Yahoo! has been on a challenging decline for at least three years. It had an incredible reign for about 11 years and was one of the most important internet companies ever created, bringing some order to the web, first as a directory, then a search engine, a portal, and now a multi-product media company. One of the things they did right was to become a very advertiser-friendly solutions provider with enormous scale. They were also great at hiring and retaining talent for many years. Some of the very best internet executives in the business cut their teeth at Yahoo at one time or another.
It’s too early to write Yahoo’s obit, but clearly people will mention that it messed up the three most important internet tidal waves: search (it enabled Google through the legendary search deal), social (it had a fully negotiated deal to buy Facebook but Terry Semel famously killed it), and commerce/transactional advertising (missed the entire Groupon phenomenon).
But when great companies lose momentum, the best talent in the company is the first to take notice. When they start to leave, it accelerates the decline of the company. Talented workers don’t like to work at companies without positive momentum, a great CEO who has a plan, and a good vibe. Yahoo has been losing great talent for more than three years now, and this has certainly contributed to the challenges of turning it around. Those great execs are ending up at the important new companies of the interenet’s future. Here are a few:
- Dan Rosensweig went to Quadrangle
- Jeff Weiner is running LinkedIn
- Dominique Vidal is at Index Ventures
- Wenda Harris Millard became co-CEO of Martha Stewart and now helps run MediaLink
- Greg Coleman became CEO of NetSeer
- Brad Horowitz became VP Product Mgmt at Google
- Madhu Yarlagadda runs development at Skype
- Joanne Bradford is CRO at DemandMedia
- Brad Garlinghouse head up consumer apps for AOL
- Hilary Schneider left recently
- …and now Lee Brown has left and is running sales for Groupon
It goes on and on and on. There are a number of lists which track this. Lost momentum quickly takes its toll in your ability to retain top talent. And once the talent leaves, it can mean the beginning of the end.