Recap of PayPal X Innovate ’09 Conference

I spent this Tuesday at the PayPal X Innovate 2009 conference. I wanted to share the positive experience my colleagues and I had at a great event focusing on one company's developer product line.

It appeared that there were more than 1,700 registered folks in attendance at the Concourse Exhibition Center in San Francisco over November 3-4, with folks Havi Hoffmanng travelled from around the world (including Africa, Dublin, Germany, Italy, and other locations). Walking into the event, there were dancing violinists and mobs (maybe hundreds) of eBay/PayPal employees greeting attendees.

The conference area was preceded with a large refreshments area (which featured both powdered donuts and fruit cups) followed by a demo space. In many ways, this felt a bit like past MacWorld Expos. Twenty or so PayPal API integration partners had kiosks explaining their products, giving considerable central floorspace to the folks using the APIs. PayPal commanded the center of this pit, with a drove of technical and business employees around to answer questions. (Employees wore different colored shirts to identify their domain expertise to other employees, in case an employee was unable to answer an attendee's question.)

The keynote address featured eBay's CEO, John Donahoe, followed by PayPal president Scott Thompson. The crowd cheered their every announcement and joke. (You'd think they paid everyone in the audience... Oh wait, that's exactly what they do everyday.) They announced new pricing tiers for their products, which went over resoundingly well, and they also announced a slew of new APIs for 3rd-party integration. Donahoe made exceptionally clear, too, that PayPal has a much bigger audience than eBay, and he was betting the company on PayPal's ability to own the payments/transactions space... especially thru its developer program.

The keynote then moved on to Osama Bedier, VP of PayPal Platform and Emerging Technology, who walked thru a number of new API integrations from partners: including a corporate Accounts Payable live demo of eBay paying SAP $88K in seconds, Payvment's in-Facebook-Apps' open-source shopping cart system, and Sun's JavaStore, among others. He also demoed their upcoming Objective-C SDK for in-App payments for iPhone Apps--a crowd hit, considering Apple's 30% cut of any developer payments using Apple's hooks.

Sessions throughout the day were standing room only, with at least 250 people each session. Our very own Cody Simms, Senior Director of Product Management, joined a panel on "The Present and Future of App Stores," discussing the future of application distribution, discovery, and monetization with others from Motorola, Qualcomm, and GetJar.

All in all, the event was incredibly polished. It was clear that PayPal takes this audience (and developer initiatives in general) very seriously. Aside from the scale of the event, the number of simultaneous lesson tracks (6), and the number of employees on-site, every attendee received their very own Asus Eee 1005HA netbook, which, as it turned out when I got home and popped it open, came pre-installed with PayPal documentation, tutorial and greeting videos, bookmarks to their docs and dashboards, and IDEs pre-configured with PayPal hooks. And the battery was charged up. And it can be Hackintoshed, which is a good challenge for any hacker geek. Very nice touches.

PayPal's value proposition is clear to its developer audience: use us to make money. It warranted nearly 2000 folks from around the world to shell out ~$300, fly out, and learn about what PayPal is now rolling out to the world. And with the horde of employees on hand to answer detailed use case questions (some spending 3-4 hours per attendee to answer questions), it also seems very clear that PayPal made it worth their while.

Micah Laaker
Director, Y! Open Strategy UED