It’s steady-going at PayPal’s global operations center in La Vista after the company cut loose from eBay this summer.
More than three months into the company’s second life as a stand-alone company, PayPal is aiming to create its “own culture” after 13 years as part of the auction site, a company spokeswoman said.
A banner stretched atop the company’s south building off Interstate 80 that reads “PayPal is hiring!” tells only part of the story.
The top Omaha-based executive with Silicon Valley-based PayPal said the location remains ground zero when it comes to implementing new services the company is offering.
“We’ve expanded in the sense we continue to bring more products and solutions” to customers, said Linda Dugan, vice president of global operations for PayPal’s North America and merchant services divisions.
For example, if you’ve reached customer support for Macy’s department store’s weeks-old online payment option, chances are good you’ve spoken with a PayPal employee in the Omaha metro area.
PayPal’s One Touch payment, which allows shoppers to check out without having to type in usernames, passwords or billing information, launched in August of last year; it debuted at Macy’s last month.
PayPal last month also launched PayPal.me, a service that lets users send money back and forth using personalized URLs, or Web links. That also has been a focus for the La Vista operation’s quality assurance and support personnel.
The company in mid-September brought on a group of about 30 new hires and is looking for about 10 more, according to listings on its website.
But pronounced growth beyond its current local staffing levels sounds unlikely: “We expect to maintain that staff size” of about 2,800 local employees, Dugan told The World-Herald. PayPal employs about 17,000 people around the world.
The company’s stock started trading on the Nasdaq Stock Market in late July at more than $40 per share, pegging its market capitalization north of $50 billion. PayPal shares have since come back down to earth, trading in the last week at around $32 each.
Investors had agitated for eBay to carve out its PayPal operations; they said the payments company wasn’t given the necessary attention to grow as part of the larger — and slower-growing — online auction service.
As the company creates its own identity separate from eBay, it’s unclear exactly how that identity will translate to major operations in an Omaha suburb that’s about as far from either coast’s technology hubs as it can be.
The company declined to make its West Coast executives available for interviews.
In La Vista, the open floor plan, pinball machines and pingpong tables — all hallmarks of coastal technology companies — likely aren’t going anywhere soon, a spokeswoman said.
And PayPal already had a significant brand presence — with or without eBay. Already recognized as the leader in e-commerce payments, Wall Street analysts say the company is in a unique position.
Unlike competitors that include Apple Pay and Android Pay, PayPal is “device agnostic,” meaning it can be used on any mobile device or operating system instead of being tethered to a proprietary device.
That, said Sanjay Sakhrani, an analyst with Keefe, Bruyette & Woods, “has been a key component of PayPal’s strategy for success over the years.”
“PayPal is currently the only true digital wallet of scale and has the benefit of being the incumbent player in the space with a recognizable brand,” Sakhrani said.
Analysts at RBC Capital Markets last month wrote that a global commercial marketplace of about $25 trillion means there’s “room for several winners,” including PayPal, following a clean break from former parent eBay.
Across more than 243,000 square feet of office space situated on almost 29 acres of land just south of Interstate 80, a sun-bleached and barely visible eBay logo on the outdoor basketball court employees can use on their breaks is one of the only visible reminders of PayPal’s former life as a wholly owned eBay subsidiary.
The deed to the land on which it is situated, according to Sarpy County property records, is held by PayPal, in addition to about 7 acres of as-yet undeveloped property abutting it to the south.
Now one of the largest employers in the metro area, PayPal’s local operation traces its roots to a late-1999 edict from Silicon Valley billionaire Elon Musk, who asked a then-fledgling startup team in Palo Alto to find friends and family to step into customer-support jobs.
Before Musk was dreaming of expanding his entrepreneurial horizons into space and uncoupling cars from fossil fuels, the Silicon Valley billionaire — who heads the Tesla car company — was leading a financial services technology startup called X.com.
His call to establish a customer support and fraud investigation team found an answer in Ceresco, Nebraska, about 40 miles southwest of Omaha.
Silicon Valley was in the middle of the dot-com boom and labor was not only scarce, but expensive. That was contrary to the relative availability of inexpensive labor in Nebraska — factors that continue to make metro Omaha the No. 20 city in the country for such back-office operations sites, according to a late 2014 report by Miami-based consulting firm the Hackett Group.
“They had launched the product and didn’t have any service to go with it,” said Jill Harriman, a native of the Omaha area whose younger sister was an early hire at X.com.
“The California company had a need for call-center support and I remember very clearly saying I knew a bunch of talented people” in Nebraska, she said.
A team of 15 would grow to about 500 within a year and move to Omaha, and X.com would later merge with Confinity to become PayPal.
In 2007, Musk wrote that Harriman’s sister, Julie Anderson Ankenbrandt, and former PayPal vice president Sal Giambanco, were crucial to the company’s early success: “Without them, PayPal would have melted down in a sea (of) fraud and consumer lawsuits.”
With almost 100 employees in La Vista that have been with the company for 15 years, and nearly 500 more that have been there for 10 years, Dugan said that legacy continues today.
In addition to an around-the-clock fraud and loss prevention team, “we have technology, risk, compliance, legal, accounting and finance roles, making us one of the most diverse campuses within PayPal.”
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