Marissa Mayer: A New Hope For Yahoo

Marissa Mayer becoming Yahoo’s new CEO isn’t just another story about another exec playing musical chairs and switching jobs.

There will be debates about whether or not Mayer is enough to save the troubled iconic company. And debates about the wisdom of her decision.

But what the press has missed so far is that this is a paradigm shift for Yahoo.

Mayer is completely out of Yahoo’s league. So far out that I’m surprised they even had the courage to approach her (although it’s possible she approached them).

But they obviously found that courage, and Mayer has taken the job.

Impossible, I would have said a week ago.

But it happened. And overnight Yahoo’s reputation will change.

At first it will just be in Silicon Valley. But as of now people won’t be ashamed to say they work at Yahoo any more. And for the last several years, they have certainly been ashamed.

More key employees will stick around. The company will be able to hire better people. People will be proud to work at the company again.

Morale will shift immediately, there will be lots more positive thinking.

Why? It’s just the way humans think. If something is perceived to be a loser then it becomes a loser. People bail, either physically or mentally. A defensive attitude takes over. Talented outsiders avoid it like the plague.

Example: Just a couple of years ago Yelp refused to be acquired by Yahoo for some $200 million more than Google was offering.

Now, though, the bloom is back on the rose at Yahoo.

It doesn’t mean the company will find a way to win. But like I said, the whole Yahoo paradigm has shifted.

I’ve interviewed Mayer many times over the years at TechCrunch and Le Web events and I’ve been able to see the way she thinks during those interviews and in other interactions.

What happens next is she’ll want to win. And generally she does win. I’d expect a bold new product strategy and an acquisition plan to help build the foundation of that strategy.

Fixing Yahoo will be difficult, particularly since the company seemed to have grown comfortable with its decline and no longer had any fight left in them.

I expect Mayer will be fixing all that sooner rather than later.

It’s a good day for Yahoo.

31 thoughts on “Marissa Mayer: A New Hope For Yahoo

  1. Thanks Michael for your focus on the professional part and for leaving the private news where they belong: private. Refreshing.

  2. Can’t wait to see what happens now. I think she can turn it around, but it’s certainly going to test her. Now, let’s see who the board gets to run Microsoft!

  3. Vah says:

    She is the only person I liked in Google, but all these people in Google who came from Microsoft or else.. and had different way of working… Marissa needs people who really want to win to lead them to that :) (most of people at Google don’t think they can make Google any more successful and just trying to get more gain from it themselves right?)

  4. floriandorfbauer says:

    Thanks Michael for your focus on the professional part and for leaving the private news where they belong: private. Refreshing.

  5. KN says:

    Re Marissa approaching Yahoo, NY Times reports that Mayer “was first approached about the job in the middle of June …”: http://dealbook.nytimes.com/2012/07/16/googles-marissa-mayer-tapped-as-yahoos-chief/?smid=tw-share

  6. And what a loss for Google! Would this have a similar negative effect on morale at Google?

  7. Engineer says:

    The real question, though, is how can she win. What is yahoo anyway? What does yahoo mean? For Apple, they were in decline but the clear way to win was to bring back computer sales… they pivoted into mobile (iPod) as a way to do that. But what is yahoo? Its never been a search engine, really.

  8. kosso says:

    I’m remarkably impressed with what she’s achieved in her career.
    She’s done the long haul (one of the longest) at Google and now it’s time for a bigger challenge. (Despite being pregnant.)

    Good for her.

    Will it re-invigorate Yahoo – internally and externally? We shall see.

    Or will she break it up and set it up for sale?

  9. You have, as usual, put your finger on what was churning around in my mind yesterday. I think she will get something done. How much depends on the market (not the stock market–the market that’s a conversation.)

  10. David Callahan says:

    … a pregnant woman with no CEO/management experience would “save” a company that has been dying for years?
    “Hope and Change?” — where have I heard that?…

  11. This. Changes. Everything.

  12. expertgm says:

    It’s a grand slam for Yahoo, I’m still stunned at how quickly it all came together (and that it didn’t leak in advance).

  13. Her 1st order of business would be to buy AOL and boot Tim A out and replace him with Arianna Huff. Her 2nd order of business would be to turn the riens of Yahoo after a great turnaround to Arianna and become CEO of Google (Yes Google) in around 2015. In between all the other moves will just be noise.

  14. DCP says:

    I have no doubt that Marissa Mayer is a smart woman. She has accomplished far more than I have. I also believe in the female Internet consumer, and I think that Marissa can do a great job of appealing to them. My non-tech girlfriend spent 60 minutes reading about MM when she found out she was a pregnant CEO.

    But she was in charge of Google Local for a long time. Have you used Google Local as a business? It is a godawful product. It is so bad. It shocks me how bad it is.

    You can’t even upload images half the time because it crashes. Bugs in the profile claiming system lead to more problems. There is no creativity in the product. There is no originality in the product. It could do so much, and yet it does so little. And no product has more potential than Google Local, because Google is able to market it so easily.

    I have trouble believing that the person who was in charge of that product, with all of the talent at Google behind her, can work wonders at Yahoo.

  15. Rob Hoffmann says:

    Yahoo needed to shake up the paradigm. This is, literally, their last chance — if Mayer can’t save the place, it will wind up broken up for spare parts — so there was really no major risk in trying someone new.

    After all, the usual suspects led Yahoo into the abyss… so why hire one of the usual suspects to lead it out?

    What bears watching now, of course, is who she selects as her top lieutenant, as that person will be in charge for a few months later this year. If she names someone with too many aspirations, it could develop into a leadership battle once she’s back from maternity leave… but if she names someone with no aspirations, that may leave Y! rudderless again, even if it’s for a short while.

    Still, I wish her luck. The more viable brands in tech, the better for everyone, if only because that means it might stem the bleeding in tech jobs… :)

  16. think says:

    The other view, more common amongst long-time Googlers, is that Mayer is a publicity-craving, lucky early Googler, whose public persona outstripped her actual authority and power at the company, where she was once a rising star—thanks to a bullying managerial style—but had become marginalized over the past couple of years.
    Yesterday we spoke at length on the phone with a former Google executive who worked with Mayer and says she and others like her have this view.
    She told us twice: “This is a great day for Google, and a nail in the coffin for Yahoo.”
    This source described an executive who “will work harder than anyone” and “is smarter than 99 percent of the people,” but “can’t scale herself” and “doesn’t understand managing any other way than intimidation or humiliation.”

  17. think says:

    This source says that when she worked with Mayer at Google, Mayer “was just a nightmare”—someone who had her own publicist, forced underlings to sign customized NDAs, and maintained “a shadow HR staff and a shadow recruiting staff just for her team.”
    “No one understood why she had the power that she had, except that she will literally work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.”
    “She used to make people line up outside of her office, sit on couches and sign up with office hours with her. Then everybody had to publicly sit outside her office and she would see people in five minute increments. She would make VPs at Google wait for her. It’s like you’ve got to be kidding.”
    This source says that for a time, Mayer attended executive coaching lessons with Bill Campbell, but that the gossip is he refused to keep teaching her because she was unreceptive to feedback. Another source confirms a falling out between Campbell and Mayer, but doesn’t know why it happened.

    • David Callahan says:

      @think
      … for some reason, reading your comment made me think of Carly Fiorina at HP — unfortunately [we know the results,] she actually made an effort to “manage like a man would, as tough or tougher… “take no prisoners” [her words] after she became the CEO. Then, she proceeded to run the company into the ground… [remember the Gateway acquisition?]
      There was something of Carly Fiorina in Carol Bartz. And, again, we know what happened. I understand that Bartz was sacked by email… guess that it would have been very risky to do it in person : as far as I know, no one at Yahoo would volunteer to do the “sacking.”

    • Pushkar says:

      @think
      I think you “conveniently” forgot quoting (or copying) rest of this article: http://www.businessinsider.com/the-truth-about-marissa-mayer-she-has-two-contrasting-reputations-2012-7 where you copied the stuff that you’ve posted.

      Why not quote (copy) the whole thing where it goes on to say that she probably has matured now and doesn’t make people line up outside her office.

  18. JP says:

    Good for her. With Brin and Page not going anywhere, she’s stuck for years. Then, with the focus on social, she’s not a real contributor with local and maps not having a significant play in this area. Finally, her boss is a no show at the last earnings call. Yeah, if I were her I’d tell myself I can do that from home breastfeeding if I needed to.

  19. Royal says:

    Michael, really well said… !

  20. Rizqi Fahma says:

    Let’s see what she can do at Yahoo!
    Let’s hope that Yahoo! will strike Google back as a search company.

    Wooohhhoooo :wink:

  21. Alex Hammer says:

    Too much advocacy for a friend. She may or may not be able to produce at Yahoo but Mayer was severely languishing at Google.

    • David Callahan says:

      … well, yes, it looks that way — We shouldn’t forget that the SV tech community is fairly tight, like many others. Thanks to FB, Twitter, email, etc., we all know what is going on… sometimes in a matter of minutes.
      Also, as grandma used to say, “if you don’t have anything good [positive] to say, stay quiet.” — Plus, “never burn bridges.” Particularly in SV. the person you made a comment on might be essential to complete a great deal, get a great job, etc.
      Mike, I hope that you have already sent to Marissa the best bouquet of flowers and box of chocolates [Godiva, of course] you could find — I know that now you can afford the best…

  22. Jon says:

    We like Yahoo!
    We like Google.
    We like Marrisa Mayer.
    Hope she is successful – it will make a great story.

  23. Jonathan says:

    The Yelp / Yahoo acquisition reference is just plain stupid.

    Yelp is now worth $1.4x billion. They refused the $750 million Yahoo offer because they obviously believed they had a viable long term business that was worth more than the offer.

  24. gotchanow123 says:

    Great! Now go ahead and beat Google.

  25. Reblogged this on Global Management in the 21st Century and commented:
    Marissa Mayer gives new hope to Yahoo!! Yay!!

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