No one knows for sure what Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer will do after Verizon completes its planned $4.8 billion acquisition of the company.
Given her experience, Mayer could pursue another CEO job. Or take an executive role at a big tech company. She could even launch her own startup.
What we know so far is that Mayer has said she wants to stay at the Verizon-owned Yahoo. And she will be stepping down from the board of the remaining, un-acquired parts of Yahoo (mostly the company’s Asian investments) after the proposed deal closes.
But Mayer’s best bet might be to dive into an area she’s never officially been a part of: venture capital.
According to Pitchbook data, Mayer has been a prolific investor since 2009, making over 20 early bets on startups that went on to become big hits, like Square, Brit Media, and GetAround, as well as Snapchat’s 2014 round which propelled the app maker’s valuation to a whopping $10 billion (Snapchat wasn’t Mayer’s personal investment, but was made through Yahoo when she was CEO).
And although she took some beatings with One Kings Lane, the once $900 million startup that recently sold for $12 million, the rest of Mayer’s portfolio proves she could be a surprisingly shrewd VC investor in an industry that’s known for its notoriously high fail rate.
Mayer’s first personal investment was in Square’s 2009 Series A round, which valued the company at $45 million. Square is now public and has a market cap of $5 billion.
Some of her other personal investments include, according to Pitchbook:
- Minted: Invested in Series B round valuing it at $47 million; now worth $422 million
- GetAround: Invested in Series A round valuing it at $44 million; now worth $144 million
- Wealthfront: Invested in Series E round valuing at $287 million; now worth $700 million
- Lever: Invested in Series A round valuing at $48 million; now worth $97 million
- Periscope Data: Seed investment in 2012; now worth $100 million
- Kamcord: Seed investment in 2012; now worth $115 million
- Brit Media: Seed investment in 2012; now worth $70 million
- uBeam: Invested in Series A round valuing at $57 million; now looking to raise at $500 million valuation, Pitchbook says (although it’s been involved in a big controversy recently)
Of course, startup valuations are sometimes considered a vanity number which don’t always reflect the health of the overall business. Also, Mayer has a horrible acquisition history at Yahoo that makes one question her eye for good startups.
Still, buying and investing are different. And the fact that most of the startups on Mayer’s portfolio continue to raise new rounds of financing at higher valuations says something about Mayer’s ability to make the right call.
Mayer’s best investment might not be any of her personal investments. Instead, the lone VC funding she made for Yahoo in Snapchat’s parent company Snap might turn out to be the biggest hit.
Yahoo never officially confirmed the size of its investment in Snapchat. There were some reports saying it was $20 million, but a person with direct knowledge of the deal told Business Insider that it’s “somewhere below 9-figures and well-above” that.
“It’s not small, it’s not huge. But it is a nice investment and a very good return for Yahoo,” this person said.
So what makes Mayer a good investor?
For one, she has a huge network in Silicon Valley, including the famous Google APM crowd she created, she could tap in to. Her engineering knowledge and experience seeing companies go through all stages of growth at both Google and Yahoo also helps. She sits on the board of Walmart too, giving insights into how non-tech companies work.
Yet, it doesn’t seem like Mayer views being a VC as a full-time gig for her anytime soon. In a recent interview with Bloomberg, Mayer said she still sees herself in a CEO role when asked where she sees herself in the next five years.
“I think that I built a really strong set of skills and experiences as a chief executive, and I really hope I get the opportunity to apply those skills,” she said.