Three Questions Marissa Mayer Asks Startups

Yahoo CEO Marissa MayerMarissa Mayer is a keen questioner.

Photo: Owen Thomas, Business Insider

We got our first glimpse of Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer today!At the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in San Francisco, Mayer served as a judge for the startup competition.

She’s played a similar role at previous conferences, and she’s evaluated companies for her own personal portfolio. She’s an angel investor in Square, One Kings Lane, and other startups.

That ability to spot new innovations was a key reason Yahoo’s board hired Mayer away from Google to reinvent the company.

So what does Mayer look for in startups? We listened to the questions she asked contestants for a guide.

  • Can you deliver? When Lit Motors showed off its electric car-motorcycle crossover vehicle, Mayer wanted to know: “How similar will the end product be to the one you’re showing today?” In other words, don’t show her a fancy prototype of your product if you can’t actually bring it to market.
  • Can you connect? Gyft demonstrated a mobile gift-card app. Mayer wanted to know if it would work with Apple’s new Passbook software, and why it required a time-consuming integration to bring partners onto the platform.
  • Can you grow? YourMechanic brings car mechanics to your home or office to fix common car problems on the spot. Mayer’s question: How are you going to scale? She asked a similar question of database startup Prior Knowledge, wondering how large their databases had to be to deliver accurate predictions.

It’s a safe bet Mayer’s asking similar questions of teams at Yahoo.

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