Retail Worlds: Patrick Byrne, founder and CEO, Overstock

Patrick Byrne is founder and CEO at US online retailer Overstock. Initially built to sell surplus and returned stock through an online store, it now offers new merchandise and ships to almost 100 countries worldwide. Overstock cleared $1.5 billion in sales in 2014, with the most recent quarter showing a 17 per cent year-on-year increase in revenue. The website recently celebrated its 16th birthday.

Retail Systems: How did you get into the technology sector?

Patrick Byrne: Life is all about reducing search costs. I saw an opportunity to use technology to reduce that.

RS: Who has been the biggest influence on your career?
PB: Warren Buffett.

RS: Who in the sector inspires you and why?
PB: Steve Jobs. Great aesthetic taste, as well as vision.

RS: Which IT professional do you most admire?

PB: Saum Noursalehi. He heads our growth group.

RS: Is there anything that you dislike or that frustrates you about the sector?
PB: Innovation disrupts incumbents. Some of those incumbents own their own regulators and politicians, who fight on behalf of their client industries.

RS: What technology can't you live without?
PB: None.

RS: How do you relax?

PB: Yoga, swim in the ocean.

RS: What was your last retail experience both online and on the High Street and were they positive experiences?

PB: Online, Overstock. Yes, I noticed the recommendations were great. High Street…In 1990 I bought a tuxedo for use at a ball in King’s College, Cambridge.

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