I respect Melissa Mayer. She’s an undeniably smart, talented woman with an eye for product development. She came from Google (she was their 20th employee) and now she’s the CEO of Yahoo, which is, well, Yahoo.
Now, I’m an unapologetically proud Google snob, it’s true, but Mayer’s career path is of interest. Consider where Yahoo was at before Mayer: Four CEOs were in-office the year prior to her stepping in. One was fired and another was pressured to resign. We’re talking all sorts of high-profile messy. The problem: Yahoo’s ad revenue has gone down due to big players Google and Facebook.
Since Mayer started this week last year, she’s purchased a bunch of startups, including Summly, a news aggregation site created by a 15-year-old genius and (this was news to me) Tumblr, which has remained fairly independent from Yahoo. Only three of the startups still exist, however: Tumblr (yay!), PlayerScale and Qwiki.
Major companies usually welcome startups as a way to not only gain cool apps and services, but Mayer is also going acquire-crazy as a way to bring key employees on-board. Judging by the list of startups she’s bought, she’s really trying to shape Yahoo into something that can live well and prosper, despite its serious competitors. While the Yahoo homepage is still as busy looking as ever, she’s cleaned up the search results, improved Flickr and is focusing her efforts on making Yahoo mobile-user friendly, which will set a necessary course into the future.
Mostly, she’s trying to make Yahoo seem appealing to people again; she’s even re-hired former Yahoo employees. In fact, 14 percent of the hires were Yahoos who’d left. She set-up plenty of employee initiatives and inspired hope by raising morale. Maybe this is a sign of Mayer’s ability to change the culture? If so, you have to credit someone who has the ability to overhaul a company’s image from the inside out.
While I’m a blogger without any experience in the CEO realm, I wonder if purchasing a bunch of startups in order to improve Yahoo’s lame-kid-in-the-cafeteria image is going to help the struggling giant.
One thing is certain: Mayer took on a huge responsibility and should be heralded for doing so, especially after leaving Google–regardless of the ways feminists spectrum-wide may perceive her after she shunned telecommuting, which affected working mothers.
I’m just not sure Mayer can actually do anything, regardless of her talent. She’s got a new decade hovering over her shoulders.