Eric ran the marketing team at PayPal, where he oversaw the campaign to monetize the online payment service and spearheaded product marketing efforts from 1999-2003. In 2004 he founded World Ahead, a media venture, which he grew to national prominence and profitability before being acquired.
His book "The PayPal Wars" won the Writers Notes Book Award and was hailed by Tom Peters as "the best description of business strategy unfolding in a world changing at warp speed." He holds a degree from Stanford University and has appeared on Bloomberg, CNN, Fox News and many other television programs.
To listen to the interview, click on this MP3 file link
The full interview: click here.
You hear so much about crowd funding, crowd sourcing, and new ways of using online platforms to get investment. Here are extracts from the full interview that speak to this very hot trend and great insights from a world leading entrepreneur.
Can you profile your prior top roles and useful lessons from those roles?
"….The lessons of speed, flexibility, being responsive to data and to try to see the world as it is, not as you hope it would be were lessons that followed me from PayPal through World Ahead, up to my venture today, Caplinked….That has been useful and has really been applicable across the course of my career…."
What are your views for crowdfunding?
"….I think the Jobs Act is a good step in the right direction for US policy. The Jobs Act did multiple things, for one thing it made crowdfunding legal….The other thing the Jobs Act did was to allow for general solicitation (public advertising) of investment opportunities that weren't related to crowdfunding….As far as crowdfunding I think there is a lot of potential there, but I think we will just have to wait and see. I tend to be cautious with this but I think it's going to be interesting because we've just had regulatory rules released….There are a number of websites that are building crowdfunding tools so when all these things will come to market, we're going have to see what the reaction is and what types of companies will seek them out…."
From your long term perspective, do you believe crowdfunding will supplement traditional funding approaches or be totally disruptive and significantly replace traditional funding approaches?
"….Crowdfunding might provide an alternative financing route that goes along side more traditional growth financing, so I think that would be my outlook. I don't know that it is necessarily so disruptive that old forms of financing go away, but I think it could supplement them well. I'm also curious to see if crowdfunding ever becomes a tool that could be helpful for other types of businesses that are not necessarily high growth. Here in the US we have the constant problem of funding small to medium sized businesses that might otherwise be good companies but are not high-growth (like a technology startup for example). Traditionally those have been financed by some form of bank loans so if there are alternative financing vehicles that come out of crowdfunding over the years to come, that will certainly be interesting to see if that opens up for small to medium sized business growth…."
For Caplinked, how does fundraising and social networking interlink and to what degree?
"….Fundraising is an activity which is often done on Caplinked. Not so frequently for startups and early stage companies, but more frequently for companies who are looking to stand or to grow, and sometimes actually for private equity funds as well….As far as social networking and that ability to broadcast publically fundraising or transaction activities, that's not something that's really integrated with Caplinked because we find our customers want privacy and they are typically at a point where they've found people who they want to do business with, so what they want is the ability for prospective buyers or investors to come and review materials, ask questions, communicate back and forth, include due diligence process and safely share that data or track where it goes. To that extent, privacy and security are top concerns and the networking per se that's going on at Caplinked is not so much public, it is really private exchanging of information…."
Can you comment on the 'PayPal mafia'?
"….It's such a remarkable collection of talent that we've seen come out of PayPal and I think that's the reason it's been given this 'PayPal mafia' term, because people from PayPal that are alumni tend to know each other, trust each other, give each other advice, sometimes make investments in each other's company, so that's how the term got coined….It has certainly been an honour to have that support and also to have their ongoing advice in terms of what we do…."
You are a noted writer/author. How do you believe your skills as an author contribute to your success as an entrepreneur and leader?
"….I would actually turn it around a little bit and I think that my experience as an entrepreneur and a leader and somebody who was fortunate enough to be part of that PayPal team are what helped me as an author….I think that first-hand account, that very deliberate attempt to pull the reader back into that point in time, right in the middle of what was going on in PayPal I think has helped make that a useful story for entrepreneurs and leaders today that really want to understand what it's like to start a business, what it's like to start a technology company and the challenges that you face along the way creating a company like that…."
Do you see another book in the future, in maybe three or five year's time?
"….I'd love to write a book again in the future, what that will be about I have no idea and when that will happen I have no idea….I will say this, if you are going to write a book, you need to make sure you really care about it and are passionate about it…."
You are in media and sometimes you make comments about the political environment. Is that something you want to make further comment on?
"….I would say this. I hope that the United States gets its fiscal health in order sometime soon because I think for the long run, stability and health of the entire planet is a very important thing….In addition to getting the deficit spending down, really keep an eye on taxes and regulation because at the extreme you stifle innovation, and if you're not careful it's always easy to spend another dollar that you don't have, and you don't necessarily feel the effects of that immediately, then it gives you the temptation to keep spending…."
What is the value of big data in financial services, the marketplace that you're in and how it can be used?
"….First I think it relates to the knowledge that has to be shared when due diligence is being performed and that is the tricky part. If there's more and more data available there's going to be increasing demands to share that data during due diligence, and being prepared to share that data and having a secure mechanism is going to become quite important….Another aspect, particularly regarding financial services and transactions that relate to big data, is having analytics to understand what's going on inside of a deal….Having embedded analytics into an application like Caplinked that helps you monitor and manage that is quite critical. It's going to play an increasingly important role in the process of due diligence and closing financial transactions…."
What are the implications if in the West we don't wake up to the fact that innovation, education, risk taking and sponsoring entrepreneurship are key, vital areas to stay ahead of the game? Do you have any comments on that?
"….I think that (broadly speaking) in the US we need to return to more of a risk taking and self-reliance posture in the way we think about these things….That has to be done at a policy level and hopefully can be supplemented by some societal changes as well; that encourages nuclear families, that encourages savings and helps people to think about preparing for the future as opposed to thinking that somehow the government or some other entity is going to be what takes care of them…."
From his extensive speaking, travels, and work, Eric shares some stories (perhaps amusing, surprising, unexpected or amazing).
"….So I put my own desk together and it really was a great way to start that journey of entrepreneurship because it gives you the sense of humility, practicality, and the ability to address whatever the situation is in front of you; not to think that somehow you are above whatever that problem is and that you shouldn't have to be dealing with it. That was a great baptism by fire…."
If you were conducting this interview, what question would you ask, and then what would be your answer?
"….In this day and age, what does it take to start a successful company?…."