Leading Entrepreneurs

Jerry Yang of Yahoo!

Jerry Yang (Yang Chih-Yuan) was born in Taiwan in 1968. His father died when Yang was 2 years old. Demanded by his mother Lily, he started to learn Chinese at 3. In 1978, he and his younger brother Ken moved with their mother to San Jose, California, where he became a straight-A student. In 1990, he finished his bachelor's and master's degree of electrical engineering from Stanford University. Because of slump of the labor market then, Yang remained at school preparing for his doctorate. In 1994, he was still a Ph.D. student at Stanford University. He described himself as "semi retired at age 23?-play golf often."


On April 1995, Jerry Yang and his fellow student David Filo co-founded Yahoo! Corporation in Silicon Valley, California. Initially it was created as a Web site directory to keep track of their favorite web site address. Just for fun, they decided to put out their list for other Web surfers to use. As two HP founders says, Jerry Yang and David Filo were already well-known then in this area. Meanwhile, their life style were totally changed as well. Right Now they even need to squeeze out time for sleeping and eating. However, Yang still manages to spend as much time as possible to accompany his girl friend.


In early 1996, Yahoo! stock became the second-biggest winner for the first day of IPO in history. Later on June, Metricom Corporation appointed Yang as a member of its board of directors. Up to December 1996, Yahoo! had grown to a Web kingdom with a 20-million-page per day. More users visit Yahoo! other than America Online or Netscape. In 1997, despite the low income ($67 million), its market cap reached $28 billion. Up to November 1997, company's employees exceeded 200.


From the very beginning, the company's strategy was set up to be "to gain profit from online advertising and sponsoring rather than service itself." The company has grown into an enterprise providing a series of Yahoo! brand named services, including Computer Yahoo!, Internet Yahoo!, Yahooligans-a Web guide for kids, Yahoo Japan, and Yahoo Canada. Up to February 1996, Yahoo! was able to provide service in German, French, Japanese, Korean and three Northern European Languages.


Yang devotes enormous amount of energy into its business development. He enters into partnership with other people to expand Yahoo!. For instance, he co-founded Yahoo Japan with Soft Bank, co-created Yahoo! Internet Life magazine with Ziff-Davis Company. Yang said in early 1996, "Yahoo! Internet Life has set up a perceptive, visual, comparable new standard for Web site." It is the biggest and fastest growing consumer magazine ever in Internet field. Moreover, it maintains its own independent Web site. The services Yahoo! provided included free e-mail service.


Some early agreements are very important. They received investment from venture capitalist Menlo Park of Sequoia Capital, California. Netscape Corporation lent them computers and Internet access lines to exchange for Netscape commercials bouncing out from the top slot on its home page.


In 1996, P&G signed an agreement with Yahoo! as an advertising user to promote its own brand, and guide interested Web users into P&G Web site. Yahoo! had already established connections with many big name companies, such as Citibank, ABC, American National Football League, Disney, and Southeast Airline. In early 1998, Autoweb.com, an online auto-purchasing service, cooperated with Yahoo!, which provided Yahoo! users with opportunities to see Autoweb.com promotion on Yahoo! home page.


A latest indication showed that Yahoo! is going to take a more aggressive position in the market. "Yahoo!'s current goal is to create sizable users in Internet and compete with other online service providers, such as America Online and other publishers." In 1998, Yahoo! expected not only to expand its Web-site-searching service geographically, but also to connect online users to develop its relationship with them. In January 1998, Yahoo! entered the market involved with MCI Telecommunication Company to provide an Internet access service with Yahoo!'s brand name by the end of March 1998.


Yang claimed, "We expect to develop our business scope in a couple of years. I think making profit may be an accident for the beginning. We operate a regular business and try to break the average." Yang guides Yahoo! to comply with the First Amendment to Free Call Right, Communication Act, and Fundamental Rights of Advertising Users.


Yang metaphorically described the workload himself and other Yahoo! employees facing every day. He said, "There's such huge, fast-moving train called the Internet. And we're just half a mile ahead laying the tracks to make sure it doesn't go off the cliff. It's felt like that since the very beginning." Yang also said, "You never, ever try to compete with Microsoft. And even if they want to compete with you, you should run away and do something else." He takes his role in Yahoo! as an influence, rather than control or domination.


Yang likes the comments on his work from the press and media. The most eye-catching one was about his meeting with U.S vice-president Gore. They talked about the future of Internet.


Making money is not an important goal for Yang. "To tell the truth?-I don't even know how much money I made?-I mean, I'm only 28, I don't need lot of money, I don't want to get lot of money, I don't want to pay taxes." He says he only goes shopping occasionally and always sits in the economic section when he is travelling by air. His casual image was ever described as working with T-shirt, jeans and bare-foot. As Yang said, "We really weren't into this for the money and fast pay off, otherwise, we should sell Yahoo! right away, because there's fat money beckoning to us."


Partner David Filo's father was used to call Yang and his son "Yahoos. Actually, Yahoo! could stand for "Yet another hierarchical officious oracle". Yang says the exclamation mark is purely a commercial expression. Moreover, Yang and Filo had no business experience in the past, but they do have the ability to successfully develop "a computerized Web-categorizing searching system". Yahoo! hired Tim Koogle, an engineer with 9-year experience in Motorola, as its CEO. Whether they have the management talent to successfully lead a rapid-growing company in a highly competitive marketplace remains to be seen.