Bill Ready on PayPal post-Marcus: Reinventing mobile commerce takes more than one person

By Michael Carney , written on June 12, 2014

From The News Desk

Bill Ready is a real mensch. The Braintree CEO (and possible soon-to-be Paypal President) battled internal company turmoil and relentless summer storms to join us on the Southland stage this week, nearly taking a 10 hour Uber ride from Dallas to Nashville just to make sure he’d arrive on time.

The same can’t be said for David Marcus, who until a shocking Monday afternoon announcement, had been the popular President (and senior most executive) at Paypal. eBay CEO John Donahoe will be temporarily filling the role, according to Ready, who points out that Donahoe did took a similar interim leadership role previously between the Marcus era and that of prior President Scott Thompson.

Rather than being troubled by this news, at least outwardly, Ready puts on a confident front. “[Donahoe’s decision to hire Marcus] is what predicated the renaissance of Paypal. There has been a lot of product innovation and other great stuff that’s stemmed from that. I expect him to be equally thoughtful this time,” he says.

Ready adds that his decision to join forces with a long-time payments rival was certainly, in part, a result of Marcus’ leadership and vision. But more than that, he was swayed by the broader leadership team Marcus had built around himself.

“When David first became president I commented on your article,” Ready tells Pando’s Sarah Lacy, “saying David seems like a fantastic guy but I don’t envy his job. The interesting thing that happened in the last few years is he built a really, really great team. One thing I mentioned at the beginning is there’s a lot of change that needs to happen, and it can’t be just one person. Now, eight out of ten direct reports to David are entrepreneurs.”

That team made PayPal a great place to build the future of commerce, Ready adds. “I’m really confident that team will continue to make great things happen.”

Ready may not be ready to say so publicly, but he is the leading internal candidate to replace Marcus, according to multiple Pando sources. The question then is, does PayPal stay the course so passionately charted by Marcus, catering to developers, improving customer service, and reinventing mobile commerce? If so, then Ready is the obvious choice.

On the contrary, as Lacy puts it, the alternative is that “the company is gonna change directions and you’re screwed and won’t want to be there.” Lacy, who also predicted that several of Marcus closest lieutenants – like VP of Growth, Global Strategy and Special Ops at PayPal Stan Chudnovsky – would follow their leader out the door, was so confident of Ready’s binary path forward that she bet him a pair of cowboy boots that by Southland 2015, he’d either be the president of PayPal or he’d no longer be with the company.

Ready, who was born in Kentucky and built Braintree in Chicago, cited the personal commitments he’s made to Braintree customers and employees. “I keep my commitments,” he said. He’s also not expecting Donahoe to change directions, saying that recent “results speak for themselves” in terms of PayPal’s current path.

“I think by every objective measure, it’s been a really really good thing,” he says. “It’s incumbent on current leaders to make sure it doesn’t change. John’s been fully behind us.”

As for what the future holds for Paypal (and Braintree), Ready beats a drum that he practically invented: Reinventing mobile commerce.

“We’re doubling down on great low friction experiences for developers and innovators, and at the same time delivering great mobile buying experiences for consumers,” he says.

Ready is cautious not to tip the company’s hand, saying that a product announcement is coming in the next few weeks. But don’t be surprised to see some sort of Venmo-PayPal integration. PayPal already offers free consumer-to-consumer payments, but nothing anywhere as easy and frictionless as Venmo.

The Venmo mobile wallet, which was a savvy acquisition during Braintree’s pre-PayPal days, is the beginning of what Ready describes as a context driven mobile computing model. Rather than the current reality where ecommerce is driven by intent – consumers visiting Google, eBay, or Amazon, and searching for their desired product – he envisions an environment where apps know their users intimately and are able to deliver intuitive and personalized experiences based on that knowledge.

It’s a bold and admittedly ambiguous prediction, and one that could take many shapes when ultimately implemented. But at the same time, it seems like more of an inevitability than some wild fantasy. Easy mobile payments, of course, would be a big part of such a future.

If PayPal wants to be a leader in mobile commerce, it’s hard to think of a better chief executive than Ready. Of course, it was just four days ago that the world believed David Marcus was the perfect PayPal CEO.