CEO John Donahoe Says eBay Is Building the Uber for Delivery

EBay’s CEO John Donahoe said the e-commerce company believes it can provide same-day delivery at scale.


Asa Mathat /

“We are building the Uber for delivery people,” Donahoe said this morning at the Goldman Sachs Technology and Internet Conference, following an appearance by Apple’s Tim Cook. “We think we can do it at scale. No one single retailer can do it on their own, so we are building it for the retail industry and using our technology capabilities to build it.”

His opinions differ drastically from Amazon’s last public statements on the topic. In July, Amazon CFO Tom Szkutak said the company was building more distribution centers to be closer to customers and to speed up delivery times, “but in terms of same-day delivery, we don’t see a way to do same-day on a broad scale at the moment.”

Donahoe said he believes that there is plenty of unused inventory in today’s delivery systems to make it work. The goal is to be able to bid out each order to the nearest driver, similar to the way Uber taps into a network of town cars looking for their next fare.

So far, eBay is experimenting on a small scale with pilot programs in San Francisco and parts of New York City. The eBay Now app allows you to look for local inventory at several stores, including Macy’s and Walgreens. After an order is placed, the products are delivered within two to four hours (right now, Donahoe said, times are averaging one to two hours).

He said the system doesn’t work for any one retailer on their own, but that it could work by providing the service to a network of companies with many locations. Still, that isn’t stopping other mega merchants, like Walmart, from also experimenting with same-day delivery. The benefit to eBay or Walmart, in general, is that they are relying on inventory located in stores near central locations, unlike Amazon, which owns massive distribution centers often based on the outskirts of town.

Is delivery something that could eventually make money? Donahoe thinks so.

“We are trying to build it, and over time, if we are building value, then the retailers will pay for those leads,” he said.

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Another gadget you don’t really need. Will not work once you get it home. New model out in 4 weeks. Battery life is too short to be of any use.

— From the fact sheet for a fake product entitled Useless Plasticbox 1.2 (an actual empty plastic box) placed in L.A.-area Best Buy stores by an artist called Plastic Jesus