So finally it was Verizon paying $4.8B to acquire Yahoo’s core business. Business Insider said, “Yahoo, which was founded in 1994, was one of the world’s leading internet businesses but has gone through tough times in the past several years. Yahoo’s peak value was $125 billion in 2000, and even in 2008, Microsoft wanted to pay $45 billion for the company, so a $4.8 billion sale price pales in comparison.
This deal is also more or less the logical extension of Verizon’s $4 billion deal last year to acquire AOL, which is still run by Tim Armstrong, whom Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer worked with at Google back in the day. Yahoo and AOL, after all, are fairly similar old-school content-and-advertising internet businesses. Here is the reaction from a competitor Sprint – CEO Marcelo Claure said Monday that Verizon’s purchase of Yahoo is just the latest in a long history of deals by telecom firms trying to get into the content business, none of which have panned out.
Although this deal sounds like a sad end to Yahoo, an icon of the early Internet players, Marissa Mayer tried to paint it as a success. Why not? She will walk out with almost $50m if fired from her job. It is a big let-down for her, specially after the high expectations when she was hired in 2012. She was supposed to turn this company around with big revenue growth. None of that happened. Rather she spent a ton of money for very little return. Take the case of Tumblr, which was mostly a waste (after paying $1.1B). As they say, you ruin the company and then walk out with a huge amount of money. Sad but true.
As of today, the business that will stay behind post-acquisition by Verizon includes Yahoo’s cash, its shares in Alibaba and Yahoo Japan, Yahoo’s convertible notes, certain minority investments, and Yahoo’s non-core patents (called the Excalibur portfolio). These remaining businesses will be rebranded after the completion of the acquisition in early 2017.
It will be interesting to see how Verizon brings some synergy across its 3 similar, but overlapping offerings – AOL, Yahoo and its own go90.
This is big news this morning – Microsoft buying LinkedIn at $26.2B cash. LinkedIn’s stock is soaring by 47% as we write while Microsoft stock is falling! This is one of the biggest acquisitions since Dell’s acquiring EMC few months back. So how does this work?
Well, Satya Nadella explains the importance of a professional network in their scheme of cloud offerings, from Office360 to Dynamics. Imagine walking to a meeting and viewing all the attendees info from their LinkedIn profiles. He said, “It helps us differentiate our CRM product with social selling. It helps us take Dynamics [Microsoft’s suite of business management software] into new spaces like human capital management with recruiting, and learning, and talent management.”
LinkedIn had a bad quarter and the stock was going south by as much as 40%. So there was some anxiety on where the company was heading in future. They saw this opportunity to be part of a larger company and the board quickly jumped into this offer, as it seems. As far as the synergy is concerned, time will tell how they integrate and make it look like a seamless cloud offering. Reid Hoffman, chairman of LinkedIn will stay as an advisor, but his new role is yet to be defined. Jeff Weiner will continue to stay as CEO reporting to Nadella.
This certainly strengthens Microsoft’s cloud presence and adds value to the Dynamics business more than the Office360 side. But use of Office360 suite in creating and managing documents/profiles may add to the growth of that business. If they can make it a success, Satya Nedella’s leadership will have a new feather in his cap.
After a few years gap, I attended this annual conference called TiEcon. TiE stands for The Indus Entrepreneurs, formed 23 years back by some of the valley technocrats originating from India. This is a non-profit organization to foster and help budding entrepreneurs. I helped organize the contents of this 15 years back. Now the scale has gone up and last week, there were almost 3000 attendees from the US and outside. Many attendees came from faraway places like India, Singapore, etc. Let me highlight some of the keynotes I attended.
- Shantanu Narayen, CEO of Adobe – This was the first keynote on day 1 where he narrated how far Adobe has come, from a desktop publishing company of the 1980s and 1990s to a cloud-based digital solutions company. He emphasized the challenge of transformation and said that some of the difficult ones are the antibodies inside the company averse to change. Hence he spent a lot of cycles convincing the troops on why change is so key for survival and growth. Now Adobe has a line of products called Creative Cloud (developers), Document Cloud (Acrobat, etc delivered in cloud), and Marketing Cloud (number of analytics products in cloud). Adobe has also been acquiring companies for non-organic growth, such as Omniture. They claim to be changing the digital experience for everyone, from emerging artists to global brands.
- Vishal Sikka, CEO of Infosys – I liked Vishal’s talk a lot. He has a Ph.D. in computer science from Stanford and his thesis was on AI, which was out of fashion for many years, but is emerging as the latest big trend. Vishal joined Infosys about 21 months back, after being CTO at SAP for many years. He described the tough transition from a product/technology company to a services company. But one can see his stamp of injecting AI technology into the services sector. He calls AI as Automation and Innovation. He announced a new solution called Infosys Mana, a platform that brings machine learning together with the deep knowledge of an organization, to drive automation and innovation – enabling businesses to continuously reinvent their system landscapes. Mana, with the Infosys Aikido service offerings, dramatically lowers the cost of maintenance for both physical and digital assets; captures the knowledge and know-how of people, and fragmented and complex systems; simplifies the continuous renovation of core business processes; and enables businesses to bring new and delightful user experiences leveraging state of the art technology. I was surprised to learn that Infosys has 200,000 employees and they educate something to the order of 17000 people every year in their huge facility in Mysore. Vishal is certainly transforming Infosys and their recent quarterly results have reflected that.
- Sanjay Mehrotra, CEO of SanDisk – This was a real treat as I was unfamiliar with the evolution of SanDisk as a company, built by 3 immigrants – Sanjay from India, Eli Harari from Israel, and Jack Yuan from Taiwan. Sanjay described how he got rejected 3 times for a US visa when he was planning to come to UC Berkeley for his undergraduate studies. He got his BS and MS in electrical engineering and started a career at Intel where he met the other two founders. The three started SanDisk, which created a new revolution in the flash memory business. After 27 years, SanDisk was acquired by Western Digital last October for $19B. I liked the candid answers Sanjay gave to the ups and downs of his journey and how he learned many lessons while going from an engineer to a business leader and growing a company to such scale. He narrated how Sequoia rejected them for the initial investment, suggesting that funding will happen only if they follow the Intel model. Of course they refused. He said that VC’s don’t always see the future and are risk-averse if you are charting a new path.
- Besides these keynotes, I also enjoyed listening to Diane Green, the new cloud czar at Google and how they are planning to compete with the de facto cloud king AWS. Sandy Carter from IBM described how IBM is moving towards building cognitive apps on its Watson platform.
There were several tracks on Cloud, IoT, Data Economy Social Entrepreneurship, etc. Overall it was a good 2-days experience.
This morning, at F8 developer’s conference in San Francisco, Marc Zukerberg announced “bots” for Facebook Messenger. Bots are humanlike robots built with AI algorithms that can interact between the user and business. For example, to order a Uber cab, you do not need to go into the Uber app, but directly ask for one via Facebook Messenger using a bot.
Facebook announced a new API today that will allow developers to build bots into Messenger. The idea is that brands and retailers like 1-800-Flowers or CNN can connect with users via messaging, and automate those conversations to eliminate the need for human-to-human interaction. That means you’ll soon be able to order flowers through private messaging without ever needing to chat with another human, for example. CNN and 1-800-Flowers were named onstage as early partners, but it’s likely that many more will be shown off throughout the conference. The more tasks you can accomplish within Messenger, the more likely you are to open the app every day. And the more purchases you make inside Messenger, the more potential revenue for Facebook. This is a brilliant stroke and a game changer.
There will be a way to search for bots in the app, and developers can advertise their bots on Facebook’s News Feed, driving users to Messenger to interact with the bot. For those who don’t know how to build bots (or may not have the technical artificial-intelligence chops to handle the language recognition challenges), Facebook is offering a “bot engine” to help developers build them. That engine will be powered by Wit.ai, an artificial intelligence startup it bought in January of 2015 to help people chat with robots.
Now the question is what will happen to the Apple store in the iPhone? Apple brings tons of business apps and makes a huge profit. Now Facebook users can bypass all that and directly interact with business via these bots. That will jeopardize the relationship between Apple (Facebook depends heavily on the iPhone for its mobile users) and Facebook. Will Apple be upset enough to cut Facebook off its iPhone partnership? Let us watch and see. The other question is – where is Google in all this?
This again shows the smart move by Zuck and team!