PayPal, the electronic payments arm of Internet auction site eBay Inc., is looking to add as many as “several hundred’’ jobs to its Boston operations, company officials said, becoming the latest name-brand technology company to expand its local presence.
Governor Deval Patrick and Lieutenant Governor Timothy P. Murray met in November with top executives from PayPal, including then-president Scott Thompson, to talk about expanding the company’s operations here. PayPal currently employs just over 100 people at its office in the North End, where it is developing software to bring its services and advertising to mobile devices like smartphones.
Walter Doyle, chief executive of Where Inc., which was acquired by PayPal last year, said the company’s local office has become “a center of excellence for mobile development,’’ and could add “several hundred people’’ in Boston over the coming years.
Doyle said he is in the market for expanded office space, and the group will most likely stay in Boston, as opposed to moving to Cambridge or the suburbs. Several commercial real estate brokers told the Globe that parent company eBay has been looking at sites around the city, including in the designated Innovation District in Boston’s Seaport area.
In the November meeting, state officials “made the case for Massachusetts: the strong and growing industry cluster, the talent pool,’’ said Gregory Bialecki, the state’s secretary for Housing and Economic Development, via e-mail. State officials also invited PayPal to talk to other well-known technology companies that have boosted their local operations.
Software maker Microsoft Corp., Internet search service Google Inc., and network equipment maker Cisco Systems Inc. are among the large companies headquartered on the West Coast that have increased their presence in Massachusetts, where they can tap into the state’s technology workforce.
Last week, Thompson, a Raynham native and Stonehill College alumnus, was hired away from PayPal to become Yahoo Inc.’s new chief executive. But according to Doyle, eBay’s government relations staff plans to pay another visit to Beacon Hill next week to continue the discussions.
One possible topic of conversation will be whether the state will offer PayPal a tax break in return for adding jobs here, a subject that Bialecki said was not broached at the November meeting. Tax “incentives often aren’t the primary issue for companies like this,’’ he said.
The state, as well as municipalities, commonly offers financial incentives to companies planning to expand locally. In December, the state approved a $3.4 million tax credit for open-source software company Red Hat, which plans to add 181 jobs at its Westford engineering headquarters. Red Hat also received a property tax discount from the town worth nearly $1 million.
Before its acquisition by eBay, Where Inc. had built the industry’s largest location-based advertising network, Doyle said, which enabled it to display ads on a user’s smartphone that were relevant to his location.
Now, as PayPal seeks to be a payment system that consumers can use for purchases at brick-and-mortar stores, not just online buying, the Where Inc. group will be responsible for “demand generation,’’ according to Doyle. Demand generation refers to delivering ads and special offers to your mobile phone that might encourage you to buy some flowers or try a new restaurant.
“You might be listening to music’’ on your smartphone, Doyle said, “and you see an ad for a Dyson vacuum cleaner or a Sony Blu-ray player. Because of the information we have from eBay, we might know that you’ve been searching for those items, or maybe you lost an auction for something similar. We’ll be able to show you those products available locally.’’
Doyle says that while the Boston operations of other mobile advertising start-ups, like Quattro Wireless and M-Qube, were dismantled after the companies were acquired, his goal is to keep the Boston office growing within PayPal. It might help that PayPal has another local operation; a few weeks before it acquired Where, it bought Fig Card, a much smaller Boston company focused on mobile payment technology.