Can Yahoo Play Like a Startup Again?

There has been a good deal of press about Marissa Mayer’s attempts to revive the Yahoo brand and bring back some of the Startup mystique that it had 15 years ago. A recent article in the NY Times discusses Mayer’s attempts.

The highlight has been “infusing fresh blood and ideas…by buying creative start-ups”. The article highlights how Yahoo has fumbled past acquisitions such as Flickr and Delicious, companies that were successful predecessors to Instagram and Twitter.

Mayers’ street cred from her time at Google seem to be paying some dividends in buying Yahoo a redemptive chance to buy promising startups and acquiring their technical talent in the process. She has had to overcome the belief that Yahoo is where great technical talent goes to wilt away.

I recently had a chat with an executive at AOL about a similar effort, their Fish Bowl incubator in the DC Suburbs. He discussed similar goals to Mayers’ including infusing startup culture and finding great technical talent. Rather than focus on bringing talent in house, his program revolved around bringing in new talent for 3-6 months and facilitating developer and staff interactions.

While AOL and Yahoo have similar legacies, it remains to be seen which Innovation approach will pay the most dividends. The question that seems unanswered in both cases is after money and basic support, what the companies offer startup talent in the long term?

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