American Express Swipes Neal Sample From eBay for Digital Payments Push

American Express has lured Neal Sample away from eBay to become SVP of technologies for its digital payments initiative.

Called Serve, it is competing head-on with eBay’s own PayPal, as American Express attempts to expand its audience beyond briefcase-toting corporate users.

At eBay, Sample was the CTO of X.commerce, the open commerce platform the company unveiled late last year that gives technology tools to retailers at no cost. Prior to eBay, Sample was a senior executive at Yahoo, where he led the open, social and participation platforms. He left Yahoo in August 2010.

Sample’s technical expertise is focused on developing and building platforms and products for emerging technologies.

Serve is a complex platform that allows consumers to make purchases, take cash withdrawals from ATMs and make person-to-person payments from their computer or their phone.

The offering is fairly complex because it can be funded by a user’s bank account or credit or debit card — even from one of the company’s major competitors, like Visa or MasterCard.

In the future, American Express envisions expanding the platform to mobile phones, using near field communication or other technology.

Given eBay and PayPal’s extensive knowledge in the digital payments arena, many of its executives have left the company to explore the endless number of opportunities sprouting up.

Recently, Alyssa Cutright, a 12-year veteran of PayPal, left to join Square, a payments company in San Francisco; and of course, PayPal President Scott Thompson left at the end of last year to join Yahoo as CEO. Last week, eBay named David Marcus as his replacement.

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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work