Matrix partner Dana Stalder a leading candidate for PayPal president, source tells Pando

By Michael Carney , written on August 22, 2014

From The News Desk

Matrix Partners’ Dana Stalder is one of the leading candidates to take over as President of PayPal, Pando has learned from a well-placed source.

We’ve so far been unable to confirm the report with executives from eBay (we’ll update this story if we do), but if his place on the short list for the top job is confirmed, it’s a nice endorsement for Stalder, who is a good friend of former PayPal President David Marcus.

Far more interesting, though, is what it says about the question on everyone’s lips this week: Is eBay about to spin out PayPal?

Spoiler: Unlikely.

Stalder has been a general partner at Matrix Partners since 2008 and prior to that was at eBay and PayPal from 2001 through 2008. In his four years at PayPal, Stalder held the title of SVP of Product, Sales, Marketing & Technology at PayPal, and before that was VP of Internet Marketing & Business Development at eBay. Early in his career Stalder was a VP at Netscape and a manager at Ernst & Young. (Stalder could not be reached for comment, we will update this story if we reach him.)

According to Stalder’s bio on his own website, he “led the expansion of [PayPal] away from solely facilitating purchases made by its parent company, eBay, and oversaw all aspects of PayPal’s global operations.”

While at Matrix, Stalder has invested in a number of financial technology companies including ZestFinance and Zong. He’s done well as a VC, but not quite superstar well. He is on the board of directors of Zendesk, Gilt Groupe, JustFab, ApartmentList, Quiri, and QuinStreet.

But while not the biggest exit, his experience at Zong is particularly relevant. It was PayPal’s acquisition of Zong in 2011, that eventually landed the company’s founder David Marcus the role of CEO at PayPal, until his resignation in June of this year. Indeed, the entrepreneur testimonial on Stalder’s Matrix profile is from none other than Marcus, reading:

Dana literally helped me transform and accelerate our business from the minute he joined Zong’s board of directors.

Dana is first and foremost a phenomenal operator turned venture capitalist. This gives him a huge edge as he's been close to the fire, and he's a great judge of talent. I particularly appreciated his directness and style that enabled us to have very meaningful and efficient conversations. David Marcus complimenting someone on “directness” is like a fish complimenting your swimming. Stalder is clearly not a man who you should ask “Do I look fat in these pants?”

Simply put: Stalder is cut from the same cloth as the current PayPal management team. His hire would be a strong sign to investors, employees, and developers that eBay CEO John Donahoe is planning on continuing to run the same David Marcus playbook. And that playbook didn’t include a spin out-- much to Marcus’s chagrin.

Stalder is known in the Valley, but hardly a global tech name. Which, if rumors of his possible next move are true, is exactly the point. He’s the guy you hire to lead PayPal as a division of eBay, not as a separate, high profile public company. His strength is in deeply understanding the PayPal that exists now, and the ex-Zong team who set it on the current trajectory, not in managing quarterly earnings calls.

His place on the short list would be another signal supporting what we wrote the other day: That while eBay’s John Donahoe knows he needs to spin PayPal out eventually, there are serious reasons why he is hesitating right now.

The report also raises the question of what this means for Braintree CEO Bill Ready. Ready is widely viewed as the preferred choice for Braintree and PayPal insiders and would seem to be a natural candidate if the plan is, in fact, to stay the course. Ready and Donahoe are effectively co-running PayPal today as this CEO search unfolds. For him not to land the appointment would call into question his long-term role at the company.

That matters for developers, as Ready and his team have been their champions within PayPal. Braintree was bought -- in part-- because it did a better job courting them, and as a result all developer programs across PayPal now report to Ready.

While he wouldn’t comment for this story, Ready has told Pando on numerous occasions previously that he was thrilled to work under Marcus and that the former CEO’s leadership was a big reason he ultimately decided to sell to PayPal. He has also said he didn’t envy Marcus’s Herculean task of changing the PayPal culture. But with the top spot vacated, it's hard to imagine he’d be content remaining in second position... for long.

It’s entirely possible that neither Ready or Stalder end up with the PayPal job. It’s also possible the board is conducting parallel searches if they are still actively considering spinning PayPal out. The quicker they decide, the quicker investors will stop hoping a spin out is imminent -- or start laying aside cash to make a move towards owning the biggest chunk of an independent PayPal they can afford.