Photo: Wikimedia Commons
In a dramatic and surprising move, Yahoo just hired famous Google VP Marissa Mayer to be its CEO.So what does the Silicon Valley cognoscenti think?
To find out, we asked Marc Andreessen.
Marc Andreessen is the Netscape cofounder who is now a Valley kingmaker at top VC firm Andreessen Horowitz, so his view of the hire speaks volumes about what everyone else thinks out there.
Here’s what he had to say:
Business Insider: What do you think?
It’s a huge statement on the part of the board that they want the company to be product-led. I say that because they had a great CEO if they wanted to be media-led. It’s a huge double down on product.
Do you think focusing on tech products is the right strategy for Yahoo?
If you asked me a week ago, I would have said probably not, but I didn’t think they could get someone like Marissa.
Why are you surprised they got her?
She was not known to be available and when companies get into these dire straits, it’s hard to get someone of this calibre. Even Steve Jobs didn’t want to go Apple.
So you think Mayer is a great hire. Why?
- She’s a proven manager at scale. She knows how to run these companies at scale. There aren’t that many product managers in our industry who can manage at scale.
- She’s a proven product leader.
- She knows the Internet inside out.
A lot of people who may have had those first two may not have the third.
One problem Yahoo has had recently is that it has needed to acquire hot startups to replace its decaying businesses, but entrepreneurs have refused to go there. Groupon’s Andrew Mason and Foursquare’s Dennis Crowley come to mind. Will entrepreneurs sell to Yahoo now?
They will be much more likely to because of her background and qualifications. Entrepreneurs don’t usually want to work for someone, but she’s exactly the kind of person they do want to work for.
Teens don’t email and adults check it on their phones: What will Yahoo’s engagement engine be next? How will it attract visitors?
Almost every category that Yahoo’s in, they’re basically number one or two. They’ve got a pretty strong starting position. But they just went stale for a whole host of reasons.
In almost every category they’re in they’ve got an opportunity to re-think the space: Sports, Finance, and mail. What would be the killer finance, sports, or mail app in the modern era?
What’d you think of interim CEO Ross Levinsohn? Lots of others thought he should have gotten the job.
I don’t think they passed on Ross, I think they decided on the product profile. I think it was a strategy decision not a person decision. If they wanted a content strategy they had a great guy in the job. He would have been great.
He’s in the catbird seat right now. They’re either going to pay him a lot of money to stay there or he’s immediately the number one candidate for any other job.
Are big name executive departures like this one a problem for Google?
You now have a pattern of Google people going on to be CEO elsewhere. Tim [Armstrong, AOL CEO], Marissa, Sheryl Sandberg [Facebook COO]. It reminds me of GE. There is a great track record of people going elsewhere. That’s a special thing for a company. It’s a sign of a deep bench.
Can she do it? Can Marissa Mayer turn Yahoo around?
Apple demonstrates that it’s possible to turn a tech company around. Apple also proves how hard it is because it is one of a very small number of examples.
The thing about turnarounds is that they take time. It’s three to five years to do the job. So one of the things she needs for the board to support her for that period of time. The number 2 thing is for shareholders to support her. Number three is people like us on the outside. This is not six months and what has she done for me.
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