On July 19th, 2012, the incubator teams and employees of Teens in Tech got an all access pass to eBay & PayPal’s joint facilities for a tour, some great food, a glimpse into the future of the company, insightful mentoring sessions, and a gift bag that would make even Bill Gates jealous.
Impressions of the Campus
Simply put, eBay knows how to architect a beautiful, environmentally friendly, and functional campus. Not to mention the fact that eBay certainly didn’t skimp on the enormity of it’s logo outside of the front. As Teens in Tech headed into the main reception area to meet up with Gail Turajlich who guided us through the day, I felt a sense of greatness as we headed up to the large glass doors. The building is expertly designed both materially and structurally with high ceilings, natural light pouring in from all angles, hyper-clean tile flooring, a modernly furnished waiting area, and rich wood accents on the walls.
This place was made for people to come and do big things. Personally, I was sold on the coveted LEED Gold rating that almost all of eBays’ buildings have. This rating indicates a high level of energy efficiency and environmental-specific building designs. Before reaching the spacious elevators to head to our reserved conference room, we walked past a Starbucks. There was also a comfortable looking sitting area for employees, and enough cafeterias and seating to accommodate the entire Persian Army depicted in 300.
So you want to Monetize?
In our opening mentor session, entitled “Monetize your ideas with PayPal,” PayPalX developer Praveen Alavilli led the discussion on how to do just that. Praveen gave us a basic rundown of all the ways that PayPal can work for our incubator teams here at Teens in Tech Labs. These options ranged from using subscription payments at a fixed/variable cost for reducing the friction in payments, to the various types of single payments that can then be split up behind the scenes. Praveen also discussed the mostly free API-filled wonders within X.com, which allows for flexibility in collecting payments, executing account management, and receiving relevant reports & information. This enables companies to get quick and effective integrative solutions in online payments and business outreach so that they can focus on other business goals.
The War Room
After bidding Praveen farewell, we joined up with Cissy Abraham who keeps eBay running as the Director of Site Engineering. We were prohibited from taking any photos during this segment of our day due to all the sensitive metrics and data analysis on each of the eight engineer’s many computer screens, not to mention an entire wall that was covered in even more data from ceiling projectors.
Cissy gave us a rundown of how this one room had the capability to interpret all of eBay’s data to detect any budding problems in the system, and to be able to prevent them before they even happened. Only one screen had anything besides data on it, and it showed a newscast so that eBay could prepare for anything unplanned such as a natural disaster.
Everyone was incredibly impressed by what transpires in this room, and I was no exception in that as the responsibility that rests on the shoulders of these engineers is astounding.
Cool Devices from PayPal
Once our tasty lunches were consumed outside at our reserved tables, Teens in Tech met up with Peter Chu and GakWee Low who told us about some exciting new ways of bringing PayPal offline. This two man team looks at the current trends and media technologies from their “laboratory,” which happens to be decked out with every genre of modern gaming and home media station in order to predict where these types of products are heading, and where PayPal will fit into it all.
Peter explained how their lab is meant to feel like home so actual users can play the hottest games like Call of Duty, and watch timeless cat videos so that predictions can be made, and new uses of PayPal can be imagined. GakWee talked about how he envisions PayPal being implemented seamlessly in various home media situations and time will tell if his predictions actually come true. I can’t reveal the specifics of his ideas, but I can say that they would rock your world.
Despite the picture I included for this segment showing me adding a note into my phone (for business!), I really liked the futuristic demonstration because it shows how potential final products and services begin in their infancy as nothing more than creative ideas and educated guesses.
Before heading back to the conference room for our last mentor session of the day, we got to do some “shopping” with Josh Schoonmaker. However, it was shopping in a new sense that we do not yet associate with the current term. We started off going through a door that looked like any other at the eBay/PayPal campus, except that it led us into a family room and dining room set up. Josh used this environment to impress upon us that PayPal will soon be able to help people search for the nearest- located products that they are looking for while also giving multiple payment plans, and options for accessing any of the user’s accounts for paying.
We could not photograph any of the screens in the room, but Josh used them to display the ease with which these purchases can be made on a cell phone or tablet. After our introduction in the living room, Josh took us into the Shopping Showcase, which is a slew of staged stores that helped us visualize all the great new capabilities on PayPal’s horizon.
We were led to a hardware store, a coffee shop, and a clothing store, which were used in different examples to depict how the new features can be applied to various shopping scenarios. As each new feature was revealed, I kept asking myself if it is something that I could see myself using, and the answer was “yes” each time. PayPal is helping to form the future of shopping more efficiently, intelligently, and painlessly.
Bringing it All Together and Making it Stick
Teens in Tech’s day at the eBay/PayPal campus came to its thrilling conclusion with help from Shahid Khan, who led a very useful workshop on “How to make your ideas stick.” One of his main points included relying on preparation instead of Powerpoint presentations to hold the attention of one’s audience. Other main points included appealing to the irrational and emotional sides of one’s audience to make them more interested in the product, and matching one’s idea to something that the audience is already familiar with to give them a baseline and comparison for what great things to expect.
If a Powerpoint does get used at all, it needs to have a background color other than white because it assaults the eyes, and the visual should only have pictures and/or a few words to keep the audience interested. Shahid also highly recommended doing something unexpected to grab the audience’s attention that can then be related back to the point one is trying to make about their product. When it came to thinking creatively, Shahid stressed the fact that humans are habit forming creatures so we must break those ingrained patterns to produce new ideas in addition to getting new perspective by stepping away from a problem for a day in order to come up with possible solutions.
Despite the fact that some of these concepts might seem like common knowledge, time and time again the advice is ignored by those who need it most. Shahid gave the Teens in Tech incubator teams valuable advice, which I know they will take to heart as they continue to design, program, and pitch.
Amazing Lessons Learned
All in all, the incubator teams of Teens in Tech Labs had an unforgettable experience changing up their daily pattern by coming to eBay/PayPal. We saw the future of mobile and online payments, learned all of the options for integrating PayPal into apps and websites, and discovered better ways to pitch ideas. Now I cannot wait for my PayPal Here card reader to come!