What started out as a $10,000 award to innovative Wharton School students just became a $75 million deal.
On Thursday, eBay Inc. — the world’s largest online marketplace — announced its $75 million purchase of Milo Inc., a company developed by 2008 Wharton graduate Jack Abraham. Milo allows buyers to track the prices of products at their local retail stores online.
Wharton professor Kartik Hosanagar — who taught Abraham the elective class “Enabling Technologies” and now serves as an adviser to Milo — said the company addresses a gap in typical shopping behavior, as it allows people to compare prices online for products found in actual stores.
“What makes Milo truly unique is that it bridges offline and online commerce in a very clever way,” he wrote in an e-mail. “I think Milo will significantly reduce friction in offline commerce.”
Abraham began his career as an entrepreneur after receiving the $10,000 Wharton Venture Award in 2007. The award is intended to replace a summer internship and allows students to develop entrepreneurial ventures.
He received the award the same year as fellow Wharton alumnus Nat Turner. Turner, along with classmate Zach Weinberg, founded Invite Media — a buying platform for display media that was bought by Google this past June.
The two teams rented office space in Northern Liberties for the summer and threw themselves into their work. “We used to sleep in the office every day,” Abraham said.
He explained that the idea for Milo grew out of his “observation” that little creativity was being applied to online shopping, despite it being a huge source of revenue for online companies.
“We thought, ‘There’s probably some more innovation there, and there’s nobody playing in that space. Let’s try to do something interesting here,’” he said.
Abraham said eBay’s goals made it the best fit for Milo as compared to other companies that offered to purchase the website in the last few months.
The Milo purchase added to eBay’s acquisition of the Red Laser mobile phone application last June, which allows users to scan barcodes on products in stores and search the internet to compare prices.
Abraham called Red Laser “just the start” of many factors that can contribute to a fruitful relationship between eBay and Milo, which he hopes to expand relative to his original vision.
“The mission of the company is to bring every product, on every shelf, of every store in the physical world on the internet,” he said. “Milo is going to continue working toward that — just on a larger scale.”
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