In a previous post I said that despite all the possible strategic options out there, Marissa Mayer needs to fix Yahoo!’s culture or nothing will work.
It looks like Mayer is actually thinking about culture as she’s making some moves that previous Yahoo! CEOs didn’t like offering free food, getting cooler swag, and redesigning the workspaces. (Yahoo!’s Sunnyvale campus is all purple cubicles…)
While fixing the culture is a huge problem, it’s true that Mayer does have to figure out a strategy for Yahoo! that makes sense. Personally, I haven’t been sold yet on the notion that Mayer can focus Yahoo! on being a “products” company that competes straight up with Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and countless other companies and startups. Even from the company’s earliest days, Yahoo! has always been a hybrid of tech and media. Becoming more of a pure product company will not be playing to the company’s strengths and it puts Yahoo! head to head with extremely powerful competitors with huge piles of cash that have been already executing on that vison for years.
McClure’s thesis is that Yahoo! should focus on women. He states that Yahoo! already is strong in many verticals that appeal to women, is led by a female CEO, could brand itself as the best tech company in the world at hiring females in leadership positions, and that by partnering or acquiring sites and apps aimed at women that Yahoo! could really do some damage.
My hat is off to McClure for coming up with an idea I hadn’t heard before, and I’ve talked to a lot of people about Yahoo!’s strategic options and spent a lot of time thinking about it. Focusing on women has some pros and cons:
- It would give Yahoo! an answer to the question “What is Yahoo?!” and give the company a purpose and direction.
- It defines Yahoo!’s target market in a way that everyone understands, and gives a focus to what products should be built and how they should be built.
- It gives Yahoo! a hiring differentiation and in some ways an advantage over other valley competitors like Facebook and Google. Not only would women want to work there, but there are a lot of intelligent men who would want to work in a female-empowered environment as well.
- It’s a direction that fits with having a female CEO who has been a role model for women in engineering and technology.
- Yahoo! already has a lot of great female employees.
- Yahoo! does have a nice foothold for the female market already, and through a couple of strategic acquisitions they could have a dominant stake. Think Pinterest, Sugar, Glam…
- While there are huge advantages to focusing just on women, Yahoo! would be screening out the other half of the population, of which they have a lot of users today/
- Some of Yahoo!’s biggest strengths are in verticals like Yahoo! Sports and Yahoo! Finance. Which skew heavier towards a male audience. Do you change those properties to focus more on women? Do you sell them off?
- While they might not be the people Yahoo! wants, there would be talented employees who wouldn’t want to work for a female-focused company and work environment. My sense is that the hiring advantages would outweigh this con, it is something to consider.
- Making an acquisition of one of the larger innovative companies that appeal to the female demographic to really make a big move like Pinterest or Zynga would be very expensive. Would it be enough to acquire a bunch of female-focused startups who don’t have major traction?
- The “Is Yahoo! a tech or media company” debate could live on even though the target market would be much more defined.
Should Yahoo! Focus On Women?
I don’t know, this is why Mayer gets paid the big bucks. It’d be interesting to know if that is a strategy she could get past the mostly new Yahoo! board. I will say though that it’s the best strategy suggestion I’ve seen yet.