Jacqueline Reses, the woman who runs Yahoo’s merger and acquisition team, buys a lot of companies.
In just under three years, she and CEO Marissa Mayer have spent more than $US2.1 billion to acquire more than 52 startups, the Wall Street Journal reported in April.
Although acquisition activity has slowed from a downpour to a drip so far this year — Yahoo bought only one mystery company for $US23 million in the first quarter, compared to the five it bought last year — her team still receives hundreds of queries from startup owners and employees every month.
And Reses has a mandate that her staff treat every single reach-outs seriously, including responding with a personal email — or, even better, a phone call.
So she said during round-table discussion at the Fortune Brainstorm Tech conference held in Aspen last week.
“We look at 1,500 companies a year. We don’t go far with most of them. We look at about 100 of them in substantive detail. I don’t care where the email comes from, even someone emailing us blindly, we will respond to it,” she says.
This is all handled by a staff of 15 on the M&A and integration team.
“God forbid” her staff sends a form rejection letter
While this sounds incredibly nice and considerate (and it is) there is a sound business reason for it.
She’s guarding her reputation as someone who understands entrepreneurs and takes them seriously.
“We have the polite factor. We respond. I prefer it if we call. Having said that, I do get [emails] from a lot of lunatics,” she laughs.
That doesn’t matter. Her staff knows they must try and personally respond.
And “God forbid you send a form [rejection] letter, you’re doomed internally,” Reses jokes. “It’s just human. These are people. Their companies are their lifelines.”
Buying versus hiring
Many of Yahoo’s recent 50+ acquisitions were acqui-hires, buying the company to grab long-term employees and fresh leaders.
And that means that Reses measures the success of her M&A team not by how many deals they close, but by how many people stick around for months and years after the deal, she says.
Reses says the retention rate for Yahoo is high (we’ve heard over 80%).
And, she says, when people do leave, there’s no correlation to leaving because their stock or other bonuses have vested.
“We just did an analysis of the employee attrition on a monthly bases versus annual vesting and there was no correlation,” she said.
“People choose to leave within a few months if it didn’t jive with their expectations. The rest of the population that leaves is spread across a period of time, not immediately after their vesting moment,” she says. They simply leave “for a variety of personal reasons.”
She offered the acquisition of Flurry a year ago as an example of an acquisition done right.
After receiving a suggestion to look at mobile ad network Flurry her team did and liked the company, but at first, it didn’t fit in with Yahoo’s strategy. Then the strategy changed and her team went after Flurry with a vengeance, buying it for a reported $US200+ million in 2014 (one of her larger deals).
Now she calls Flurry, “One of the best deals we’ve done. A great entrepreneurial team, people who have become leaders at Yahoo.”