paying on the Internet has become itself a big business. In _The PayPal Wars: Battles with eBay, the Media, the Mafia, and the Rest of Planet Earth_ (World Ahead Publishing), Eric M. Jackson gives an insider's view of an important part of the growth into the new world of Internet trade. As the subtitle indicates, there are plenty of battles detailed here, lots of skirmishes with tactics and attempts to guess what the next move of the opponent will be. The opponent throughout the book was the auction site eBay, but a look at the back of the book's jacket will tell you how the battles turned out: "_The PayPal Wars_ is not sponsored or endorsed in any manner by eBay, Inc., or its subsidiary PayPal, Inc." It would seem as if eBay won, but actually, PayPal had made itself so indispensable that the young company was incorporated into the larger one in 2002, acquired for a cool billion and a half dollars. It turns out that how PayPal won is a fine story, exciting in parts, and not just for those interested in the modern business world.

Jackson begins his story with his recruitment to the startup in 1999. He had been an analyst for one of the best-reputed firms in the world, Arthur Andersen, and was invited to abandon his staid but reliable job to come to the fledgling PayPal. He could not find his boss, he had to borrow someone else's computer, and he had no desk. "At least Andersen gave its new hires a place to sit," he grumbled. Eventually he was given his own place in the ping-pong room, and was given his job in marketing the firm. It was his hunch to use PayPal on internet auctions, and it was a great fit. Sellers included mention of PayPal on their sale pages, put the PayPal logo alongside the pictures of the items for sale, and put clickable hyperlinks that would enable a buyer to go to PayPal to set up an initial account. The main competition came eventually from eBay itself, which started up a similar service of its own, called Billpoint. Much of the story in Jackson's account, and much of the excitement, comes from the battle between Billpoint and PayPal. One would think that eBay would have had a huge advantage in being the auction house that ran its own payment service, and eBay certainly tried to push Billpoint upon its captive audience, making rules about how small the PayPal logo had to be, or arranging that a buyer automatically was diverted to Billpoint rather than PayPal. One time after another, the decentralized and nimble crew at PayPal found ways to change things and win one battle after another.

The war with eBay over, and PayPal part of eBay, PayPal executives started leaving the firm they had brought to success. Part of the reason is that the culture at eBay was different. Managers were older, they tended to value MBAs, and they had one meeting after another. Jackson remarks that the meetings were particularly hard to get used to; the eager PayPal executives enjoyed authority and flexibility, and were able to try new things without the need of getting bureaucratic approval. They had quick responses to whatever eBay threw at them. Jackson himself left, acknowledging that the firm he was leaving was something more like Arthur Andersen than the PayPal he had helped start. Being an entrepreneur was more fun than guiding an already-formed company. And, as this book makes clear, there was a good deal of sheer enjoyment in the hard work, but especially in the thrill of battling with giants.
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27 of 32 people found the following review helpful
on January 15, 2005
This inspiring story of a scrappy startup and its crack team is a must-read for entrepreneurs, business owners, and even PayPal's upper management of today. Even as PayPal grew into a sizable company post-IPO, its irreverent and open culture kept innovation alive and overhead at a minimum, allowing its product development group to get features onto the site with as little notice as a couple weeks. In the two years since the acqusition, eBay's corporate heavy-handedness has systematically ground down the innovative and spirited drive that kept PayPal one step of eBay through the war described in this book. Product lifecycles are lengthening, defect rates grow as technology management short-sightedly cuts QA schedules (see their recent site outages), and strategy is micromanaged by uninformed executives instead of being delegated to those who know the marketplace and the technology. The empowerment of their staff by Peter Thiel, David Sacks, and Max Levchin touted so often in this book is completely gone. If the current trend continues, the eBay community can expect the same oblivious, clumsy decisions made by eBay during the PayPal wars (SYI, Checkout) to be made by the "new" PayPal, instead of real product innovations to help real people.

Make no mistake - while PayPal and eBay's services are highly complementary, their cultures are very different. This book shows how a vibrant, innovative, and merit-based culture emerged in PayPal through a trial by fire. In contrast, eBay's market success was assured nearly from the beginning, making its executive staff lazy and complacent. An inevitable network effect made eBay's expansion so easy that its management could rely on hamfisted corporate tactics to beat competitors - buying out Half.com, raising prices in response to Yahoo Auction's entrance into the arena - and developed a plodding, centrally-controlled product development process that made it utterly unable to compete with PayPal. It's no surprise that PayPal's empowered team of intense, talented individuals beat them off time and time again.

PayPal was once envisioned as great global currency liberator, but having been taking over by eBay, it is being shoehorned into just another mediocre business unit used to serve the auction giant's needs.
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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on February 22, 2010
In an article on the [...] blog by Nick Denton called "An alternate history according to Elon Musk" Elon is quoted as saying the following about this book:

"The only negativity in recent years was due to a book called The PayPal Wars, written by a sycophantic jackass called Eric Jackson. This guy was one notch above an intern at PayPal in the first few years of the company, but gives the impression he was a key player and privy to all the high level discussions. Eric couldn't find a real publisher, so Peter funded Eric to self-publish the book. Since Eric worships Peter, the outcome was obvious - Peter sounds like Mel Gibson in Braveheart and my role is somewhere between negligible and a bad seed. However, to his credit, Peter didn't realize the book would be as bad as it was and apologized to me personally at a Room 9 board meeting at David Sacks's home in LA."

See this link for the full article:
[...]
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on November 10, 2004
Paypal Wars follows the story of its author, Eric Jackson, from his early beginnings toiling away at doomed consultant at Arthur Anderson until he eventually was asked to join a burgeoning startup called Confinity, Paypal's precusor. The book details Confinity's early obsession with electronic money transfer through handheld Palm Pilots. Eventually, looking for ways to diversify their user base, they stumbled upon the cyber-auction haven of Ebay, what better place to showcase their electronic money transfer plans that on a site with millions of users looking for an easy way to send and recieve money? Ebay had other ideas, the book details Ebay's monopolistic tendencies as they did everything within their power to reduce Paypal's influence on their website. In time forces both legal and illegal unwittingly conspired to damage Paypal enough to force Paypal executives to concede the war against Ebay and eventually sell their industry leading company to the auction giant or face a slow monetary bleed until their inevitable demise. Jackson has crafted a story of corporate intrigue and backroom dealings that offers a valuable insight into the mindset and pitfalls that come with starting a business.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on November 19, 2004
This book revives the Internet era pandemonium of which everybody wanted a piece, and the book fondly brought me back to those exciting times. An easy and interesting read providing an insider perspective of the real trials and tribulations of a company that went from start-up to mammoth. For a person like myself who only observed the Internet boom and did not actively participate, PayPal Wars was intriguing from start to finish. I would recommend it to any reader.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on November 9, 2004
The Paypal Wars is a great behind the scenes look at Paypal, an internet money transfer site. Eric Jackson gives an exciting account of all the trials and tribulations that the young company had to go through to get to its $1.5 billion payday. Jackson's detailed description of Paypal's constantly changing services and marketing really give the reader a sense of the crazy day to day highs and lows of working for a top-pedigree internet valley startup. Jackson also describes the sparing, strategic positioning and out right confrontations that dominated the highest levels as Paypal's colorfully brilliant entrepreneurs often had differing views on where to take the company.

The Paypal Wars reads much more like a suspenseful thriller than a typical business book. I would recommend The PayPal Wars to anyone who is interested in learning about what actually took place during the internet boom. This book is very exciting and reads quickly. Jackson accomplishes his objective of telling the PayPal story from start to finish in an action-packed, personality-driven style. I get this book 5 stars.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
The ultimate Silicon Valley insider's look at a fascinating time in business, mostly between the end of the 'dot-com boom' and the advent of the New War. Should be must-reading at business school entrepreneurship classes and for startup executives. Slickly gripping the reader through plans for world domination and revolutionizing banking and financial institutions, "The PayPal Wars" is a captivating and entertaining read.

-Ken Berger, LogX Technologies (Venture Consultant)
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on July 31, 2005
Wow! I didn't realize PayPal had such a history! What an inspirational story! It's encouraging to see that the new guy on the block can succeed, even against all the "giants" of the land.

I found reading this book a bit like watching a comedy/intense sporting event. Jackson replays the events with such detail and a touch of humor...made it a fun read for me.

I couldn't believe all the attacks on PayPal. It seemed from the very beginning that the company was destined for failure. Really shows the POWER of an idea when a great team will keep the faith and stand behind their vision. So interesting to see how a couple of young guys came up with an idea and with the help of some college drop outs, quickly turned it into a 1.5 Billion dollar reality-Amazing!
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on November 22, 2004
Having read many newspaper and financial press accounts over the past several years about PayPal's challenges in the business world, I knew there had to be some interesting "inside stories". I was curious enough to buy a copy of The Pay Pal Wars, fully expecting the book to read like a case study. Boy, was I wrong. I felt like I was reading an Indiana Jones novel! There was adventure, excitement, intrigue, fast cars (thanks for properly referring to the Jag as an E-type!), and romance. Every time a problem was solved, or an enemy neutralized, you could sense an even greater challenge at the next turn. Great writing style!!!

Does it get any better than that? It does, because of the content. While being entertained, you are hearing, from an inside source, the story of very successful dot-com company, from inception, to an established profitable company. One could not imagine the scope of challenges that this organization faced. That's an exceptional story in itself. Definitely a Five Star endeavor.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
The Paypal Wars is one of the most enjoyable books I've read recently. It provides a first person narrative of how Paypal met multiple challenges on it's way to profitability and success. Eric writes about joining the firm in 1999 after being recruited away from Arthur Andersen. He discusses many of the challenges the young firm encountered. These included competing firms, banks, regulators and even eBay--its biggest source of transactions.

For those who have never used the service, Paypal is a money transfer service for individuals. It makes it possible to send money to anyone with an e-mail address. The transfers are funded from bank accounts or from a backup credit card. This service became wildly successful as a means for settling transactions in eBay auctions. It also was used as a way to send money across the country and to pay for transactions in shopping carts.

Anyone interested in the inner workings of a dot-com company will be fascinated by this book. The title is a little misleading in that there is very little information on how or when Paypal beat back the mafia or any organized crime group. However, the book does include great narrative of the dedication of Paypal's employees and of the success that they were able to achieve against a constant set of obstacles.

The book ends with the Paypal IPO and subsequent buyout by eBay. Every chapter of the book is fascinating and you can almost feel the stress that the author felt while an employee at Paypal. Unfortunately for the people who grew Paypal from an idea to a successful venture, eBay stifled the innovation and the empowerment that employees felt prior to the acquisition. All the top executives left soon after the acquisition and even the author of the book left after a short period of time in the new organization.

I recommend this book highly. Mr. Jackson has even won a few awards for this book.
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