The Innovator

By Debra D'Agostino  |  Posted 04-06-2007

NAME: Max Mancini
TITLE: Senior Director for Platform and Innovation
COMPANY: eBay Inc.
CAREER: Led the team that launched Kijiji

Many I.T. professionals talk the big talk about innovation, but Max Mancini, 40, lives and breathes it. He never wears a suit to work. His office is a cluttered mess of paperwork. Three days a week at lunchtime, he throws on sneakers and goes for a run—after the many meetings he attends, it clears his head and lets him focus on fresh ideas. "I'm the guy who does all the crazy stuff," he says. "I always want to try new things, and never accept the status quo."

As senior director for platform and innovation for eBay Inc., Mancini is responsible for the online marketplace's developers program, which encourages third-party firms to build applications for the auction site's buyers and sellers. He leads the disruptive innovation practice, which identifies key technology trends.

"When you get into a mode that's all about executing on your core business, you can lose sight of the need to innovate," Mancini says. "It takes a certain kind of personality to be able to champion the idea of instilling innovation into the corporate culture."

It also takes a talented leader. Mancini led a team of more than 70 engineers and developers that built eBay's customer-facing infrastructure. He also led the IT team that launched Kijiji, eBay's online classified ad site. Before joining eBay three years ago, he spent seven years launching new subsidiaries for large companies such as software maker Novell Inc. and defense contractor ESL Inc. His management philosophy rests on three basic principles: encourage creativity, develop talent and foster teamwork.

Mancini holds monthly lunches with his staff to create excitement about technology and innovation. He also hosts companywide innovation poster lunches, where people from all corners of eBay's operations literally draw their ideas on poster board, tack them on a wall, and let other employees critique them. And he oversees skunk works competitions to demo new ideas to eBay Marketplaces President John Donahue and company CTO Matt Carey. Winners get cash prizes. "Max really puts his money where his mouth is," says eBay group product manager Erik Hansen.

Mancini's big push is to encourage outside firms to build more functionality onto the eBay platform. One firm is working to develop a desktop client that leverages rich media based on Adobe Inc.'s new Apollo platform. Another company recently developed eBay Pop, a site that combines news and pop culture with eBay's most popular auctions, creating a destination site for frequent eBay customers. Mancini's innovation group is also experimenting with technologies that will allow eBay to broaden its connectivity with its audience through mobile devices, television—even social networking.

"What brings a smile to my face," he says, "is creating new products and businesses, and working with great teams."