Zynga Taps A Veteran Of Yahoo's Glory Days To Its Board

Ellen Siminoff, Zynga directorNow Zynga is Ellenville.

If you don’t know who Ellen Siminoff is, then you missed the best years of the Internet’s first wave. So catch up!Zynga just tapped Siminoff, now the CEO of educational website Shmoop, to its board of directors.

Here’s why we’re stoked about this appointment.

As a twentysomething executive, Siminoff joined Yahoo in 1996 as part of its founding team. Over the next six years, she spearheaded its huge global expansion into the media giant it is today.

While at Yahoo, one of the properties she ran was Yahoo Games. Back then, these were so-called “casual” games, featuring the same kind of simple but enjoyable gameplay that makes Zynga titles like FarmVille so popular.

She reminisced with us about Sheepshead, a favourite she shared with Yahoo cofounder David Filo. They’re both from Wisconsin, and apparently Sheepshead is a thing there.

After Yahoo, she founded and ran Efficient Frontier, a firm which helped companies optimise their spending on search ads. While Google was beating the stuffing out of her former employer, in other words, Siminoff found a smart way to capitalise on the explosion of search advertising.

She and her husband, David, are famous in Silicon Valley, and well-connected.

David, a pilot, and Zynga CEO Mark Pincus flew ultralight planes together.

Siminoff actually knew Pincus’s wife, Alison Gelb Pincus, the cofounder of home-furnishings retailer One King’s Lane, before the two were married, from a marketing deal they’d worked on during Siminoff’s time at Yahoo.

One thing she’s excited about is Zynga’s platform opportunity, a strategy Zynga unveiled last month where it’s going to start distributing other developers’ games to its tens of millions of active players on the infrastructure it’s built.

“Any time you can build a huge scale of users, there’s an opportunity to build those platforms,” Siminoff said.

She should know: That’s the playbook she used at Yahoo.

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