When we saw a young woman running a tech company, while she was pregnant, we thought if that was real. We couldn’t believe that an almost dead company had bet on a young woman, full of experience and with a baby ready to come to the world. What it felt strange was the move, because it was a completely paradigm shift from what Yahoo had experienced before, but choosing Marissa Mayer as CEO was probably the best thing they could have ever done.
With 12,000 employees and a company which is twenty years old that hasn’t been innovating in the past years, it is difficult to change the game. What Marissa had to do was focusing on the main assets, discard the ones that weren’t even close to Yahoo’s mission and stick to those that really are part of what the company should be about. The only way to achieve that and forget about the past, which has devastated Yahoo at the core, was to apply a turnaround strategy.
Marissa Mayer’s game changing strategy was firstly about getting momentum and value by acquiring companies and young visionaries that are changing the way we look at the world. Since she became CEO, the company has acquired more than 24 companies, diversifying Yahoo main assets. The most famous acquisitions were Summly, which was trying to change the way we read news, Tumblr, a micro blogging platform, and Snip.it, a social platform for creating a collection of articles, videos and images.
When you need to gain the momentum you have lost through the years, you firstly need to set your goals and missions. Yahoo had a massive amount of value and products, which clearly didn’t focus on Yahoo’s main goals, but expanded the range of business where the company was trying to succeed. What Marissa did was to gain more value by acquisitions and redesigning the Yahoo’s mission from the bottom.
At CES, Marissa Mayer showed us what the company has been working on and the value it created through acquisitions. One example was Yahoo News Digest, a product that derives from the Summly acquisition, which aims at showing you the summaries of the top news of the day twice a day. In the same way, Yahoo is perfectly aware of the fact that investing 1 billion in Tumblr wasn’t a waste of money, because a social network such as Tumblr is another strategical acquisition from the user engagement point of view and mobile. That’s why Tumblr sponsored posts are now powered by Yahoo advertising, which means that now advertisers can really target their posts in a more efficient way.
Further Marissa Mayer introduced Yahoo Food and Tech, two new digital magazines whose aim is to enrich the Yahoo’s ecosystem without displaying ads, but by using sponsored posts. Yahoo Tech was launched to target those people who don’t keep up with the news in technology in order to focus on one of Yahoo’s biggest assets, media.
At the conference, Marissa underlined probably the biggest market for Yahoo, mobile. Without even counting Tumblr’s stats, Yahoo has more than 400 million monthly mobile users, achieved by what people do on their mobile devices. They check the weather, they search, they send emails, they share photos, they watch videos, they follow sports, they check their portfolio and they read the news. There are just eight words to describe what Yahoo is about on mobile and the traffic that these products bring. As Marissa has recalled from the stage, after listing these eight products, “this is what we are”.
After watching Marissa Mayer, it seems that Yahoo is coming back, probably in a different way, but we should expect something from these guys who have started to taste again the real meaning of innovation. The confidence and the experience that Marissa has are going to help Yahoo in the long run and this is what makes happy investors and the people who believe in those values that once were lost.
The key is in focusing on main values and executing them. The only critique to Marissa Mayer is the number of acquisitions. It seems weird that a large company such as Yahoo can’t create value with its employees and it’s forced to acquire people who have already innovated on their own. However if Yahoo is able to improve those innovations and add more value on top of them, it’s a win for everyone.