eBay's New York office is small but influential

eBay has come a long way since it started as an auction site in San Jose, California, in 1995. One of the first things it sold back then was a broken laser pointer for $14.83.

Over the last few years, eBay has invested in building the largest catalog in the world, New York office general manager Beckwith Kloss said.

eBay now has more than 1.1 billion things for sale on the marketplace. Almost 90 percent of the merchandise on eBay is "buy it now," meaning you don't have to go through the auction process, and 80 percent of the merchandise is new, Beck said.

eBay is now a multibillion-dollar publicly traded company. It has spent the last 6 years building an office in New York. Most of the people in the Manhattan office work in product technology and specifically on things like machine learning, artificial intelligence, and personalization, Beck said.

This summer eBay announced new image search technology that the New York office brought to life. The technology lets you upload photos of products to the eBay mobile app and then helps you find that product or something similar. Nice work for a small team of 130 people that represents only about 1 percent of eBay employees around the world.

Beck says the office gets to work on products for 171 million buyers in 190 countries, but the office still has a startup feel because of its small size. Adding to that startup feel is the Friends of eBay program, an incubator helping to nurture New York's tech community.

Over the last few years, eBay has brought in batches of six to 10 early-stage startups, given them the basics (free office space and Wi-Fi), and worked to create a community not only across the companies and eBay but also within each batch.

Siqi Mou's brand HelloAva is part of the current batch of startups that moved into eBay's offices about two months ago. Siqi described her brand as an artificial intelligence-powered skincare consultant designed to help people better understand their skin and find the best skincare products. She said joining Friends of eBay was a no-brainer because her brand was looking for help with logistics, resources, and product offering. She called eBay the expert and leader in all of those areas.

For every startup in the program, this is a chance to grow from early stage to more established. Beck said the results speak for themselves: the last Friends of eBay class raised $22 million in funding.

This class will have the same opportunity at the end of the 6-month incubator when they present their brands and their visions to some of the top venture capital firms in the country.