PayPal’s New Leader: How He Handled a Crisis at His Startup

Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

David Marcus is taking over PayPal, a business that accounted for more than 40 percent of EBay’s sales last year.

Here’s one way to restore “startup energy” to a 13-year-old business: Put an entrepreneur who has been there less than a year in charge.

EBay Chief Executive John Donahoe will relinquish his role as the interim president of PayPal to David Marcus on April 2. Marcus founded mobile payments company Zong, which EBay bought for $240 million in August.

So, what type of “startup energy” does Marcus bring?

Dana Stalder, a venture capitalist at Matrix Partners and former PayPal executive, recounted one day when Marcus received an unwelcome phone call: One of the “world’s largest telecom companies” said it was cutting off its relationship with Zong — effective the next day.

At Zong, Marcus developed technology that allowed consumers to pay for purchases from their mobile phones or computers by entering a mobile-phone number. The company depended on relationships with mobile carriers and telecommunications companies to make the product work.

“That would have killed the company,” Stalder said. “It was one of those things where you have 24 hours’ notice that basically someone is going to destroy your business.”

Marcus called executives he knew at the telecom company, got attorneys involved and enlisted his engineering team to address any issues, Stalder said.

“He resolved this and got the team rallied around it in literally a 12-hour period,” Stalder said. “That’s classic David.”

Marcus, who is currently the company’s vice president of mobile, is credited with the rollout of the PayPal Here card reader, which lets small merchants  — from cab drivers to food truck owners — accept payments anywhere.

Stalder, who helped Marcus sell Zong to EBay, said that demonstrates Marcus’s ability to motivate people and get things done.

“David really picked up what was a concept inside of PayPal and turned it into a product and got that thing to market in about six months,” he said. “I don’t  think PayPal has gone from concept to market with any product in the  past 10 years.”

Marcus, 38, is taking over a business that accounted for more than 40 percent of EBay’s sales last year and had $33.4 billion in total payment volume in the fourth quarter. That’s far from what most would describe as a fledgling company.

The question now is whether the founder of a startup who has been working at EBay for less than a year has what it takes to be PayPal’s next president.

What do you think about this article? Comment below!