Thursday, August 12, 2010

Paul Graham on Yahoo

This editorial on Yahoo by Paul Graham is one of the finest technology editorials I've ever read. I can't really express the ideas in the editorial better than Graham did. Two things I'll add though:

  1. I remember when they hired Semel to be CEO. I knew the goose was finally cooked then. He was a studio guy and Yahoo fully embraced the entertainment company mantra. They even hired a guy named Loyd Braun, who had green lighted Lost at ABC but was fired before it was proved successful. Together, he and Semel were to turn Yahoo into a content company. Shortly after hiring him, there was a glowing article on him in something like Fortune or BusinessWeek and it casually mentioned that he didn't know how to work his computer and his assistant read his email to him. I nearly blew a gasket. The most important anecdote of the whole article was a throw away sentence buried in the middle. The guy in charge of Yahoo couldn't work email!!!
  2. Some people probably say, "who cares about yahoo?" - totally get it. It's a company that lost its way and that happens all the time. However, I think it's valid for tech people to care about Yahoo for two reasons, 1) It's a shame to see wasted potential. Whether it's a superstar high school athlete that can't get out of their own way, or a Fortune 500 company that does the same. It stinks to see someone/something not reach full potential. and 2) Yahoo is one of the big three of potential Internet acquirers - Google, MSFT and Yahoo. To have a strong startup ecosystem, there needs be acquirers to cash out investors and take smaller, but useful tech concepts mainstream. Facebook and Twitter are on their way to reshaping the acquisition environment, but for the last 3 or 4 years, you had three choices when selling an Internet company, and two of those choices were in obvious decline. The startup exit market was less competitive, and less lucrative, because of Yahoo's missteps.