Starting on Monday I'm Working at Yahoo!
Can you believe it's been two months since I left my last job? My bank account can believe it, but I can hardly. I've been networking like a mad man for almost all of that time. I've gone to conferences and seminars, had coffees and lunches and dinners, had lots of long talks and quick chats and I have a pile of business cards to show for it. I've talked to VCs and EIRs and entrepeneurs and CEOs of big companies and startups alike. I haven't gone two days in a row for months without having a meeting with someone and I've still got pending meetups waiting. It's been crazy.
It's actually been quite an evolution - I started out back in September wondering what my next move would be, not knowing if I was going to start my own business, jump aboard a rising startup or join one of the big Silicon Valley giants. Figuring out what I wanted to do as well as match that up with the opportunities out there has been an interesting mental journey for me. This weblog has presented me with more opportunities than I knew what to do with. If I had a dozen lives, I couldn't have taken them all.
One thing I knew is that I wanted to move away from being a full-time programmer. I'll still always be a techy, but the days of 18 hour coding sessions are hopefully in the past. I just don't want to do it any more. First, I'm having a harder and harder time finding that "zone" that I relied on for many years to get me through my inevitable procrastination I do before a coding deadline. I've now developed a sort of writer's block for coders and I'm sick of fighting it. (As you can see, I haven't developed a writer's block for writing just yet.) But beyond that, I want to have much more input into the direction of a product or company than developers generally have - I want to start looking at the forest now, not concentrating on the individual trees. I think this is probably the natural progression for many developers out there.
The thing I've learned is that, sadly, I'm not ready to start my own company yet. There's a level of fear involved in that venture that I'm not ready to overcome just yet. I *thought* I was ready, but I had a real opportunity to get some seed funding and just couldn't seem to get my shit together and wasted the opportunity. After that happened, I had two choices, jump back on the horse and try again, or look for something that better fit my confidence and comfort level. I decided to learn a bit more and gain a bit more grounding before trying again. Well, I say that like it was a hard decision made one day but it was more like an slow realization. I kept on thinking until just recently that it was still an real option for me if I just got my head together.
Startups are the lifeblood of The Valley and the exciting stuff that dreams are made of. For as many ideas I spouted and pitches that I gave over the past month or so, I got as many or more back in return from other people looking to start their own companies as well. Entrepeneurs come in a variety of forms, I've discovered first hand. The first are the dreamers - like myself. We haven't started a company and we're most likely pretty broke but we have that dream of creating some cool new startup that we can have fun building and will make us rich beyond our wildest dreams some day. Most of us will remain dreamers, but it's fun to sit around coffee houses and exchange ideas and strategies anyways. Then there are the famous "serial entrepeneurs" who've already started a company or two and want to do it again. I met with more than a handful of guys who have millions in the bank and time on their hands. Trust me, I envy them. Then there are the hard working entrepeneurs. They're doing it, usually for the first time, and are making it work. I love those guys. They have my deepest respect and admiration and I wish them loads of luck and hope to be amongst their kind someday.
There's also the startups that have tons of funding and are now looking to fill out their team. I had the opportunity to join a couple of these companies early on, but decided that I didn't want to be employee number 8 or what not. If I was going to be part of startup, I wanted it to be my startup, dammit! Of course, not being ready for my own startup put me in a weird never ending circle. I do love the idea of working for a startup again. Walking into a 3/4 empty office is a thrilling experience. I've watched companies like that grow before a few times, and it's great. Chaotic, frustrating, tiring, but great. But again, if I was going to go through that once more, I'd want to be the guy running the show and decided to pass those opportunities.
Finally that brings me to the Giants. You know who they are - the Silicon Valley Powerhouses. From the very beginning of my job search, I've had friends and commenters on this weblog tell me I'd be a great mobile evangelist of some sort for one of the big guys and I never disagreed with them. But getting in front of the right people is always a challenge (you don't get a job like that going through HR) and right from the start I started working any contacts I had. In fact, one of the very first people I pinged was Jeremy Zawodny to see if he knew of any positions open in Yahoo Mobile. He sent off a query, but it went into a corporate black hole, which I thought was a shame, but I didn't worry about it. I also worked my connections at other companies like Google and Nokia. I also put my resume out on Dice and started getting calls from medium sized companies like LightSurf and Snapfish and others (but those were developer jobs).
Things were progressing slowly on this front (BigCos don't move particularly fast), but then a few weeks ago I wrote about deciding not to go through the interview process at Google and suddenly my site got a megaton of attention. It was nuts. Among the variety of emails I got over the next week, Jeremy emailed me again to ask if I heard anything from Yahoo and when I said no, he used some of his newfound pull at Yahoo to have "someone" get in contact with me. You can imagine my surprise when a few days later I received an email from Jerry Yang himself. Uh. Wow! And I thought going down to interview at Nokia for an afternoon was exciting. :-)
As I've written about here, here, here, here, and here I *like* Yahoo quite a bit and I really like what they're doing when it comes to mobile technologies. I went in last week to talk with Jerry and a few other execs about what, if anything I could do for Yahoo and I somehow convinced them I could be somewhat useful in the mobile area ;-). So I'll be starting next week as a consultant helping out (I'm pretty sure) in corporate development and strategy. If things work out, we'll try to figure out where a good long term position for me might be. I'm not going to try to hide the fact at all that I am very excited to work for Yahoo! They have been a Silicon Valley icon for most of the past decade and it would be very cool to help them in some way get geared up for the mobile revolution.
My first thoughts? Every Yahoo employee needs a free (or heavily subsidized) color mobile phone with unlimited internet connectivity. Yahoo would never dream of employing people and not giving them a PC with access to the internet right? Even if their job was only marginally related to being online, I'm sure the company wants their employees to be familiar with Yahoo's products and services, right? I mean, they even provide internet access kiosks in the hallways for visitors. Well, the mobile phone is the same way. Corporations need to start looking at mobiles not as a private devices or a cost-center, but as a new way to do business. Want to have the best mobile services on the planet? Get a few thousand of your own employees using mobile data on a daily basis and see what happens!
Okay, so maybe it's not a great idea to walk into a new job with widely publicized radical ideas. (I'm sure someone somewhere is thinking "you know how much that would *cost*?!?") Especially since from what I understand Yahoo is generally a very conservative company. And it might be true that it could be a bit early for this big of push, but that's the sort of shift in mindset that's going to be needed to take advantage of the opportunities coming in Yahoo's next decade when the focus of the Internet moves completely towards mobile devices. Hopefully I'll be able to communicate and help implement these sorts of big ideas. :-)
Anyways, stay tuned... we'll see what I'm doing and how it's going pretty quickly. Hey! Anyone got any tips for getting from San Francisco to Yahoo's offices on a daily basis? It's going to be a HAUL at first... CalTrain? CarPool? Rented Helicopter? Something?