Over the past 13 years, Lebanese entrepreneur Andre Haddad has honed his expertise in e-commerce. Now based in the San Francisco Bay Area, he began his career in the sector in 1999, when he founded iBazar, a French e-commerce marketplace that was acquired by eBay in 2001.
He then joined the eBay team, working as the Managing Director of Europe, VP of User Experience, and eventually Senior VP of Product, and serving as the CEO of price comparison site Shopping.com once it was acquired by eBay in 2008.
In 2011, he left eBay to co-found Relay Rides, the world's first car-sharing marketplace- think AirBnB meets ZipCar. In a Skype chat from his home in the Bay Area, Haddad reveals why he thinks the sharing economy stands to disrupt the $60 billion car rental industry worldwide.
Here are his 5 main tips for launching a successful e-commerce company:
- Become the market lead. In a year and a half,
iBazar became the market lead in 8 European countries, likely the
biggest factor that made it an attractive prospect for eBay, he
- Focus on attracting users. "In a marketplace
business, the most important factor is to build a very liquid
marketplace, where the majority of buying and sellers are going to
that marketplace," Haddad points out. "Even if you're walking down
the streets of Beirut, you don't want to go to a store."
- Create an excellent user experience. To lure
those customers to the store, build a great product experience, he
says. Making it easy to sign up, list items, add a photo, message,
exchange payments, and understand who is trustworthy are some of
the elements that helped set iBazar apart.
- Ensure good product-market fit. At the time,
eBay was only offering auction sales, but in Europe, says Haddad,
it made more sense to also offer a fixed price format to maximize
commerce on the site.
- Innovate with targeted ads. When eBay acquired Shopping.com, and Haddad came on board as the CEO, he managed to reinvigorate the decade-old business by creating targeted ads that mimicked product listings. Great targeting really boosts click-through rates and conversions, he explains.
Will we ever see him back in Lebanon? Yes, he says. "I've come to a stage in my career where I feel a stronger urge to stay connected and give back to the country and region that made me who I am."