Being a company figurehead means holding your tongue and keeping a good face, even when certain aspects of your job might rub you the wrong way. If you prefer PCs, you probably shouldn't work at Apple. And if you skew goth, a job at Justice is probably out. And there are ... More »
Yahoo has made some progress since Marissa Mayer joined as CEO in July of 2012. According to a new profile by Fast Company's Harry McCracken, Mayer has set a new tone at the company by encouraging team members to get things done quickly and with limited oversight. In 2013, a group of 18 engineers was tasked with bringing Yahoo's native ad system up to speed. The group, which called itself ...
Almost three years in, Mayer's Yahoo is still a work in progress. But it's made real progress in reinventing itself for the smartphone era. "I joke that my son is about as old as my tenure here," says Marissa Mayer, the president and CEO of Yahoo. "He showed up when I was about eight weeks in. And I just have this vision that when he gets older, we're going to have these conversations where he's ...
Yahoo doesn't just like purple. It bleeds it, and always has. Once upon a time, circa 1995, Yahoo cofounders Jerry Yang and David Filo were setting up the company's first office. It was a pretty drab place, so they decided to redo the walls. Filo headed out to pick up some paint. Read Full Story
Today: Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer switches up her management team and brings Tumblr further into the Yahoo fold. Yahoo's senior management has been reshuffled by CEO Marissa Mayer, according to reports that say the Sunnyvale company revealed changes at the top to employees Friday morning.
Yahoo chief Marissa Mayer has made more significant changes within the executive ranks. As part of another high-level shakeup, Simon Khalaf will replace Mike Kerns as Yahoo home page boss. The newly named senior vice president will also be responsible for Yahoo’s themed portals including sports, movies and related apps, The New York Times wrote on Friday. Khalaf came to the media company as the ...
Marissa Mayer, Yahoo's chief executive, announced a major reorganization of the company's product teams on Friday, promoting the head of one recently acquired company and effectively demoting the chief of another.
Mike Kerns, the Yahoo senior vice president in charge of Yahoo's homepage and other destinations, just quit the company, a source close to Kerns just told us. Earlier today, Kerns tweeted about leaving Yahoo. He wrote, " fascinating five years...learned a lot and met/worked with great people. Made a positive impact and can't wait to get to what's next." Kerns was a favorite of Yahoo CEO ...
Live from New York, it's Saturday Night! The complete 38 year collection of skits is coming soon to Yahoo!
Live from Yahoo! It’s Saturday Night! yodel.yahoo.com By Marissa Mayer, CEO Matt Foley, Motivational Speaker, or Tina Fey as Sarah Palin? As a lifelong Saturday Night Live fan, it is nearly impossible for me to pick my favorite skit. And, as a fan, I couldn’t be more … Continue reading →
Also expanding in Lockport, New York - a new data center, a new customer care center, & 115 new jobs:
Yahoo! Announces Plans to Expand in Lockport, New York www.marketwatch.com SUNNYVALE, Calif., Mar 21, 2013 (BUSINESS WIRE) -- Yahoo! /quotes/zigman/59898/quotes/nls/yhooYHOO+3.21% today announced plans to build new data and customer care centers in Lockport, New York later this year. Yahoo!'s expansion in Western New York will provide additional capacity and world-class cu...
Announcing Yahoo! On The Road! I'll be heading home to WI (Madison) on May 13th. When will we be in your town?
On the Road with Yahoo! | Summer Concerts and More music.yahoo.com Watch summer concerts and funny celebrity videos with On the Road, from Yahoo! From all over the US and Europe, Yahoo! will showcase the daily habits of web users everywhere and host a lot of cool events in between. Come by daily to check out hidden camera pranks with a ton of celebrities, cool conc...
Check out the eco-tastemaking of Randi Zuckerberg on LovingEco!
Tastemaker Picks: Randi Zuckerberg www.lovingeco.com I love Juice Beauty's natural skincare line which leaves my skin feeling so clean and fresh. As a woman on the go, I love the simple yet chic everyday eco-conscious clothes from Amour Vert. And, I am so excited to share this exclusive Novica wrap quartz bracelet which benefits PSI's work improving l...
Marissa Mayer doesn't and shouldn't have to set a good example. But to the extent that she inadvertently does, she actually sets a wonderful example for women by choosing to take only limited leave. She sends a message that not all women are the same, and that babies aren't just the women's responsibility.
Different Input, Different Output See, the thing with a choice like how much leave to take: it's a personal choice that every mother needs to make for herself. A mother's choice will take into account things like:
her financial situation
her partner's career
her desire to care for newborns
her ability to hire or get help
her partner's parental leave
her baby's health
other children at home
To impose one person's decision on another person's, when any or all of these factors are different, is not just unfair; it's illogical. Different input leads to different output.
It's particularly illogical to generalize from Marissa Mayer to all women. She very likely has round the clock help just for the baby, plus additional help for other household things. She makes a lot of money and she's in a particularly important role. It's ridiculous to act like her decisions reflect anything about the expectations for, say, the typical female software developer who works for her.
A Great Example If you do decide to inappropriately hold her up as some sort of example for "all women", then she's actually setting a great example. What's important for women, for the tech industry, and for the country is sending a message that everyone is different.
As a woman -- in tech -- with a young kid and another one on the way, I can say that the expectation is definitely not "oh, you must go back to work ASAP." That's the expectation on fathers.
We don't need another woman sending a message that it's okay to not work, permanently or for an extended period of time. That's already the norm (at least within highly paid jobs). Society has that message, loud and clear.
What the US needs to learn (again, in highly paid jobs) is that you can't generalize all women and that, yes, some women can and will go back to work immediately. And that choice is okay.
I'm pregnant, self-employed and have several consulting clients right now. They assume that I'm not really going to be working for a while after I have my child. Of course they don't ask -- it's often seen as a no-no topic in the US -- so there's just this lingering assumption until I awkwardly bring it up. And that sucks, frankly.
By Marissa Mayer taking limited leave, she helps clear the way for people like me who choose to make a similar choice. She makes my clients question their assumption that of course I'll take months off. That's a great thing because, you know, we're all different. And that's okay.
Babies: Not Just for Women Anymore! Even the fact that we're asking this suggests an issue with US culture. How many male CEOs have had kids? Where is the "controversy" around their not taking much leave?
People don't ask because it's assumed that the babies are the mom's responsibility. It's okay for the dad to not take much time off because, hey, he's not really that important, is he? The mom, on the other hand: the babies are for her. They're her responsibility, right?
That's the message that's being sent when we create a "controversy" from her personal decisions, and that's horrendously unfair to both mothers and fathers. We need to stop denigrating the role of fathers in society and we need to stop assuming that the woman is the "primary" parent.
Anyone can be the "primary" parent -- or they can even be equals!
But at the end of the day, it's her choice. Ultimately, regardless of what "message" she sends, it's unfair to expect her to make a choice that is not right for her. It's her choice, and it's important that we respect that. Women (and minorities) need to have the freedom to make their own choices without being "an example" -- the same freedom we grant to straight, white males.
It's a very impressive accomplishment for Marissa Mayer to be named as CEO of one of the oldest and most successful Internet companies. I suppose that most speaks to the amount of trust and respect she achieved at Google.
It might also suggest that Yahoo is attempting to position themselves for a Google acquisition. When key people are named to executive positions, it's often a strategic decision to make the company more attractive for M&A.
Marissa made it very emotional from the very beginning. One could clearly see that she was on the defensive. There were 100s of questions with the top one's having thousands of upvotes and they were mostly related to QPRs and calibrations.
Marissa mentioned that no other CEO would hold a forum where anyone in the company could ask a question without being identified. That point is valid, it was a very brave effort on her part. Its hard to say how people felt after attending that event. Things were not perfect but then what the CEO was trying to achieve was not an easy task other.
I am sure she has learnt a lot from her experience and things are probably better now than they were at the time this event took place in late 2013.
I certainly would have expected more innovation out of her in the past 2 years.
But ... having been a corporate VP at a Fortune 500 Tech Leader ... now I get it. I think she's done exactly what makes sense.
Let's look at the situation when she joined:
Huge, appreciating assets in Alibaba, Yahoo! Japan, etc. Main job here is to maximize the appreciation / liquidation nexus here. Product and Yahoo! revenues are irrelevant.
Core Yahoo! assets are in a revenue decline. The Board and the Street really aren't truly expecting change here. They've decided the game has moved on and Yahoo! needs to focus on retaining the revenue from a PC/browser-centric base.
Probably hopeless in mobile from a revenue perspective. It's too late and Yahoo! has no material play in iOS or Android.
First time, non-founder CEO -- Following 4 Failed and Fired Outside CEOs. She wants the job. It's her shot at CEO. She doesn't want to lose it.
Board only is expecting you to Do Better Than Yahoo! Would Otherwise Do. This is the key thing you need to understand at a very mature company. Meg Whitman, Marissa Mayer, etc. etc. -- at these very mature, slow/no growth tech companies -- they are really only expected to Do Better than the Company Otherwise Would Do.
So here's what you do in this scenario:
Don't overpromise, especially on the numbers side. This gets you nowhere. No one is really expecting this.
Make the products better. This may not make a difference in igniting new growth, but it will protect the core revenue stream -- and she knows how to do this. All the core products have been through a full rev.
Make the company cooler so you can retain and attract talent. It does seem she's done this. Without this, the revenue decline would accelerate.
Do M&A - But Only Within Budget. There's no point in breaking the bank and risking your job. There's a budget. It's probably 1-2 billion+ acquisitions, and another billion altogether in smaller deals. Spend it as best you can. Tumblr isn't WhatsApp or Instagram. But -- it was within budget and a decent fit with the existing platform. You don't do a deal like HP-Autonomy at $10 billion in an aggressive attempt to change the company. Because that just leads to your exit out the door when it fails.
So the lack of Hail Marys makes logical sense.
The stock price is up 125%. This makes everyone with a lot of options feel good, and feel rich-ish, and feel like they've done a good job. Like they got something done.
It's not what a founder CEO would do. But, it's what everyone else would do.
Business people often don't tell other people their hotel room # when they check in. You want some privacy. And you figure that if someone needs to reach you, they can call the operator and be connected to your room (and/or text you).
When you take a nap in a hotel room, you often either tell the operator "no calls" or you might even pull the cords out from all the phones, to ensure silence. If you don't do this, and you are a moderately busy person, the odds are pretty good that your nap will be interrupted by a phone call -- especially phone calls from the hotel itself telling you various random messages like you have a package, or would you like your bed turned down, etc.
So my guess is that she didn't tell anyone her room # and told the operator no calls.
Three more thoughts:
Mayer is a parent of a small child, in addition to serving as the CEO of a huge company. I'm sure she's perpetually exhausted and I can easily imagine this kind of mistake happening.
I agree with people who say that these public criticisms are probably sexist in nature; I can't imagine a male CEO being called out like this. The opening scene in Iron Man where Tony flat-out skips an awards presentation in his honor (to play craps) is a story that is not unheard of for certain high-profile male CEOs. Yet you never see stories about these hijinks in the press.
I do agree with the assessment (I think I read it in the WSJ) that this mistake never would have happened if the dinner had been with investors or board members. Mayer is a very competent person and obviously could have set the right alarm clock / taken whatever precautions were necessary to wake up in time to make the dinner. My guess is that, on some level, she was willing to take some risk of oversleeping given the audience.
I worked at Google and attended weekly meetings with Marissa and other VPs as a representative of my department, prior to her move/demotion to local. To echo many of the comments above: she was a force. She had such a presence that it was impossible for her to slip into a room unnoticed, and you knew that if you presented information poorly, or worse, disagreed with her, you were in for a tough conversation.
That being said, she listened to everyone. That included me, a young 20-something who had been at the company for less than a few weeks. She may not have agreed with everything, but she listened to what you had to say, which I always appreciated.
I met her at the Fortune 40 under 40 party a few years ago. She didn't like the publication I worked for at that time, but was perfectly gracious and professional, spent a few minutes chatting, then introduced me to Kevin Systrom (Instagram), who later became an interview subject. Totally professional and friendly.
1. In the context of the stock price, she has practically nothing to do with it (i.e., overhyped). This is all financial engineering orchestrated by the brilliant Ken Goldman. It's all about Ali Baba and cash. Notice how Y!'s stock dropped when there were rumors of a slowdown in Ali Baba's growth. Nothing seems to correlate between Y!'s stock price and what they are actually doing.
2. In the context of making decisions and taking action, she gets huge kudos for breaking through the bureaucracy and actually building a mobile capability at Y! - which was essentially non-existent through mid-2012. (Heck, she's the CEO.) The Tumblr acquisition was strong, and all the acquihires were the only way to fill the massive void in the ranks of mobile engineering talent.
Still, I believe that Y!'s Achilles' heel is their addiction to the heroin of banner and display advertising. They're in a tough spot - they have not diversified their revenue stream sufficiently away from display, and as that market matures and prices decline, they will be faced with no alternative sources if they don't do something different.
Finally, nobody seems to realize how critical Y!Mail is to everything at Yahoo. It's responsible for a huge proportion of front-page views and downstream traffic. And it's headed for an IMAP future (read: mobile) where the portal model disintegrates. I'm hoping that Y! starts to get into alternate revenue models (like gaming) where subscription, micro-purchases and even virtual goods play a bigger part.
Microsoft’s board is considering Ericsson AB Chief Executive Officer Hans Vestberg as a potential successor to departing leader Steve Ballmer, according to people briefed on the search.
Vestberg, 48, is in the running alongside other candidates, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the process is private. Microsoft cloud-computing chief Satya Nadella and former Nokia Oyj CEO Stephen Elop, as well as other outsiders, are also on the list, people familiar with the search have said. The board hasn’t yet reached a decision and who is under consideration is still subject to change.
No mention of De Castro.
Stepping back, I don't think De Castro would be a plausible leader of the largest software company in the world.
According to the press, there were a number of reasons, but the biggest was that he wasn't delivering on revenues.
The best source on this question appears to be a September 2013 post in Adweek which speculated that De Castro was under a lot of pressure to increase his performance and included a lot of specifics.
Key excerpts below (note that I added the boldface formatting):
Sources close to Yahoo say that De Castro is feeling increasing pressure to deliver better ad results, as the blustery exec has found himself on the outs with CEO Marissa Mayer. There even has been talk that De Castro could be gone by the end of the year, according to numerous sources.
The big knock against De Castro is, despite Mayer's string of mobile acquisitions, lots of positive press and the massive Tumblr deal, the company’s ad business has languished in a marketplace that is enjoying robust growth. Particularly alarming is that Yahoo’s display business is getting hit on both the branding front and programmatic, which would theoretically be a De Castro strength, given his Google background.
“That’s what really stuck out,” said one analyst. “They aren’t moving the needle in programmatic when everyone else is.” In fact, just last week eMarketer revised its forecast for programmatic ad spending, predicting that 2013 would see $3.34 billion in spending vs. the $3.32 billion estimate predicted just a few months earlier.
The other complaints against De Castro, according to executives inside and outside the company: He moves too slow and has had trouble building out his team. Moreover, De Castro has never endeared himself to Madison Avenue, an area where Mayer has also fallen short (De Castro’s underwhelming speech last February at the IAB Annual Meeting is now infamous). Buyers say he comes off as arrogant, and while that perhaps was a more acceptable stance to hold at Google, it’s more than a little off-putting given Yahoo’s relative position in the market.
“I do not believe he has been very front and center,” said one buyer. “We have been dealing mostly with his team [which] is very competent.”
This is a good question because so much of Yahoo's market cap relates to its investments in Alibaba and Yahoo Japan. So this is a classic case where everyone is doing a "sum of parts" analysis to build up Yahoo's total equity market cap.
I looked a handful of recent equity research reports, and it looks like the market is valuing Yahoo's operations at about $7-8+ billion, which implies an EBITDA multiple of 5-6x.
See below -- sum-of-parts analyses from 3 recent research reports on Yahoo.
1. November 2013 Macquarie Equity Research
(See the second line: "YHOO core business EV at 5x multiple")
2. December 2013 RBC Equity Research
(See the second-to-last line of #s labeled "YHOO Core")
3. October 2013 Evercore Equity Research
(For the table below, see the bottom 3 lines, which shows value for core operations, and look at the column for YHOO)
Yahoo! is probably the next big comeback story. I have one metric for measuring a company's future chances of success - how many of my smartest friends are joining/leaving the company. After years of losing talent - Yahoo! has been hiring away some really smart people that I know.
In short, Yahoo! is coming back and is nowhere close to dying . Marissa Mayer's strategy seems to be working - new talent, new look and feel and a very deep balance sheet partially thanks to Alibaba means that Yahoo! is here to stay.
I was skeptical that Yahoo! could be turned around by Marissa. She has done an admirable job.
Her strategy of focusing on talent to drive product innovation which in turn leads to better experience and greater usage especially via mobile seems to be working
Yahoo! may be following in the footsteps of eBay - another company that seems to have had a remarkable turn of fortune after being partially written off.
Don't believe me - the market is right in this case, me thinks.
In 2013, we saw House of Cards sweep the Primetime Emmys after its first season streaming exclusively on Netflix, Amazon produce and launch an original online series called Betas and Jeff Bezos acquire the Washington Post—a leading daily American newspaper that's been around since 1877—for a quarter of the cost Facebook paid to acquire Instagram in 2012. Online-only original content is proving it has merit and traditional media channels (like newspapers and network television) continue to be disrupted by digital as more and more people turn to the web as their primary vehicle for media consumption. With this move, Yahoo shows us that they're betting on online original content and that they're one step ahead in strategically capturing the transition between traditional and digital media. Katie Couric could very well be the anchor (pun intended!) that brings people back to Yahoo. Ultimately, an increase in time spent will tell if this was a successful tactic. I'm betting yes, and I'm more impressed with Marissa Mayer and her leadership than ever before.
In summary, the logic is: Great content in great apps will monetize at great rates.
See below -> this is a really good recap from TechCrunch, posted today. It's long, but worth reading. Really explains Yahoo's strategy. I bolded a couple of sections.
Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer recently reported that Yahoo has 400 million monthly mobile users. In September, Yahoo reported 350 million monthly active mobile users. The company claimed 300 million monthly mobile actives in February. So, in under a year, Yahoo has grown its mobile audience by at least 33 percent.
A culling of applications that didn’t fit its new rubric and a rapidly expanding mobile developer force (now over 400, more than quadrupling during Mayer’s tenure) has helped Yahoo deliver applications that are compelling. The firm focuses on building apps that hit repeat daily activities: email, weather, the stock market, and so forth. Nailing those categories means that Yahoo’s apps will have maximum impact, as their usage is high frequency by nature.
The company only has to ensure that the mobile experiences that it builds are compelling, and then monetize the heck out of their recurring usage.
That’s Yahoo’s recipe to ignite revenue growth, it seems. Its search business, despite managing to force Microsoft to extend a revenue deal, is likely mature and is definitely slipping. Its year-over-year top line is in decline, as is Yahoo’s larger search market share.
Yahoo has put its bets on mobile, a space where it controls around 5 percent of search. Will that 5 percent figure grow as Yahoo’s mobile user base expands? Not so far, at least. The company’s market share of mobile search is down almost precisely 1 percent in real terms year to date, or about 16 percent proportionally to its starting share point. That as the company has boosted its aggregate mobile user base greatly in the same period. So, at least so far, there is no positive correlation.
That tells us that if mobile is to generate the revenue Yahoo want it to (and that it must, of course), it won’t be search-based. Checking in on Yahoo’s earnings, top line relating to search is the second-largest category for the firm. Yahoo’s largest revenue driver is advertising.
So, we’re talking ads sold against user time, which means pageviews and app opens, which means content. We have now come full circle.
Yahoo needs to continue to attract people to its mobile properties in growing rates. To do so, it must populate its applications with consistently compelling content, content that is better than what is offered by other applications and companies that are on a similar tip.
Enter the, presumably expensive, mega stars. You don’t snag a Couric if you don’t want to use them heavily. Yahoo picking up famous journalists is not new. It’s been at it for a few years now. Mayer herself underscored the simple reason she is hiring so quickly: “News is a definitive daily habit for our users — and Katie will work with our talented editorial team to pioneer a new chapter of digital journalism.”
Yahoo considers news the type of content users will check more than once a day. Also, news content can have a higher per-piece ROI, given that one story can fit into multiple applications. A single sports story could fit into several Yahoo apps, meaning that the company can use one piece of work a number of times, thereby increasing its value.
And fundamentally, Yahoo applications are more interesting if they are full of exclusive and high-quality content. Much more so than they would be if there were stuffed with AP and Reuters reprints. If you want exclusive, high-demand content, you go out and get the people that you consider to be chronic progenitors of such copy and clips. So Pogue and Couric. There will be more probably before the year is up.
Yahoo is betting that it can monetize its growing mobile presence at rates that will replace the gaps created by declining revenue streams. So far, it has been unsuccessful — Yahoo’s revenue continues to decline on a year-over-year basis.
The company is seeing its revenue per ad decline, perhaps indicating that it is selling more mobile advertising units. It has reversed a decline in its total ads sold in the most recent quarter, something that could also be tied to rising mobile usage: “The Number of Ads Sold (excluding Korea) increased approximately 1 percent compared to the third quarter of 2012.”
Here is the company’s chart on the growth rates (often negative) of its number of ads sold, and their price:
Both the decline in price and the increase in volume could be due to growing mobile usage. If we continue to see an increase in sold ads in the fourth quarter, and perhaps another decline in price, I think we’ll have a trend.
Companies have notoriously foundered upon mobile shoals. Yahoo is instead charting a course directly for choppy, mostly unknown waters. At a minimum, you can applaud the company’s move as bold.
There are far more questions than answers at this point, but the bet is simple: Great content in great apps will monetize at great rates. Call it the Mayer Strategy.
Yes - Yahoo! has already launched its Associate Product Manager program.
Our first class of 9 APMs started on July 15, 2013. They're working on projects such as mobile weather, mobile search, new ad formats, the Yahoo! homepage, sports/fantasy, mobile messenger, and our geolocation platforms.
We're also starting to recruit our second class of APMs at universities in the US this fall.
Google doesn't because of antitrust issues. It's great for them to be able to use it as an argument that search is a diverse industry where even small companies can survive. If you think about it, DuckDuckGo is the most convenient competitor that Google can have - one that makes a lot of noise but isn't even remotely a threat. Why get rid of those benefits?
Yahoo doesn't because the company doesn't fit in their acquisition thesis since Marissa Mayer took the helm. Neither is it a mobile app nor does it increase their ad inventory. How can you run profitable ads if you don't track users with cookies?
It is interesting. Having seen all sides of BigCo M&A, it's hard to do right, and especially if you are doing a ton of deals. It's easy to buy something, hard to get everything right from that moment on.
But I suspect it's driven by two things:
First, Marissa Mayer has a long history of M&A at Google and knows what she is looking for. Google has been more successful than most at M&A, including smaller deals. Not all of them work out (e.g., Dodgeball), some come up short of what they could have been (Blogger), etc. But she has a history of success here.
Second, Time. She clearly wants to get things done NOW, or at least, as fast as she can. She doesn't have the luxury of Jeff Bezos-type time. M&A done right can really work here. There's only so many other things she can do quickly. And Yahoo! has plenty of cash and a solid market cap. It's not very expensive in the grand scheme of things.
My learning as both an M&A acquisition and as a F500 TechCo VP, is that you can probably make an acquisition work reasonably well for about 24 months IF (x) you get the economics right, and (y) give the acquired team/company/product the proper runway to execute, combined with proper support.
After 24 months, this boost, even if done right, is over. The target just becomes part of the acquiring entity culturally and technically. And if you don't get the economics and incentives right, people leave very quickly.
But if you get it right (and Marissa Meyer knows how to do this), you can inject a very knowledgable, very agile, very fast-moving product team into a more calcified BigCo org structure and do some really great things or at least get there much faster. At least for about 24 months.
That's probably good enough for what she wants to get done, and her short/medium term timeline goals, as the New CEO.
First, keep in mind that Yahoo's financial picture is dominated by their stake in Alibaba. Yahoo owns a 24% stake in two fast-growing Chinese internet businesses, and for large shareholders, this is the primary financial reason to own Yahoo stock - to get exposure to Alibaba (a private Chinese company that's otherwise hard to get into).
Given that situation, Yahoo's "core business" (the one in the US that Ameri-centric Valley folk think is Yahoo) is almost irrelevant. It is steadily eroding. What it means is that Marissa Mayer doesn't have to be risk-averse with the core business, because it's now a vestigial afterthought. What Marissa Mayer has right now is time, a bunch of cash, and a lot of freedom to repurpose a ton of engineers and product people. It also has a large sales force - their problem is that the "core" properties are difficult to sell against since they are declining.
Thus, what Mayer is doing is using the cash (and cheap stock - the stock is cheap but this means that it has upside and thus value to optimists, i.e. entrepreneur who might take it as payment) to buy properties that are on growing traffic trajectories and talent who can work on continuing to upgrade those properties. Yahoo can then take the content from those properties and sell ads against the traffic. The whole "problem" with Yahoo is that they're a display ads business, but no one was coming to their properties any more. So Yahoo is just going to buy a bunch of properties, which gets them that traffic, and solve that problem. The fact that they can pick up some good talent from smaller startups only helps boost the quality of the stuff they're buying. And, there's a few properties here and there that are still doing well, so Marissa is investing in upgrading them (e.g. Flickr).
A somewhat similar strategy was executed by AOL starting a few years ago by Tim Armstrong, who leveraged AOL's size and cashflow to buy lots of blogs and online publications with growing traffic, and then successfully monetized them using their existing ad sales force. In fact, the strategy resulted in AOL being the hottest tech stock in 2012 (see The Hottest Tech Stock Of The Year - AOL), in contravention to what was commonly expected as "cool" in the Valley echo-chamber.
I believe it's very tempting ... but makes no sense.
It's tempting because Tumblr is one of the few massive social/content plays that Yahoo! can do that has real scale. It's too late to buy Pinterest, Instagram is gone, etc. So on the surface, it's pretty synergistic with the goals of Yahoo! and has the user scale.
It's a terrible idea because the revenues aren't there. You can't take something doing < $20-$40m a year in revenue and magically hand it to the "Yahoo Sales Team" and expect a $500m business out of it. It doesn't work that way. Tumblr is too small. Yes, it has the inventory in theory, but I'm skeptical.
Yahoo is a $5b run-rate company. To be material, Yahoo needs to build new businesses that can hit $500m (10% of $5b) at a minimum within a few years at least, and ideally, with a chance to do $1b in a best-case scenario.
Tumblr would end up just a distraction. It doesn't automatically enhance the core experience (a la Instagram + Facebook), protect the base (a la Instagram + Facebook), or represent something that can be a $300-$500m material revenue stream before it's stale and/or run into the ground.
You only have a relatively small window after an acquisition to Go Big, no matter what the purchase price or number of free users. Then it's on to the next thing. Tumblr can't get big enough from a revenue perspective, fast enough. And it can't be just about free eyeballs at Yahoo! scale and maturity.
To Marissa's credit she didn't just make the decision on the fly. The management team thought about it for many months before arriving at the decision and it was based on hard data e.g: VPN Logs.
Also, to Marissa's credit she has made a tremendous effort to clearly communicate what this policy means and why it has been taken internally. The over-arching thought process behind the decision is a noble one.
Yahoo! employees will gradually accept the decision and eventually everyone is just glad that there is a strong leader in place who has a vision to make the company relevant again.
I would like to add about this misconception that "everybody" on GOOGLE can work wherever they feel like.
My girlfriend works there and not only she rarely can work at home (and I mean 10, 12 times in 3 years tops) she also has to travel at the very, very least 6 times a year to other countries to work closely with other teams.
Honestly, to me, this whole "I can work at home" thing is just tech journalists making up stories about these huge corporations they love/worship but know nothing about how it really works.
Change is good. Radically improving the standards of accountability and performance are even better.
Frankly, I'm tired of friends and family asking how this affects me. The press has blown this entirely out of proportion. I can still WFH when necessary and appropriate (doctors appt, traveling, etc...).
Fact is, I enjoy coming into the office. The sausage and bacon bagels this morning were great and the people around me are positive and enjoy working here. Stock is up too :)
Another current and longterm Yahoo developer here, who is extremely happy that the WFH shenanigans are being put to an end. I too have seen this abused far too often, although IMO it's usually not by full time WFH, but more often the San Francisco city dweller who just happens to spend two, sometimes three, days of the week working from his house because "the commute to Sunnyvale is too tiring". Hey, clue people.. nobody made you live in San Francisco.
A lot of the negative commentary from external sources has come from non-developers. People who work in solitary jobs doing rote-work with little need for new knowledge acquisition are fine candidates for WFH. In fact, the biggest complainers on the internal mailing lists seem to come from Operations types, which, given my general experience of Ops at Yahoo, unfortunately does describe their typical role -- a poor reflection on the way Ops has been managed at Yahoo.
But developers, at least in my experience, understand there's a difference between working hard and working smart. Yes, you may be able to work hard at home and get a lot of coding done, but it doesn't help if you're coding something in an inefficient way because you didn't overhear the conversation at lunch about this neat new open-source library someone in your team found.
Or, you decide to code up a new utility package at home, only to find someone else in your team has already done an equivalent, only you don't know about it because you were not in the office on the brownbag lunch day where they described it.
I think (and studies show) full-time WFH people may be more "productive" in terms of raw output, but whether that output is the "most effective" output for the company/team is a whole 'nother question.
The other shoe that I also expect is about to drop is a deliberate move to colocate project teams in the same office, rather than having distributed teams across different offices. The amount of time wasted going back and forth with 12 hour differences is a huge drain on everyone in a project.
A recent high-profile project within Yahoo included physically relocating core (Yahoo pun intended) engineers from Beijing to Sunnyvale for 2 months to sit alongside the developers on the new personalized Frontpage. Expect to see more of this.
I'm not providing an internal reaction as I no longer work at Yahoo (left in 2012). However, from the perspective of my time there this is a much needed policy. I saw many people abuse the work at home policy. In fact it was a running joke that a large percentage of employees basically did no work on Fridays.
You know its bad when a high ranking (SVP level) executive needed to half-joke: "I have this crazy idea and you guys aren't going to like it... Its called 'Work at Work Fridays'."
I think its a great thing for the company. I have been at Yahoo! for 5 years and Marissa is doing a much needed house cleaning. There is still some good talent here but we need all hands on deck and thoses who are not team players can just bow out.
The policy is not as strict as everyone is reporting. There is still reasonable measures in place for family and emergency but you damn sure can't hide at home any more
Take the company private. Pressure to make quarterly earnings will prevent meaningful change. Work with someone who knows how to do this like A16Z or Silverlake.
Make a decision once and for all on "is Yahoo a product company or a content company?" I vote product.
Publish a vision/mission statement that reflects the new strategy. Encourage employees who aren't interested to opt out. No need to manage unhappy investors (see the first point).
Sell off any remaining businesses that don't fit.
Lay a bunch of people off.
Build an unbelievable M&A department. Capable of acquiring *and integrating* anything from a small talent acquisition up to a $100M+ run rate business.
Rebuild a great team via startup acquisitions and making Yahoo a great place to work.
In terms of what specific products to build/buy, I have no idea. If I were aware of any consumer internet businesses capable of generating the hundreds of millions of dollars of revenue needed to move the needle at Yahoo, you bet I'd be working on them.
Like Amazon and Google, you have to have a solid "Bar Raiser."
A Bar Raiser is someone who comes in on the last interview to make sure the candidate is better than the most previous hire. They confirm whether or not the other managers got it right and that there is no possibility that this person is going to turn out to be a B-Player or C-Player (or "cancer" to the organization). C-players can easily destroy an organization from within.
Hires of this type give the appearance of top-notch employees by doing well only when certain key managers or supervisors are watching. They are always full of excuses. They claim they're passionate but lack any real passion. They perform the bare minimum required to maintain their positions. They bad mouth other employees or managers when their backs are turned, and so forth.
Top companies implement TopGrading, including Amazon, Google, Apple, and now Yahoo! (Yahoo! may have been practicing it before but it clearly wasn't effective - B-Players were hiring C-Players and it became something that really needed to be addressed).
The fake answer: The lots by Bldg A, B, C, and D had gates. The lots by Bldg E, F, and G did not. Why? I'm not sure. The gates at some lots did not add any real security, but just added one extra step to get into work -- if you parked at that lot. Of course, you could always cross the street. Buildings are still secured. There is still a visitors parking area. Remember, there is nothing worse than a false sense of security, so meaningless gates are just a waste. They are gone and we get to save ourselves a few extra seconds in the morning.
The less fake answer: This is one of many gestures that are both symbolic and practical that remove barriers (real and symbolic) to getting things done at work. All good. Management is making the workplace more efficient. This is what good management does. Thank you Marissa.
The real answer: Kara's blog has been suffering as of late in that she is not getting the flow of leaked information she used to get. The means her coverage of Yahoo! is far less interesting, and contains even more inaccuracies than it had in the past. Whereas industry analysts enjoy briefings, and journalists get press releases and briefings, some bloggers have to resort to spreading rumors by getting information leaked by way of inside sources. So what her blog post really means is that somehow she got a leaked memo (well close to it -- the one she posted was altered). And thus those readers who care about pesky details like Yahoo!'s real estate activities can continue to enjoy the non-news.
BTW, Doesn't it make you feel dirty when you read a memo that says "PROPRIETARY AND CONFIDENTIAL INFORMATION"? This is obviously not intended for publication, and it's shameful that the tech world relies upon this kind of reporting for "news." Would you really care if some of the walls at Yahoo! get a paint job too? Would it be OK if people exposed your confidential emails on their blogs?
So what this really means has nothing to do with gates or any of the minutia "reported" in the post. It has to do with AllThingsD showing they still can say something interesting (?) about Yahoo!. Personally I'm not interested in the inner navel gazing by bloggers about the subtle work details at tech companies.I think it's a little creepy actually. I think readers are interested in new products, joint ventures, and other forms of real news and insight. Remodeling some elements of the facilities is hardly interesting. Showing the readers that Kara can still get a leaked memo once in a while is the story here. <slow clap>
While I can not speak on behalf of all of Yahoo!, Our team has been happily surprised by the flow and quality of applicants for our latest job opening. We usually receive a fair number of resumes but I did notice this time around those from other companies such as Google and Microsoft. At a minimum, quality looks to be higher.
Unfortunately, there is no silver bullet to answer this question given how long Mayer has been at the helm. Summertime is a widely known "time to move" for persons with families. The summer months bring a surge of movement with respect to living situations and those can impact a person's decision to stay or leave their current job. Further, our team has switched HR recruiters and this, as one might suspect, ends up being a big factor in where resumes get sourced from and the kind of relationships each recruiter has with the outside world.
To bring our topic back to Mayer, I believe her background and experiences lend themselves well to the undertaking of becoming Yahoo!'s new CEO and this is something that can only help Yahoo! in every aspect. I believe that in the long run she will impact the lure for talent.
Shefaly Yogendra's answer is correct -- the things in the news are in the news (e.g. free food in the Sunnyvale cafe), and the things that are "inside" are supposed to remain inside. But yes, she has taken steps and it's impressive to watch.
I'm inside, and do not plan to overshare since that violates the bonds of trust that we have in the company. But I'll share one thing that I think is worth sharing since it's a good lesson for leaders, and it will resonate well with former Yahoos here. There is an internal email list where some employees "shoot the breeze" on a variety of topics -- usually technical, but it's the one list that allows a wide range of conversations, some include complaints, rants, and even some heated debates. It's a good sink for some pent up energy, and it's known internally as "D-R" Marissa joined the list and participates on some of the important issues. She takes the conversations and addresses them in her crisp, matter-of-fact style that demonstrates she understands the issue, and is pragmatic about her approach. It is impressive and amazing. She get's it, and raises the conversation one level up, while letting some things slide. You almost never find a CEO who understands how to tap right into the heart of the cultural center of the company and get cozy with the influencers and nay-sayers. It's freaking awesome to watch, and I think it's having a profoundly positive effect on the technical staff.
The day she joined the company, someone started a "requests for the new CEO" thread on the list. It contained some reasonable suggestions, and some funny/silly ones too. No one expected she would read it. She did, and responded. Sure, she's busy, and how. But something told her to care about this too. There are many things that Marissa has to worry about, and one of them is the employees -- clearly she is taking care of business on many fronts. Our CEO is a member of D-R #ForTheWin. I'm reminded of Charlene Li's fantastic book Open Leadership http://amzn.com/0470597267 as Marissa is an example.
I was asked to answer, and I don't have hard data to share that would quantify this one way or another, but I can share the following:
We had our first "all-hands" meeting with Marissa on Friday. Her first order of business was to introduce all the new hires of that week. Of course, she was one of the people on the list which got everyone to laugh. The list was longer than I thought it was going to be. Yahoo! does have an active hiring pipeline. The new Yahoo!'s (who were on campus) got reserved seats up front. We'll welcome the new "Yahoos" (as they are called) every week.
At the meeting someone asked if we'll see a hiring freeze (which sometimes happens when you have a new CEO). Marissa said "no, that's not the plan now." In fact we have many open positions that we need to hire, and she is going to be involved in the process in some manner. Getting fresh talent is very important to any company. So if you are interested - apply. Seriously.
It's no secret that there has been drama at the company in recent months (years) and there are people who have mixed feelings about the company. I speak with many people and I was very sad to hear about someone very senior, whom I work with often, who was thinking of leaving. When Marissa was named CEO I had another conversation with this long-timer, and was pleased to learn of the reversal of position. I'm looking forward to continuing to work with this fantastic colleague -- and attribute this renewed "faith" to Marissa taking over. Most people I work with are very happy to be there, and even happier now that we have a solid CEO in place.
I got to meet some of our summer interns this year and many told me they would be very interested in coming back to Yahoo! after they graduate -- but when I asked this question to some of the interns after Marissa was named CEO, the enthusiasm was much greater -- they really want to come back and apply for full time jobs.
So again, I don't have hard data, moreover, at the time I'm writing this, she's been on board for all of 10 days -- so let's allow nature to takes its course in order to sort out real spikes from noise. But underlying this question is the one -- "is there a renewed spirit and sense of future" -- yes there is, especially in the technical ranks. Marissa is very impressive and I think it's fair to expect that some of the more talented people our there are going to take a serious look at joining now. And they are invited to do so, since they too could be part of (and credited for) a great story.
Update 6/2013: There has been a dramatic increase in job applications at Yahoo! in 2013. The Talent Acquisition team is very busy.
Mail - d-d-d-dead. I'm not even going to source this one. Gmail has won the email wars by a long shot.
Messenger - I forgot this was a thing. Another area where Google has won.
Music - I also forgot this was a thing. I used to listen to it all the time pre-Pandora.
My Yahoo - iGoogle was superior, yet even that's getting shut down.
Advertising - Now paired up with Microsoft and AOL because it can't beat AdSense.
Personals - dead
Now, if we examine the list above, we can see that Yahoo properties typically have 1 of three characteristics. They are either dead, being killed by Google, or generally horrible.
What Yahoo tends to do is buy companies to replace their own products, and if Quora replaces Answers, then the quality of the community will certainly go down hill. Even if it's not an Answers replacement, we can't guarantee that Yahoo will know how to manage it. Many of the above services are bettered by Google's version, and as we saw years ago, Google didn't even know how to make Q&A work.
This may be a little Inside Baseball for non-ex-Yahoos, but here goes:
Buy Bing from Microsoft and attack Google where it lives.
Turn the Flickr engineering team loose to write the mobile app that should have strangled Instagram in its crib.
Bring back the Paranoids. Literally, I mean: track each of them down, apologize profusely, and hire them back, whatever it costs. Do this also with the Flickr community service team. Once they're back, put the Flickr community service team in charge of all Yahoo customer relationships.
Watch and listen to Douglas Crockford's excellent address ("What Would Crockford Do?") to the HTML5 Development Conference.
No more 360 reviews or stack-ranking, ever. The last time you use data from the 360 system should be to ferret out and fire the managers who are best at exploiting it, and then the HR people who put it in place. Instead of this fantastic annual months-long time- and energy sink, simply pay everyone 110% of whatever it would cost to replace them. If they're not worth that much, fire them.
While you're down there talking to HR, adopt the Netflix unlimited-vacation policy.
Close the India operation; it's where products go to die. Anything that's only being supported by a couple of part-time drones in Bangalore should be shut down.
Stay on the Node.js path; Mail was a good start but there's much more work to be done. Double down on YQL, get Pipes some resources, and bring back the only decent search API the Internet has ever had.
Halt support for Internet Explorer 6 in 30 days, IE7 in 90 days, and have a visible countdown to April 8th, 2014. On that fine day, halt support for IE8 as Windows XP reaches its end of supported life. By "halt," I mean this: instead of showing a broken user experience, redirect all users driving these browsers to a simple page stating that Yahoo! is very sorry, but it refuses to support their insecure browser for even one second longer. (Feel free to show Chrome Frame installation instructions here.)
Abolish HRC and write a blank check to IT; the only scarce resource at Yahoo should be engineering talent. There should be zero questions asked if an engineer says she needs a laptop--even one of those fancy aluminum Apple laptops--and managers should be free to ditch the Blackberry in favor of a device that actually runs Yahoo's products.
Flatten the organization to no more than five levels of reporting between you and the janitor. One way to do this: if a manager committed zero lines of code in the last 30 days and has the word "senior" or "executive" in his title, fire him. Another: instantly fire anyone in charge of any project containing any of the words Partnership, Global, Initiative, Strategy, or Platform in its name. (Cancel the project, of course.)
Revive, embrace, and extend the Hack Day ethic. Anything that can't go from a bright idea to a working prototype in 24 hours and be demonstrated in 90 seconds or less is too complicated for Yahoo's customer base to understand. This goes for existing projects as well; if it can't be demonstrated coherently in 90 seconds or explained by a bumper sticker, kill it. And if anything wins Filo's "Ship It Now" at a Hack Day and does not ship within 90 days, fire the vice president in charge of the product.
I worked with Marissa on a couple projects over a 3-year period, as a UX designer. Though I'm rooting for her to succeed at Yahoo, her reputation at Google was mixed. Here are my impressions —
To her credit: - She always spoke her mind, and would defend projects she believed in. - She's blunt, and as others have pointed out, this often helped keep things moving. - She protected google.com from bloat; no small task given Google's bottom-up culture. - She understood the importance of social (Facebook, twitter) long before other senior leaders at Google did.
On the other hand: - She clung to 'web 1.0' design conventions, effectively freezing and enforcing Google's 1998-era design patterns. i.e. she insisted that all links be blue and underlined, and she limited the use of buttons or any elements that were 'like a desktop app'. This limited our ability to be inventive. - She held weekly design review meetings that were widely considered to be a bottleneck. There was a widespread belief that her management style slowed product development. She was more of a gatekeeper than leader. - She would sometimes rely on data without any hypothesis about underlying causes (the infamous '41 shades of blue' — http://stopdesign.com/archive/20...) - For these reasons, she was forced off the search team, and put on the maps team. This was spun as a lateral move but internally it was pretty clearly a demotion. She never built much credibility within the maps team. - She was also largely responsible for the questionable Zagat acquisition, and the doomed Boutiques project, (which has since been shut down - http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2...). As well as silly stuff like the Gucci and Dolce and Gabbana iGoogle themes (http://www.google.com/ig/directo...)
Because executives at these companies travel like crazy and are rarely in the same place. When a time-critical conversation needs to happen, odds are low that both execs are in town on precisely the same day.
Last time I was at a big company, we'd have to schedule meetings weeks in advance to find a day when our paths crossed.
Bonus payout target of 200% base salary with max of 400% - On the higher end
Option grant $6M - 2.5 year vesting schedule subject to performance criteria
Restricted stock grant $6M - 3 year vesting schedule subject to performance criteria
I don't have the data in front of me but $12M in equity is on the high end
In total her target annual compensation is $15M but it's tough to fully evaluate her compensation without knowing the performance hurdles she is being measured against and if she gets additional/fewer shares if performance is above/below expectations
Including the $30M she is getting for joining YHOO and $14M for giving up unvested GOOG stock, Marissa Mayer can potentially make +$100M over the next 5 years
What does it mean?
Marissa Mayer is being paid like one of the top CEOs in Valley and the expectation is she performs like one. She's definitely not on a rookie contract.
I'm a former Yahoo and this is my perspective from a few years out. I worked with a lot of good people there and thought it definitely had assets at the time. My assumption that some of that talent is still there and that is definitely possible, but it will be difficult for various reasons.
The premise is why it is possible can be witnessed by the growth of social services such as Pinterest, Instagram, Draw Something, etc. The capital required for this is much less than the hardware supply changes that Apple had to go through to create its rebirth. While I am on the subject of Apple, it is instructive that Apple did not become APPLE, by continuing to iterate on the Mac, but it skewed sideways into the iPod, the iPhone and the iPad. The iPod reaffirmed the Windows platform instead of insisting that the iPod support Mac only, which in traditional thinking was a no no. Apple in effect was willing to sacrifice the Mac for the iPod which is pretty amazing, it didn't work out that way, but it could have. So that's the crux of the situation for rebirth.
First and foremost, take actions to change the perception of Yahoo. Right now any new product Yahoo X will be perceived as a dog no matter how good it is. It won't get a fair shake among the blogerati. Life isn't fair and the tech gossip tsunami is too overwhelming. Work to develop new products that appear independent of Yahoo, do not constrain them to carrying the brand. Power them with all the identity services to ensure that you are not using the Yahoo brand as a crutch for distribution. If some of these services take off, the reveal that it was Yahoo will be mind blowing, and if they fail, no one will care. Assume you will have a hit somewhere, if not you have the 700 million monthly uniques.
Focus on operations and marketing to be more nimble. In large companies, the bureaucracy will say use X because it is more efficient and we are optimized for that. This is great when X actually fits the need, but when it almost fits, it stymies the product and the organization. Work on operations to be able to assimilate new infrastructure and technologies faster. Yahoo was difficult because you had to shop at the Yahoo store of technologies or else and orgs had a pocket veto on any new product feature. This makes Yahoo so difficult is few people could make things happen, but almost everyone could make things not happen.
Strengthen your core products to reduce loss. All the old products have atrophied and are kludgy and can be frustrating. Focus on a seamless experience. For instance, search in mail is random at best. Sports and Finance are solid, but not magical. See what can be done to make them feel like an extension of people's lives. (this is a bit trite, but the iPhone is so great because it does the details so well).
The question is, is Yahoo is sort of like Jeremy Lin, someone who is a bench warmer until they are not. It's not clear that Yahoo does have the latent skill anymore, but if it does a turnaround is clearly possible. The greatest challenge is to acknowledge its core strengths but not be hindered by them. Good luck Marissa and please give your child the time s/he deserves too.
It's going to be really tough. And this really has nothing to do with Marissa, more to do with the current state of Yahoo! and how long its products have been neglected.
Some of the big challenges she faces and what impact she might have on them:
Wall Street's focus on the quarter. Wall Street expects results in months, not years. See what's happened to Apple's Ron Johnson at JCPenney Rakesh Agrawal's answer to It's May 2012. Why is Ron Johnson's new JC Penny retail strategy failing? That's extremely unrealistic given the depth of problems at Yahoo. Unlike Google, Facebook and more recently public companies, Yahoo doesn't have the extreme dual-class share structure that lets Page or Zuck say "fuck Wall Street, I'm going to do what's right for the long term." There's not much she can do to change this.
Flight of talent. Yahoo has lost a lot of talent over the years. This is something that Google has only begun to face recently. It's been a long time since Yahoo was considered a great place to work by top engineers or product people. Having Mayer on board might help this a bit. (If it weren't for the fact that they're down in Sunnyvale, I might consider sending my resume in post-Mayer.) But Yahoo has been known for layers of management that don't let engineers do their thing. I would expect that one of her top priorities will be to make Yahoo an attractive place to work for engineers.
Zero focus. Yahoo's brand has been all things to all people. Is it a tech company? A media company? No one knows. None of the recent CEOs have been able to articulate a vision for the company. She can certainly improve this by ruthlessly killing off non-core products. It's unclear, however, how much she did this at Google. It seems most of Google's retirement of dead products began after she moved into her new role.
A hostile press and digerati. Many in the media and digerati will hate on Yahoo no matter what it does. I hope that with a new CEO who is generally respected in Silicon Valley that they will give her moves a fair hearing.
Yahoo has also lost early leadership in four of the most important things for the future: search, social, local and mobile.
Search. Obviously, she knows a lot about search. But Bartz essentially sold that off to Microsoft and I don't know that there's a good way to get that lucrative business back. If anyone can figure that out, it's Marissa.
Social. Although Yahoo had one of the original social graphs with Yahoo Messenger, it failed to capitalize on it. It also had a number of failed experiments with Yahoo Mash and Yahoo 360. flickr has historically been one of Yahoo's strong spots, but it has long been neglected. (So much so that I started moving all my pictures to Picasa, just in case Yahoo throws in the towel.) Given Google's abysmal track record in social, I don't hold out much hope here.
Local. Remember Yahoo Maps? Yeah, at one time Yahoo was an important player in the local space. That was a long time ago. This is another area that Marissa has expertise in. But Google has made a lot of outsized investments in local that would be extremely hard to replicate. Apple is trying to do that now. But Apple has a huge asset with the iPhone: it can embed data collection into iOS to build its dataset, much like it did to push out Skyhook Wireless.
As I write this, it reminds me a lot of my time at Aol. Aol also had a lot of early leadership that was squandered by CEO after CEO chasing the quarter and refusing to invest in innovation, despite having some smart people who knew what was coming.
Aol's current CEO, Tim Armstrong, is another ex-Googler, and he has hardly set the world on fire. His single biggest accomplishment has been selling Aol's patent portfolio to Microsoft.
I give Marissa better odds than Tim at Aol.
Among all the advice that I've seen headed for Marissa this week, she would be best served by reading this piece by ex-Yahoo Sriram Krishnan: Unsolicited advice for Marissa Mayer http://sriramk.com/unsolicitedya....
I reported to Marissa before she was a VP, after she was a VP, and then to someone who reported to her. I was never close friends with her, but I do consider her a mentor and I have many friends in common with her.
The comment on HN is not an accurate portrayal. I can see why someone would think that, as many people had difficulty working with her. She's opinionated, smart, and direct. I'd argue that it's very rare to find someone extremely successful who doesn't rub a lot of people the wrong way. If you're smarter than 85% of people in the room on any given day, and have been for most of your life, then you get used to knowing what someone not as smart as you is going to say, cutting them off to tell them why they're wrong, and moving on. This is an unfortunate mode of operation most people come to -- there are only so many hours in the day. When I first started at Google, fresh out of school, I was taken aback by how curt and angry many senior execs seemed. I saw her behave this way to dozens of people.
But I soon learned that it was a side effect of not having enough hours in the day, and they'd learned to be direct. As an aside: not all executives are this way, and there's no excuse for being an asshole for the sake of being an asshole. But let's look at these behaviors in context and give people the benefit of the doubt. What I found interesting is that this behavior most often annoyed people who were less secure in their own abilities or who were less well respected by the organization already. It was really that a curt executive magnified something they already felt, rather than being the source of the issue.
In my interactions with her, she was extremely generous, thoughtful, and caring. In my years of working with her, she would give me honest but productive feedback, taught me countless small but meaningful tidbits (e.g. if you're giving a presentation, speak to the most important person in the room), and even jumped on a few grenades for me (once I decided to give a strategy presentation that directly conflicted with what Sergey wanted to do, pissed him off, and she insulated me from his anger that day in a way that achieved the right outcome for Google and probably saved me from being on Sergey's bad side). I had to work my ass off and had to prove to her that I knew what I was doing, but once I had her respect, she trusted me. This did not mean I had a free ride. She still pushed back on me, but if I really believed something and had good reasons for it, she never pulled rank on me, even though I am several years her junior.
I can understand why some people had the interactions they did with her. She's a strong personality, opinionated, a clear thinker, and very fast at taking in new information and evolving her opinion -- that's why she's 37 and the CEO of Yahoo. This is not a personality that everyone can get along with. And it does have its side effects. In the same way that she trusted your judgement by default and would take the onus to override you if she disagreed, if you were on her shit-list, then the onus was on you to override her judgement if you disagreed. This is a hyper rational way to interact with people with whom you've had many many interactions. And, of course, it isn't 100% accurate. But she's not Bill Clinton. She won't charm the pants off of you if she decides for whatever reason that she doesn't want to. Her job as an executive is to get shit done and sometimes this means pissing people off. But to make it seem as though she was universally hated or incompetent is a gross mischaracterization.
A phone call is personal enough to be respectful, it's efficient, and it avoids embarrassment
There's no discussion. It's all about the transmission of information. If you ask someone to come in, on short notice, to cancel any meetings they may already have, to an in person meeting, and you have any sort of reasonable relationship with them, then they know what's about to go down. I'm sure if Carol Bartz got a call that said, "Please come in right now, the board wants to see you," she would have figured it out and then would have had to waste a bunch of time. This wasn't a discussion about concerns they were bringing up for the first time. It needed to be done and be done efficiently. Marissa's conversation was probably similar -- she wasn't negotiating and Google wasn't going to try and keep her. It was a respectful formality to transmit information efficiently.
And in these situations, you're talking about executives and CEOs of multibillion dollar companies. If there's a blow up, argument, or embarrassing situation, you can avoid it on the phone by just staying silent and not letting it escalate. If you do blow up in person, then you risk the whole world hearing about it -- remember Balmer's chair throwing incident?
Conventional wisdom held by many in Silicon Valley is that Yahoo should invest its energy and resources in the three categories where it has a clear leadership position—News, Sports, Finance.
I hear this over and over from people I talk to. The basic hypothesis is that this is a viable and sustainable leadership strategy because:
Yahoo has starved and underinvested in these three product areas for years...
And yet the company still has a strong competitive position in each area.
Yahoo has no competition in these areas from Silicon Valley technology leaders. Compare Yahoo's position in these categories with its position in mail, search, social stuff, local/maps, etc. Life is a lot easier when you aren't competing with Apple, Facebook, and Google.
News, Sports, and Finance all seem like good viable long-term categories, where Internet Media will keep taking share from Traditional Media (print, TV).
So... maybe if Yahoo were to invest resources and focus in these areas, it could build something great.
To be clear, I have no idea if this strategy pencils out as a strategic plan; maybe these categories can't get big enough financially to be the sole focus of the company.
Reboot. Make this a crossroads. Establish that there will be a highly distinctive corporate culture at Yahoo! and that everything is at stake. Nothing is safe or held back.
Make Mail matter. Get Mail, their number one asset, back on track to providing a superior experience and laying a foundation for Yahoo being a core identity provider on the internet. Experiment with the future of the inbox - make a lightweight notification service, be a blog comment provider, etc.
Bring back the hack. Make Yahoo the data provider of choice, by making APIs a business priority and helping them with free app hosting, red-tape cutting and great developer support. Pipes!
Claw search back from Bing. Buy Blekko or at least revamp an independent Yahoo! search offering. Ditch Bing in a gracious way as soon as possible and work like mad on catching up on search monetization.
Merge Yahoo! Japan with GREE (Edit: Or DeNA which they already have a partnership with, duh). Then drag Mail, Messenger, Answers, Groups and Flickr into a global Yahoo! social network focused on games and mobile users.
Start an Android fork. Back in the workshed, focused on TV platforms. Strictly on the Q.T. though... just in case. (Edit: Holy cow, Yahoo! already has a TV platform and I didn't know it)
Bring back Geocities. I know this sounds redonkulous, but it's gone through the retro cycle by now and everyone will at least get a kick out of it. But imagine what GeoCities could be if it thrived up to this point (hint: Blogger), and aim for that.
Give Apple a Batphone. Turn Yahoo! into Apple's happiest data provider ever. At 24 hours' notice, offer as much executive, program manager and engineer time as Apple wants to help provide Yahoo! data streams on its platforms. Do what it takes to be Siri's BFF.
Sell the Alibaba (company) stake, acquire Shopify (product). (It's Viaweb 2.0!) In addition to moving back into shops, make stronger moves into payments(!), auctions(!!) and classifieds(!!!) using existing assets.
The Fundamental Attribution Error is the psychological bias where people search for simple causal relationships between 2 highly correlated events. For example people might state that "Apple succeeded because of Steve Job's performance" alone - and ignore the multitude of factors that contributed to Apple's success (rise of China, 2000-2007 boom, Moore's Law, falling price of storage, continual dominance of PCs in the domestic market).
This heuristic worked extraordinarily well for determining the location of man eating carnivores while walking on the African Savannah.
It doesn't work nearly as well in extremely complicated systems such as global trade, finance and business.
a): Can one person turn around the fortunes of a company?
They can - but it is only partially true.
Bill Gates turned around the fortunes of Microsoft with his IBM licensing deal. But IBM had to make the mistake of not going with CPM in the first place. Bill Gate's deal was skill BUT only after an unexpected mistake in judgement and communication between IBM/CPM. Without the uncontrollable extraneous mistake you wouldn't be talking about Bill Gates. He's good - but not that good.
No one is that good.
Marissa Mayer can turn around Yahoo!, just like the English turned around the Spanish armada - after a horrific storm destroyed most of their fleet.
This must be understood.
I have seen people state numerous times that a particular CEO has "ran a company from $5 million to $50 million". But this ignores other factors completely outside a CEO's control - competitor missteps, economic climate, geopolitical conflict/fear, rise of the internet/computers, growth in fundamental industries and so forth.
A rising tide raises all boats.
This does not mean that a boat that is sinking and being bailed out won't rise faster. It just means the majority of the rise is thanks to the Moon orbiting the Earth.
Marissa can help bail out the boat (or she can add more water to it) - but she needs the tide to help her out if she wants to stand a chance of success.
b): Yahoo!'s fortune is tied mostly to its performance.
Mostly but not all.
Indeed Google's rise took place because of competitor missteps that were OUTSIDE their control (this is key to understanding). Had inktomi doubled down on search instead of their CDN business - we might be talking about inktomi and not Google today. Had Yahoo! bought Google (as they bought many others) - we might be talking of Yahoo!'s new tablet and not Google's.
Indeed Excite (remember them?) could've had Google for $1 million back in 1999.
Google relied upon the infrastructure ideas developed by inktomi, the falling cost of internet (over investment in dark fibre), the dot-com crash (got great employees/data centres/office space/hosting cheap), the general adoption of DSL broadband and the continued popularity of home computers.
My short bio: "[Marissa Mayer and the Fight to Save Yahoo!](www.amazon.com/Marissa-Mayer-Fight-Save-Yahoo/dp/1455556610 )" is about the rise and fall of Yahoo, the Internet's first iconic company. It's also a bit of a biography of Marissa Mayer, the famous, glamorous early Googler now running Yahoo. The story is: can this wonder woman CEO save a dying giant? The New York Times says the book is "a lot of fun." Fortune says it's a "quick, compelling read." The FT says the book does "a superb job of bringing to life the dramatic story of Yahoo and how 39-year-old Mayer is faltering in her role as its saviour." I'm Nicholas Carlson, chief correspondent at Business Insider, where I write longform and cover the Internet industry.
UPDATE: I've got to get back to work here at Business Insider. But this was a lot of fun, and I'm really grateful to everyone who asked questions or stopped by to do some reading. If you have any further questions, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Finally, if this Q&A interests you, you should buy a copy of my book! Or 7 copies! It's up to you. You can find it at most bookstores and on Amazon here: www.amazon.com/Marissa-Mayer-Fight-Save-Yahoo/dp/1455556610 Thanks again!
Her objection seems to be mostly about style, which she summarizes as “militant drive and sort of the chip on the shoulder.” When thinking about women, “there’s more good that comes out of positive energy around that than negative energy.”
"Mayer more or less agrees with the aims of movement feminists, only she goes about achieving them in unorthodox ways. During her tenure at Google, she took pains to accommodate working mothers, only she did in a way that did not give them special status. (She allowed employees to identify their personal priorities, so a mom could leave early for a kid’s soccer game and a young man with no kids could leave early for a weekly potluck dinner with his old college roommates). She could have passed a special policy for working mothers. But Mayer’s way seems more viable in a world in which men and women compete equally for scholarships and jobs and are moving toward sharing domestic responsibilities, too."