The online auction website was founded as AuctionWeb in San Jose, California, on September 3, 1995, by French-born Iranian computer programmer Pierre Omidyar  as part of a larger personal site that included, among other things, Omidyar's own tongue-in-cheek tribute to the Ebola virus. In 1997, the company received approximately $5 million in funding from the venture capital firm Benchmark Capital.
The very first item sold on eBay was a broken laser pointer for $14.83. Astonished, Omidyar contacted the winning bidder to ask if he understood that the laser pointer was broken. In his responding email, the buyer explained: "I'm a collector of broken laser pointers." The frequently repeated story that eBay was founded to help Omidyar's fiancée trade Pez Candy dispensers was fabricated by a public relations manager in 1997 to interest the media. This was revealed in Adam Cohen's 2002 book, The Perfect Store, and confirmed by eBay.