Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Marissa Mayer and the Fight to Save Yahoo! by Nicholas Carlson

I finished another book recently. It was Marissa Mayer and the Fight to Save Yahoo! by Nicholas Carlson.

It was a good book. A fast and compelling read. It seems like some time since I've read non-fiction. The book is the story of Yahoo, and their photogenic tech celebrity CEO Marissa Mayer. She took over as Yahoo CEO in 2012 after being a senior executive at Google where she was a wealthy early Googler.

Carlson takes an interesting approach. He spends quite a few pages discussing the history of Yahoo, its founders Jerry Yang and David Filo, and the succession of CEOs during its dizzying rise in the 1990s tech boom, crash, recovery in the 2000s, and subsequent attempts to recapture the excitement of the early years. From about the mid-2000s on Yahoo is dogged by disruptive activist shareholder campaigns, intense competition in search from Google, and the near-acquisition by Microsoft. Yahoo is blessed with a trump card, an extremely wise $1 billion investment in the yearly 2000s that Yang made for a large stake in Chinese portal Alibaba. The Chinese investment turned out to be incredibly profitable and as the fall 2014 Alibaba IPO nears it makes the Yahoo CEO a very desirable job.

Then Carlson discusses Mayer's early life and rise at Google, her first real job out of the distinguished symbolic linguistics program at Stanford. Mayer is highly intelligent, very hard driving and confident. She rose very high up at Google before taking the top job at Yahoo.

That left not too much pages for Mayer's actual time at Yahoo. Still it was a good read and we understand that the Mayer Yahoo narrative is a work in progress. At the time the book closes there is yet another new shareholder activist campaign from yet another hedge fund, this time putting pressure on Mayer.

I've been a fan of Yahoo. I've used Yahoo Mail, Yahoo home page, Yahoo poker, Yahoo chat, Yahoo domains, Yahoo briefcase, Yahoo notes, Yahoo Groups, Yahoo Store over the years. I even just added the Yahoo most emailed RSS to my protopage home page after reading this book.

It was a good book. I'd recommend for anyone interested in the histories of Yahoo, Google and Mayer.