The new CEO of Yahoo! has her work cut out for her. Former Google big wig, Marissa Mayer, has a lot to do to turn Yahoo! around. Yahoo! used to be one of the big three winners of web 1.0. We are talking about Amazon, eBay and Yahoo! Among these three, they dominated the early commercial stages of the internet. This was when the dot com boom was in full force. Every cacameme idea involving the internet got gobs and gobs of money thrown at it. There was generally a lot of euphoria in the air as to the commercial capabilities of the internet. Unfortunately or fortunately, depending on how you look at the situation and its impact on overall investment diligence and mental health of the venture capital industry, this phase of the evolution of the internet as industrial venture collapsed with the dot com bust around 2001.
While eBay was able to turn itself around and adjust to the current mobile phase of the internet and Amazon continued to remain strong, Yahoo! has really lost its way. It has gone through quite a handful of CEOs in a year, its stock price has sunk and languished for several years now, and some industry observers are looking at the company as an obsolete relic of a bygone era. Yahoo! is primarily a content and advertising play when that segment of the internet is really getting much less loved than the mobile segment, cloud-based segment and the tablet hardware segment. Even when looked at from its search functionalities, Yahoo! just does not compare to the complete dominance of Google.
Marissa Mayer has a lot to fix, to build on and to cut out at Yahoo! and from the looks of things she does have much time to do it. That is why it must be sweet music to the ears of Yahoo! stake holders desperate for some good news to hear that Ms. Mayer is making some quick culture changes at Yahoo! The first change to Yahoo! that she has brought over from Google is our free meals. Google is well known for having food pavilions that are completely free for employees, many fun-themed employee lounges and a very relaxed environment for its staff. Not only is the food free, but there are different kinds of cuisine and there are different kinds of restaurant layouts. From a certain angle, actually it looks like an adult theme park visiting Google’s food pavilions. It looks like Mayer is seeking to replicate Google’s culture at Yahoo!
While some Yahoo! haters and doubters think this is superficial or that the cost might outweigh the benefits, they miss the point. Mayer is clearly communicating through the free lunch program that she is intent at changing the underlying culture of Yahoo! Yahoo! is primarily a content company. Content, whether it is writing, transcribing, data mining, data collation and other interaction between dat and creativity, requires a great amount of imagination. It requires a lot of versatility and even playfulness to fully produce in a high quality and engaging manner. By launching a free lunch program, this goes a long way in replicating the same creativity-boosting environment that is needed for a content company.
It would definitely be interesting what other changes Mayer brings to the table because Yahoo! might not have much time to right its ship before it either gets acquired at a discount or it runs to ground. The first few months will definitely be a test of Mayer’s ability to respond quickly while at the same time formulating a long-term winning goal for a venerable internet brand.