Predicting the 2008 Jerry Yang and Yahoo in 2001


While sitting in the 110 degree Las Vegas sun yesterday (en route to the worst sunburn of my life), I read Jeffrey Zygmont's "The VC Way: Investment Secrets from the Wizards of Venture Capital" (availabone on Amazon here). There isn't a ton of literature written about venture capital, and Zygmont's 2001 book is neither a best-seller or a masterpiece (#113,459 on Amazon)... but it does offer an good overview of venture and a perspective from just after the .com bust. In a chapter written about the role of founders within fast-growing, venture backed companies, Zygmont wrote about Yahoo and Jerry Yang. This was written in 2001 and is eerily relevant and insightful considering today's circumstances, Yahoo's struggles and Jerry's changed reputation:

The reality runs contrary to the pervasive cultural myth that sees a boy-wonder techno-genius hopping a freight train to Silicon Valley with nothing but an idea in his head and a dream in his heart, turning them both into a commercial empire and managing at the same time to somehow woo Julia Roberts. the reality is a lot closer to the disposition of the two fabled founder of Yahoo, grunge-kids David Filo and Jerry Yang - who, as a version of the legend goes, were living in a trailer when they worked up the Yahoo Internet search engine as a hobby in 1994 while studying for their doctorate degrees at Stanford. They never quite ran the company. Yahoo incorporated in April 95 behind funding from Sequoia, led by VC Michael Moritz, who still sits on Yahoo's board of directors. Within a year, Tim Koogle was on board as president and chief executive officer. He became chairman in 1999. Jeffrey Mallett joined at about the same time as an executive assigned to take Yahoo around teh world. He is now president and chief operating officer. Other members of the management team arrived as early, including Anil Singh, senior VP in charge of sales and marketing, and Timothy Brady, senior VP of network services. Farzad Nazem, who joined in 1996, is Yahoo's current computer whiz, serving as chief technology officer. Today cofounder Jerry Yang is a corporate director. His partner David Filo is officially described by the company as a "key technologist." Bot are said to b "currently on a leave of absence from Stanford's electrical engineering Ph.D. program. Together Yang and Filo are listed at the top of Yahoo's Web-published roster of corporate officers. Their title: Chief Yahoo. It's very cute, but have to wonder what they really do.

"You can count on one hand the number of CEOs who have scaled from raw start-up to a multi-billion dollar enterprise," observes Greylock's Kaiser. "You think of Michael Dell, or Tom Stemberg at Staples, or Scott McNealy at Sun, or Larry Ellison at Oracle. Or Gates for that matter, But they're the exceptions, no matter how loudly they're celebrated. -- page 76-77