Thoughts Sans Boundaries

Yahoo!’s Achilles’ heel

Posted in internet stories, technology by Aditya Moorthy on November 11, 2009

Yesterday I wrote a post after hearing Yahoo!’s CEO Carol Bartz speak at the AmCham event in Singapore. In it I noted that the biggest problem that Yahoo! faces today is a weakening engineering team (or to its effect) and innovative products. This morning I read this post which says Rasmus Lerdoff the founder of PHP has left Yahoo! after several years of contribution to its engineering team. This comes at a time when several star engineers have left Yahoo! in the recent past.

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Carol Bartz at AmCham, Singapore

Posted in technology by Aditya Moorthy on November 11, 2009

I had a chance to sit through a speech by Carol Bartz, CEO of Yahoo! today at AmCham Singapore. I’ll make this a quick post about my opinion on today’s speech.

I went there with a bit of expectation to hear her speak as the (relatively) new CEO of Yahoo! I read through her bio in Wikipedia beforehand to put the person in context and I should say, I was quite impressed by what she has achieved in her career. At the time of reading, it struck me as to why would she take up a position as Yahoo!’s leader given that at the outset it looks like a lost cause to head a company that has paled against it’s competitors in terms of new landmark innovations in the recent past. People at that position and at that age (I am very broadly generalising here) would want to leave a legacy behind, especially in her position for what she has achieved at Autodesk.

Anyway, to cut to the chase, the speech was terrible and pathetically weak in my opinion. She kept using Autodesk instead of Yahoo! more than once (and I can attribute such slips to jet lag or hectic schedule). The statistics she was throwing (with the expectation I suspect, to impress her audience) was totally irrelevant and who cares now whether Yahoo! manages 100 billion emails a month? I am sure many in the audience must have more such tidbits to throw around and we didn’t want to hear them again! There was no new insights that I gained (which I already didn’t know). No strategic thought process or direction as to where Yahoo! was heading and mind you, many of those sitting through the sessions where shareholders as well. No indication of any new innovation coming out of Yahoo! No clear growth plans for emerging markets. No clear solutions for SMEs and enterprises as to how they can leverage Yahoo!’s platform. In total, nothing beneficial to the audience at all.

To cut her some slack; I understand that 30 minutes at AmCham in Singapore is not the great venue to talk about grand plans and I am sure she has a million things running through her head to manage shareholders and board of directors expectations. But one needs to also bear in mind the time that several key leaders and business people have sacrificed and have gathered to hear someone at the forefront of Internet and Technology speak. But well… what can I say. Being the head of Yahoo! is not easy and not going to be any easier in the near future until something radical happens to that company.

At the end after several cliched Q&A banter, I was itching to ask her my question. I, for once would like a CEO of a struggling company putting up a brave face to the world, to come out and say loud and clear – what we are doing sucks and we would like to hear from you as to what you think we should be doing, our strategies don’t seem to be taking us anywhere and we have little clue as to how to bring this company out of the woods and compete in real terms rather than the legacy the company has accumulated over the hay days of the Internet boom. Guess what, I did ask the question and I got a politically correct answer from her – we have made some tactical mistakes in the past but our current strategies are sound and will yield the right results – this in effect was her answer to me.

Let me not scathe anymore. I am sure she is doing the best she can and I do sincerely hope that Yahoo! does become one of the leading players in the Internet services space.

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