eBay, Inc. CEO, John Donahoe paid a visit to The University of Texas of Austin last Thursday as an installment of the VIP lecture series, co-hosted by the Department of Computer Science and the McCombs School of Business. eBay is a company that has experienced a significant turnaround under Donahoe’s leadership. Its fast-growing Austin office now numbers 600 employees, most of whom are in the company’s PayPal division.
Speaking to a 400 person audience, Donahoe and his interviewer, Associate Dean David Platt, explored a range of topics, including the future of mobile payment and the challenges of running a technology company as a non-technologist. Ken Hicks, the CEO of Foot Locker, Inc. and previous VIP guest speaker, submitted a video question for Donahoe inquiring how traditional brick and mortar sellers should address the growing influence of online retailers.
Prior to the lecture, Donahoe connected with students and faculty in the Bill & Melinda Gates Computer Science Complex and Dell Computer Science Hall (GDC) in a series of roundtables in which participants asked Donahoe about his career and and research areas of mutual interest to eBay, Inc. and the Department of Computer Science. Visual search emerged as a common thread among the various discussions. Multiple people, including Assistant Professor Kristen Grauman, who specializes in the field of computer vision, noted that the future of online shopping likely includes the option of taking a snap shot of a favorite dress or a pair of sneakers with your phone and using the photo to search retailer inventories for a more precise product match than word-based searches can currently produce.
As a parting gift, McCombs student Charles Adkins presented Mr. Donahoe with a traditional University of Texas branded Stetson cowboy hat.