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eBay's Innovation and New Ventures Group Hit Hard by Layoffs in Restructuring

As part of the changes, Innovation and New Ventures unit chief Steve Yankovich is moving to eBay Enterprise.

Jason Del Rey has been a business journalist for 15 years and has covered Amazon, Walmart, and the e-commerce industry for the last decade. He was a senior correspondent at Vox.

EBay has laid off a chunk of employees inside a group focused on incubating new projects for the e-commerce giant as part of a round of job cuts that the company previously said would affect 2,400 positions in total, sources tell Re/code.

As part of the changes, the executive who ran the Innovation and New Ventures unit, Steve Yankovich, is moving to eBay Enterprise along with some of his direct reports, multiple sources say. Enterprise is the business unit that sells e-commerce and logistics services to midsize and large retailers, and is up for sale, eBay said recently. Yankovich’s innovation group previously sat inside eBay Inc., the parent company of eBay Enterprise, eBay Marketplaces and PayPal.

The move to eBay Enterprise is not shocking when you consider that the most high-profile projects that came out of the group in 2014 involved new tech products for brick-and-mortar retail. In November, for example, the fashion designer Rebecca Minkoff unveiled giant touchscreens inside her stores, powered by eBay, that display the store’s assortment of clothes and double as mirrors inside fitting rooms.

“I’m 100 percent convinced that we will influence a change in retail,” Yankovich told Re/code this summer during an interview at one of eBay’s San Jose headquarter offices.

For those who didn’t work on projects aimed at brick-and-mortar retail, though, morale was low in 2014, sources say. Part of this had to do with the fact that very few of the group’s ideas saw the light of day outside of eBay. These people say the group often had difficulty getting ideas approved by eBay Marketplaces Chief Product Officer R.J. Pittman. Pittman was hired away from Apple in late 2013 and understandably had his own ideas about what product innovation for eBay’s core shopping websites and apps should look like.

“We were supposed to quickly launch stuff and see what sticks,” one source said. “That happened in 2013, but not in 2014.”

Sources estimate that 40 percent or more of the innovations group members have been laid off or reassigned. The group had somewhere around 100 employees, sources estimated. Yankovich told Re/code this summer that the group had between 100 and 500 employees.

An eBay spokeswoman declined to comment.

The overarching layoffs and restructuring are intended to cut costs and reset priorities inside eBay Marketplaces, eBay Enterprise and PayPal ahead of the planned split of eBay and PayPal later this year. Some believe the moves are also intended to make all three of the businesses attractive acquisition targets.

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