A Blog by Jonathan Low


Sep 13, 2013

Cult of Personality? Yahoo Stock Doubles and Job Applications Up Five Times in The Marissa Era

Hey, the era of the Imperial CEO was supposed to have cashed it in (literally) when Jack Welch relinquished his throne at GE over a decade ago. 

Interestingly, it is the technology industry, with its democratic ideals, collaborative culture and celebration of human capital that seems to produce most of the latter-day Cults of Personality: Bill and Steve, of course, but also Zuck, Sergey, Larry and Jeff - now making his mark in the nation's capital like Hearst, Pulitzer or the other media titans of yore - and, of course, Marissa.

Most of them need only one name. They are so famous, their exploits so comprehensively annotated that any other moniker would be superfluous, cluttering the arc of the heroic narrative. But as some famous English dude once wrote, 'we come not to bury (these) Caesars.' They have actually earned their accolades - and Marissa, perhaps, more than most.

She shares the same relatively affluent background of many tech execs; the stable home, the superior educational attainments, the seemingly effortless opportunities that just happen to fall their way. But as one of the few women in tech, especially in a senior position, there has always been more than a little sniper fire vectored in her direction.

Her move to Yahoo was considered shrewd, if desperate: she was on the outs at Google and looking for a perch from which to resurrect her legend. Yahoo was imploding and seemingly awaiting the digital wrecker's ball. Her appointment as CEO brought positive attention, as well as a pause in the relentlessly negative Yahoo and Mayer commentary as everyone early watched to see what would happen. And hey, since no one gave her much chance of rescuing an enterprise having already abused its nine lives under previous managements, if it didnt work out she wouldnt be blamed and would still have established her rep as CEO material. After all, the Boardroom Brotherhood rarely lets a little thing like failure stand in the way of a good gig. Some of her early moves were savaged, especially the universally misunderstood initiative to get all of the Yahoo dispora back in the office from their home offices long enough so they could be counted, evaluated and reeducated. But she has hung in, sold the huge stake in China's Alibaba that will fund the next several strategic initiatives and pushed the organization back into relevance.

So kudos on the good numbers. This drama isn't over by any means, but it's got a star in the leading role and the audience is paying rapt attention. JL

Alice Truong reports in Fast Company:

Talent scarce, people want to work for the recovering search giant, and investors are similarly optimistic with the company's stock price nearly doubling since her arrival.
Speaking at TechCrunch Disrupt, the CEO described Yahoo as a personalization company focused on organizing content and advertisements for users. She credited much of Yahoo's success on Wall Street to cofounder and former CEO Jerry Yang. "I think there have been certainly very smart investments that I owe to my predecessors," Mayer said, highlighting the Sunnyvale, Calif. company's stake in Alibaba and Yahoo Japan. Yahoo pocketed $7.6 billion when it sold half its investment in Alibaba last year--money for her spending spree--and the remaining stake could reap another $20 billion.
Mayer laid out four areas Yahoo is focusing on: hiring the right people, using them to build products consumers love, using those products to bring in traffic, and using that traffic to grow revenue. "They are a chain reaction, and they work somewhat like a funnel," she said. Her high-profile acquisitions, including Tumblr, have helped bring in talent, but the company also gets 12,000 resumes each week. With roughly the same number of employees, "for basically every job we have, we get a resume, each week." The number of applications coming in have grown "by a factor of five or six" since Mayer joined last July.
"Boomerangs," a term used to describe former Yahoo employees who have since returned, make up about 10% of hires in the year to date: 14% in the first quarter, 10% in the second quarter, and about 7% to 8% so far into the third quarter. That last number is lower because of the number of new grads joining the ranks, she noted.
Since last summer, traffic has grown about 20% with more than 800 million monthly visitors globally. The focus moving forward is adapting Yahoo's products for mobile, with more than 350 million people accessing the site from mobile devices. Mayer mentioned the mobile team has grown by "almost a factor of 10" since she came on board. "There's a huge opportunity there for mobile when you look at what Yahoo's strong on--mail, news, finance, stock quotes, games, sharing photos, group communication, all these different pieces--that's what people do on their phones," she said.
Part of Yahoo's comeback story is changing the way it's perceived by others. The new logo made a big splash, drawing praise and ire alike, but Mayer said its focus was to update the brand, something employees and customers have craved for a long time. Whereas many brands tinker and make subtle changes to their logos over time (Google being one recent example), Yahoo's had remained static for 18 years. Mayer said she's happy with the new logo, but the focus remains the brand, products, and user experience.
Coming from her Google roots, Mayer says "there are a few key features" missing in Yahoo Mail, but praises the email service for its simplicity. "It's just email. It doesn't have video chat and a lot of these other things, which we may experiment with, but I think can also get in the way in terms of using mail every single day and wanting to be fast and efficient with it."
And yes, she's happy at her new company. "I love Google. I was there for 13 years, and if you told me I'd be as happy anywhere else, I would've probably doubted it," she said.
"But I am as happy, if not happier, at Yahoo."


Post a Comment