Shopping.com’s stated mission is ‘to help shoppers everywhere use the power of information to find, compare and buy anything.’It all began in 1997 in the industrial area of the Israeli coastal city of Netanya – when a start-up company called Dealtime opened up shop above a restaurant wafting fumes of fried chicken.
Nahum Sharfman, 57, and Amir Ashkenazi 34, who met each other working together at high tech company Commtouch, wanted to develop Ashkenazi’s idea for making Internet shopping – which was still in its infancy – easier and more efficient.
Less than a decade later, millions of Americans have their site Shopping.com bookmarked on their computers – so much so that the company that grew into Shopping.com was sold last week to the Internet giant eBay for $620m.
“This represents a great effort for an exceptional management team and a wonderful triumph and testament to the Israeli internet industry,” said Michael Eisenberg, a general partner in Israel Seed Partners, the venture capital firm which was one of the first to invest in the company.
“These are managers who really persevered – who zigged when the industry zagged and just developed a great company,” he told ISRAEL21c.
Ashkenazi’s idea was simple: create a search engine that could quickly sift through the numerous sites on the Internet. A comparison shopping capability would allow the on-line customer to quickly and easily compare the prices, and find the product that they wanted to buy at the best available price. The company’s stated mission is ‘to help shoppers everywhere use the power of information to find, compare and buy anything.’
Early in the company’s development, an American CEO, Dan Ciporen was brought in, recruited from his position as a vice president of Mastercard. Under his leadership, the company outlasted and outmaneuvered the dozens other companies with similar aspirations and endured through the bursting of the high tech bubble in 2000. Although it lost tens of millions of dollars and was forced to fire nearly half of its employees and came close became another dot.com casualty, it survived.
Investors credit Dealtime’s success to the skillful management by Ciporen paired with the company’s cutting-edge Israeli technology.
“If there was ever any doubt that Israel is on the internet map in a big way, this should erase it. This is part of a long string of successes for Israeli technology – from Mirabilis and ICQ to GuruNet and now Shopping.com, and there are many more that we will be hearing news from in the near future,” said, Jonathan Medved, Eisenberg’s associate at Israel Seed Partners.
A strategic merger strengthened the company in 2003, when Dealtime joined forces with Epinions, a site devoted to consumer opinions of various products. The new entity, Shopping.com, became an important matchmaking spot on the internet for consumers, who wanted to find bargains on quality merchandise, and retailers, who wanted the customers to be pointed their way.
Today, with approximately 50 million unique visitors a month, according to comScore Media Metrix, it is the third largest shopping destination on the web.
The company’s comeback was cemented when In October, 2004, on its first day of trading on the Nasdaq stock exchange, Shopping.com’s share price leaped more than 50 percent, reflecting a company value of $750 million, making it the largest Israeli internet company in Wall Street in history.
Ciporen told the Israeli press that the company was first approached by eBay in the winter when he received a call from the company’s chairperson Meg Whitman, who said she was interested in acquiring Shopping.com.
It wasn’t hard to figure out why it would be interested. eBay a $53 billion company, operates the world’s largest online auctions web site, and it made sense for it to try to acquire a site where customers review products and the best prices can be found.
“We thought we weren’t for sale, but eBay contacted us about four months ago,” Ciporin told Ha’aretz. “We still insisted we weren’t for sale, but agreed to meet with them to hear them out. Then the offer arrived, and we understood we couldn’t refuse.”
“eBay liked us because of the growth opportunities ahead of us,” he added. “They are looking for ways to grow, and saw Shopping.com as a strategic acquisition.”
Under the terms of the deal, Shopping.com will remain an independent unit under the eBay umbrella.
“The acquisition of Shopping.com will allow us to provide even more opportunities for our sellers,” said Bill Cobb, president, eBay North America, in a statement released by the company when the deal was announced.
“Shopping.com’s comparison technology simplifies the online shopping experience and the Epinions’ community of reviewers is a great match with our own. Together with the outstanding management team at Shopping.com, I believe we can accomplish some amazing things on behalf of our buyers and sellers.”
“eBay will provide our shoppers greater convenience and comprehensiveness and will help our merchants increase sales,” said Lorrie Norrington, president and CEO of Shopping.com. “This partnership will allow Shopping.com to accelerate our vision to dramatically improve the way people shop and sell online.”
The statement issued by eBay announcing the acquisition predicted that the “combination of Shopping.com and eBay will create a premier online shopping experience for individuals and businesses of all sizes. The acquisition will give eBay’s many sellers a new sales channel and access to a new set of buyers. Shopping.com will especially appeal to eBay sellers who are having success with in-season products.”
Any way you look it, that’s good news for American shoppers.