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Can We Please Have Jerry Back? (techcrunch.com)
21 points by vibhavs on Sept 23, 2009 | hide | past | favorite | 16 comments

I'm confused.

Carol Bartz is not stupid nor a bad leader. In the early 1990's, Autodesk was failing. It was unfocused, undefined, and it was easy to see the atrophy of quality in its products. There was no leadership, and the young company was losing the faith of its own customers. It was basically a miniature version of where Yahoo was last year when Arrington was calling for Yang's head.

Bartz came into Autodesk and turned the company around. She cut products that weren't working, she focused the company's energy on AutoCad and other cash cow products, and she developed a pretty awesome culture that still exists today. She took risks at Autodesk, and pushed the company to explore products that seemed impossible to build. But some of those experiments turned into extremely successful features of AutoCad (many of them failed, too, but she developed a culture that encouraged failure with quick abandonment).

When Bartz went to Yahoo, I was expecting a repeat of her early days at Autodesk. But it hasn't happened. She just started cursing at the news media and firing people. She has not created a focused product strategy. She has taken a failing Yahoo culture and somehow made it even worse.

Given her track record, I don't understand why she has accomplished so little in time she has had. Something does not add up.

> Given her track record, I don't understand why she has accomplished so little in time she has had. Something does not add up.

probably because Autodesk bought it's way into the market in the 90's, starting with discreet - and only then reshuffling a bit. You can watch the interview with Dan Drake (Autodesk cofounder) on NerdTV (we need that show back ASAP) - http://www.pbs.org/cringely/nerdtv/shows/ ... hear what he is saying, buying in to the market is a great way to do business. Autodesk is not favorite company amongst companies, but it sure can do business.

edit: everyone, be sure to watch that video even if you don't give rats balls about autodesk or anything. Guy gives some serious experience / advice how they went from startup to godzilla.

This is all a shame. Yahoo has lost its soul aka focus on product and trying to be innovative. They talk about VCs having walking dead companies and Yahoo reminds me of that on a much grander scale. I grew up as a kid using Yahoo (like 96/97) and it has some sentimental value.

It also upsets me because they had awesome talent there in terms of product/engineering. They all left one by one. Here's just a small list of names I could think of off the top of my head:

Caterina Fake Joshua Schachter Stewart Butterfield Jeremy Zawodny Cal Henderson Bradley Horowitz Ian Rogers Jeff Bonforte Susan Mernit Salim Ismail Jeff Weiner

Those are just the ones I can think of off the top of my head. There are countless others who have left, and probably it's even sadder that some awesome talent is still fighting the good fight there. Sadly, there's no real product focus worth a damn that they can make good use of their talents with. They could have also acquired other top tier talent if there wasn't such an exodus during the initial bid by Microsoft. I wonder what a group of 10-15 of smart product focused hackers+product guys from yc/hn would do to fix Yahoo! up. hmm, feel free to email me thoughts, could make for an interesting potential blog post/theoretical situation.

When I worked there two years ago, there was clearly a lot more non-brand name talent that you never hear about. With the people Yahoo had (some of which it still has), they should have been able to do great things, and they did do great things from a technical perspective. It's been a tragic failure of leadership.

Yup, those are just the names that are well known. I'm sure for everyone of them there were/still might be 5 more. Things like Yahoo Dev Network, Hadoop, etc. are awesome initiatives and I always keep my fingers crossed that they keep them going.

"Things like ... Hadoop ... are awesome initiatives"

Doug Cutting left too IIRC.

Honestly, I don't get the whole "Yahoo has neglected products" meme at all. The new homepage is an improvement; the new SERPs are a huge improvement; the new Yahoo Mail is pretty good (although I still prefer Gmail); Yahoo Sports is awesome; OMG gets more traffic than TMZ; Flickr still rocks; and so on.

Could it be even better? Sure. I'd love to be the overall product czar at Yahoo (hire me, Carol; forget that Brad Garlinghouse fellow who cut and run), flitting about from team to team demanding polish on various bits and pieces.

But Yahoo does better at selling premium ad space than anyone else on Earth - and they're creating more premium ad space than anyone else on Earth with their content investments in Sports, News, Finance, OMG, and so on.

I'm not really sure why Techcrunch dislike Bartz.

Yahoo have been struggling with their position in search for years, and they have been losing marketshare. They have an inferior product, and they haven't been able to compete technologically with their main competitor. Their advertising platform isn't big enough to maximise their returns, since Google has most of the mindshare.

A partnership with Microsoft for search engine technology seems like a decent approach, since Microsoft are willing to put the investment in to ensure Bing's search technology is as good as Google's, and their combined single ad platform is going to advantageous to both companies.

Yahoo aren't giving up on search. They're still going to have a search engine, afterall, and Yahoo is still going to have their own custom interface with Bing's results being the backend. Ultimately, they're just giving up trying to compete technologically with Google. They've long been unable to do that anyway - no-one uses Yahoo for their superior results.

So what's next for Yahoo? Slimlining. Strengthening their core businesses - refreshing their main services (portal, e-mail, messenger) combined with an advertising push is good, as is their plans to expand into the Arabic markets. Closing dated, unpopular, or unprofitable services (are people seriously mourning the loss of Geocities, Yahoo Brief Case and Yahoo 360?). Getting rid of properties or partnerships that differ from their core business as a content provider. I honestly don't see what's so bad about that.

Were people expecting miracles in 8 months?

back when carol was first hired, i asked how she was going to turn the company around. it's not just about running a good business, its about having a product/technology that's better than the competition and being able to monetize it. i think MSFT and YHOO can do it if they work together, but their cultures don't really get along all that well and both are fighting for the same piece of the pie.



There's a simple explanation that reconciles those two statements.

Bartz < Yang < Someone else.

Is it any wonder a whole essay was written about knee-jerk responses to Arrington?

edit: The tragically deceased parent comment was a complaint about the incongruity of "Can we please have Jerry back" and "Do I really want Yahoo to bring Jerry Yang back? No, not really." The author then asked if it was any wonder that so many people dislike TechCrunch.

Don't delete comments with replies. Losing a maximum of five karma points isn't the end of the world, though I think downvoting is generally a silly thing to do.

"Yahoo is to tech what General Motors is to autos." - McRib

Quite possibly the most epic burn I've seen all month.

Seems like a simple rule. Non-founder CEOs suck.





I really don't think you can call the rule that simple. (Maybe they might suck as product evangelists, but as CEO's they all did a pretty good job).

Actually, the counterexample is Carol Bartz herself, with what she did with Autodesk.

That's not true - there's been great non-founder CEOs promoted from within and great outsider CEOs in history. Actually, you really want one of those in a crisis that your current team hasn't been able to dig itself out of.

First to come to mind is Lou Gerstner, who turned around IBM. I read his autobiography about the experience - crazy stuff. He was up against so much built up gunk and bureaucracy, that only an outsider could've broken.



It would be interesting to crunch some numbers on that. My gut feeling is that the statement isn't true, esp for larger companies and companies that for whatever reason require some sort of significant restructuring. The unwillingness to kill your darling and all that.

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