Category Archives: Yahoo!

Indonesia Panel at Deal Street Asia Conference

Full agenda is here :: http://www.dealstreetasia.com/events/?utm_source=dsa-website&utm_medium=top-banner&utm_campaign=2016Summit

I will be doing a panel on :: Indonesia, Poised for Growth! Will it deliver?

I obviously have my hunches about it. I mean, not trying to boast, but I kind of helped to kick off the scene when Yahoo bought Koprol. Of course that didn’t go according to plan but it still was a huge milestone in SEA region and was a big shot in the arm in the Indonesian scene.

You can read more about that journey here :: http://www.nokpis.com/2014/02/28/koprol-the-inside-story-part-1/

I am a big believer in Indonesia but I have my own feelings about how it will all play out but here is your chance to get involved.

Please leave questions you might have for the panel in the comments on this post and I will pick the best ones and use them during my panel and will also give credit to the person asking.

Get on it.

End of an era

Say what you will about how or the why, but it is kind of sad to see Yahoo go. The impact of Yahoo on the early internet can’t be argued with. As someone who worked there of course I think this didn’t have to happen but it did none the less.

Dan over at the Term Sheet has some good points on it:

5. Speaking of Mayer: I vividly remember the day she was named Yahoo CEO, because it was the opening afternoon of Fortune Brainstorm Tech and she had been expected to speak (on behalf of Google). At the time, I recalled Brainstorm attendees having lots of optimism about her tenure, given their belief that she’d supercharge Yahoo’s new product portfolio, as opposed to expanding its media efforts (in the end, she mainly focused on mobilizing existing product and continuing the media focus via things like digital magazine launches).

Most importantly, however, I felt that she was in a no-lose situation: She was taking over a ship that everyone believed was sinking. If she turned things around, then she’d be hailed as a business genius. If she didn’t… well, of course it sunk. Kind of like what I argued when Cerberus bought Chrysler.

This is not, however, the way things played out in the court of public opinion. A lot of that is on Mayer for a management style that rubbed certain people the wrong way (she was a first-time CEO), and a lot of that is on Yahoo PR for letting her appear on the cover of any magazine that would have her (the higher the profile, the steeper the fall). And, to be sure, her ridiculously large compensation package annoyed shareholders. But, in the end, I stand by my original sentiments. This was a 3-alarm fire that Mayer failed to put out, rather than one she started.

It is tough to argue with his premise on Mayer. Yahoo was going down the drain before she got there. But, I still think she had a swing for the fences strategy on one hand with all the acquisitions but then on the other hand never shipped anything. She also did nothing to cut costs. Any of us who worked there can tell you that Yahoo could have easily cut 5k heads and things would look the same but profit would be up. I was always down for trying this. It would be the advice to any company or startup – cut your costs and you have more time to sort things.

I also wanted to see a big layoff, close some shit and then double-down on what works. Not saying it would save Yahoo but would have given her more time and maybe allowed Yahoo not to sell.

As far as selling to Aol/Verizon – seemed to me to be the logic winner in this from the beginning but I wonder if they can do anything with it. Even for me – Aol is not really a part of my life anymore at all except for a few content sites they own.

Obviously I think Mayer made a killing for doing nothing really but managing the sale but maybe that was all she was ever intended to do but damn – what a payday.

Will wait to see what Verizon does next and I hope they don’t fuck up Flickr. Pretty much the only Yahoo thing I use.

Koprol

I was sitting at a dinner with some VC’s and a LP talking about the region.

This came up:

https://www.techinasia.com/happyfresh-asia-funding-news/

I chatted a little about Yahoo and Koprol. How Yahoo totally blew it and this closing of Indonesia R&D was the signal for the slow, ever continuing downfall of Yahoo.

At the same time the Koprol deal kicked off the SEA deal making phase and created a group of techies that are slowly infiltrating the region working for startups or startung them. Or hanging at the mall.

I won’t try and list names. You all know who you are.

Congrats!

#SEArising

India!

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25 years ago I first arrived in India.

I have been coming here ever since I moved to Hong Kong in 1999 – then with BEA Systems, actually Weblogic. Then when I moved to Singapore working for Yahoo I would hit India about every other month.

Then with Spuul I would hit Mumbai from time to time but now I am in Delhi with HOOQ. Delhi is one of the centers for all the Telcos. BizDev time.

I amazes me how much, just like me, stuff has changed. The place is busier than ever. I was in a lift yesterday full of ZTE engineers selling stuff to an India telco. Globalization in full effect. Love it.

Mobile is HUGE here. Just HUGE. The opportunities are massive.

Get in there.

Forbes interview with Ross Levinsohn

http://www.forbes.com/sites/ericjackson/2015/04/08/interview-with-ross-levinsohn-on-his-time-at-yahoo/

It is a good read and you see some of the inside info that people don’t talk much about.

I think he could have gotten into a lot more detail but these are professionals – they are not going to tell you everything.

EJ: Tell me your views of Carol because the impressions of her changed a lot over her tenure. Was it adult supervision or did she lack consumer Internet background? What was your inside view of her and what has been missed in her portrayal?

RL: She was a good operator. Jerry was the soul of the company , and Carol was an experienced global CEO. She came in and got a really good group of managers around her to run a global business. I think she doesn’t get the credit for the type of people she brought it. Many of them are now CEO’s or leaders of substantial businesses. She helped stabilize the company in her first couple of years. Then the market got tougher on her. You get built up and then you get torn down in these high profile jobs.

She did a good job when she was there. I found her to be a great boss. She was hands on enough and there when I needed here, but let her executives do their jobs. She supported us. She was always available to me.

I also agree for the most part. I had issues with Carol but I actually think she did well given the hand she was dealt. And as Ross mentions in another spot – it is not like any one person can fix everything. It is a HUGE organization.

EJ: Marissa Mayer has come under criticism recently and one of the things she’s said in response to that criticism was that, before she showed up, very few people at Yahoo were even aware that mobile existed. That doesn’t seem to fit with my recollection of Blake Irving building out digital magazines. You were cutting media partner deals such as ABC News and CNBC. When you were there, what were you doing about mobile?

RL: That characterization is flawed and it doesn’t acknowledge a great deal of work that many Yahoo’s did long before she arrived. I remember my first executive staff meeting with Carol (in 2010) and there was a 45 minute discussion about the impact of mobile on our mail products and how we could fix that. A lot of our resources in 2010 were focused on Mail/Messenger because that was such a significant driver of our business back then. It probably still is. We didn’t have enough people focused on mobile then, but to characterize it that we had no one focused on mobile is inaccurate.

We had launched Livestand which Blake had championed, that brought content to mobile devices and platforms in a beautiful esthetic.

Agree on the shift to mobile. It was happening but takes time – Marissa in my opinion continued and accelerated the work but it was happening.

Livestand was a dog due to trying to use bleeding edge tech – it should have been a native app (not html 5 wrapped in a native container) and it might of worked. The core Yahoo audience, like my mom. loved it.

EJ: You were doing a lot of these media deals even before becoming interim CEO. It seems like Marissa’s carried on that strategy. What did you see when you were head of Americas to know that you needed to do deals with ABC News, NBC Sports, and CNBC?

RL: Our thesis starting in late 2010 was that Video was going to be the most important driver for our business, but we had to differentiate from YouTube. We believed there was “white space” around premium content, and that our technology could help personalize the experiences across our verticals. We had the #1, 2, or 3 ranked sites in every important vertical (news, sports, finance etc), and we had data and massive inventory.. The plan was to add premium content partners, and create more original content and “branded” experiences. We started investing in original programming including our own writers and video starting in early 2011. We felt video was going to be the most important element in the premium space so we invested a significant amount of money in original slates. When you looked at the numbers, we had 9 of the top 10 video series on the internet. I don’t know if that’s still the case.

Ross was going to buy Hulu as soon as he was made permanent CEO. A deal team was already looking into it.

EJ: Part of your plan was to cut costs. Why is it so hard to cut costs at Yahoo?

RL: What makes it hard for any company is that you don’t want to get rid of people. Yahoo is 20 years old now. Like most 20 year old businesses, it likely has to go through changes.

Yahoo really is a family, as much as everyone bitches and moans about things, you feel a sense of pride working at Yahoo. A lot of credit for that goes to Jerry [Yang] and David [Filo] and the environment they created. It’s hard to let your friends go.

During Carol’s time, we went through a variety of smaller resizing structures. Scott Thompson put through a more aggressive plan in place that we never did. I looked at it and thought that we had an opportunity to restart the company in a way. We looked seriously at repositioning the workforce. I thought there was an opportunity to get out of certain things we were doing and get out of certain countries we were in. When you looked at the math, it just wasn’t paying off. With a fresh start, you get a free year or two to reposition the company. Marissa obviously has tried to do that as well.

The way I viewed it, our strategy would have downsized in places and re-invested. It’s a bit like big government. There were a lot of ”corporate” employees and contractors. I thought we could reduce those areas, reduce non-growth businesses and countries where we not seeing any significant traction or impact to our business and redeploy people and capital to the growth areas. We needed more people in mobile, content, sales and engineering. We needed to beef up our platform and personalization technology. But the overall headcount would have reduced by a significant number.

Ross was going to layoff at least 5000 people – maybe more. It was the right thing to do. Yahoo is way bigger than it needs to be.

Good read but wish he had said even more.

Yahoo and China

I won’t even to link to anything since I am not trying to slag the tech press but I find it is comical that there is not much research put in to finding out what Yahoo was doing in China.

This is how I understand it from working with that team, knowing the backstory and such.

First off – ever since Alibaba did the Yahoo China deal there really was no more consumer facing Yahoo products in China. In fact one of the longstanding beefs was Yahoo being unhappy with how Alibaba did nothing with Yahoo tech or the brand in China. They did the deal for capital mostly and tech but I don’t think Alibaba used the tech much. So it was more about the financing and the blessing it provided with Jerry being involved and all. Big turning point for Baba.

From that point on Yahoo in China was nothing really. At one point though some senior Sunnyvale execs who were close to Jerry and who had good ties to China wanted to return with their families to Beijing. So they went and opened up an R&D center but mostly I would say it was just remote engineering. In all it was mostly an experiment in that I don’t recall a lot of mainline stuff moving there but there were some big projects and the team started to become a key part of building and maintaining Yahoo’s core platform. Problem was that it was not a real a cost saving move given the inflation in China and the double whammy of also not doing any business in China.

So China was really just one of the last remote engineering orgs to go. Brazil gone. Indonesia gone. The centralization plan was back on target. Build in HQ – launch everywhere. Like a lot of big internet companies really.

So yes – they closed China. I don’t think it has any connection to a pull back in China since Yahoo is already gone from China. Now the engineers are too.

Big deal. Not.

Is Apple all about China?

My brother sent me this link :: http://om.co/2015/03/16/apple-is-all-about-china/

Actually I don’t think they are all about China although they are emphasizing it more and more but somehow I don’t think they will always do that. I think they used the last keynote to highlight how far they have come in China since everyone always talks about how the valley tech companies get hosed in China. And mostly they do. Look at Google, Yahoo, Tesla and many others who have tried and have failed to go big in China. Now look at Apple. Killing it in China.

I think from here on out it will just be the norm for them. I don’t think it will have to be continually highlighted.

However I would add that the focus on China is really just a pivot to Asia in general and that is the right pivot. I find it comical when people say oh the Chinese will love that gold iPhone. Or that gold macbook. Sometimes I think the people saying this crap are the same people pontificating about Asian trends just because they eat at Panda Express a few times a week.

Folks – all of Asia is quite similar to China. I suspect more than a few rich Indonesian, Thai and Singaporean folks will be doing all they can to order a gold Apple watch to go with their gold iPhone and iPads. It just comes with the territory.

So yes – China is huge for Apple. But I know they are working hard to crack India and to make a thorough dent in SEA region as well. My guess is they only get more dominant for the time being.