Jerry Yang, Yahoo!, and the Organization of the Internet


Jerry Yang, Yahoo!, and the Organization of the Internet

Our #WeAreImmigrants campaign recognizes the Wild West spirit of tech industry leaders by featuring the story of Jerry Yang, co-founder of Yahoo! Preceding his pioneering achievements in Internet search capabilities, Jerry Yang crossed an ocean, mastered the English language in three years and achieved both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in four years.

Yang’s Early Life & Adjustment as an Immigrant

Jerry Yang PortraitYang was born in Taipei, Taiwan in 1968 with the name Yang Chih-Yuan. His mother taught English and drama, which helped them in the years that followed. By the time he was two years old, his father had passed away, and in 1978 his mother moved Yang and his brother to San Jose, California. Extended family took care of the young boys while his mother served other immigrants by teaching them English.

When he arrived in the US at the age of 10 the only English word he knew was “shoe”. Kids teasing him just made him work harder, and in three years he’d become fluent in English. He soared academically and graduated high school as valedictorian. In college at Stanford University, Yang earned both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in electrical engineering in just four years.

Organizing the Internet

Jerry Yang CollegeAt Stanford while working on his Ph.D., Yang and fellow student David Filo found themselves frustrated by the Internet. In those days, the web had no way for users to easily return to their favorite sites. Together they solved the problem—and brought convenience to the entire world—by designing a road map for the Internet. They were pioneers in implementing the concept of searching by key words. With that, “David and Jerry’s Guide to the Web” was born.

In 1994, Yang and Filo began publicizing the list to their friends. As the number of sites on the list grew, they implemented a logical structure of categorizing sites and creating subcategories. Due to the adventurous and pioneering effort nature of the task they were undertaking, Yang and Filo renamed their system Yahoo!

By November 1994, 170,000 visitors a day were using the site. Four years later, in 1998, over 1 million people were visiting Yahoo! per day. Filo and Yang were working nearly 20 hours a day without making a single dollar.

Mike Moritz of Sequoia Capital—the same firm that has financed many other tech start-ups, including Apple, Oracle and Cisco Systems—got involved in Yahoo! and staked $1 million on the business. As a result of the funding they had secured, Yang dropped out of the Stanford Ph.D. program in 1995.

Maturation of the Brand

Filo and Yang’s business cards read “Chief Yahoos”, and with that they staffed their company with school friends. Wisely knowing their own business limitations, they hired Tim Koogle, a former executive from Motorola as president and CEO of Yahoo!

Yahoo! marked the second-largest first-day gain in the history of the NASDAQ. By the close of business that day Yahoo! was valued at $850 million.  Over the years, major players such as Microsoft, AOL and Prodigy have proposed mergers or acquisition deals to Yang and Filo, but they’ve turned down all of these offers. They were adventure-seekers; it was never about the money.

Consequently, in 1999 MIT’s Technology Review TR100 named Yang one of the world’s top 100 innovators under the age of 35.

Jerry Yang with Madeleine Albright at Yahoo! Headquarters.

Yahoo! Inc. co-founder Jerry Yang, left, and U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, right, and at Yahoo! headquarters in Santa Clara, Calif., Wednesday, October 6, 1999. (Photo for Yahoo! by Court Mast, Mast Photography Inc., San Francisco)

In 2005, to capitalize on opportunity in China Yang and Yahoo! invested $1 billion in a 40 percent share of Alibaba, the Chinese e-commerce site. Investors know that deal one of the most lucrative bets in Silicon Valley history. Ironically, the stake in Alibaba ultimately lead to the sale of Yahoo! as in 2014 Yahoo! investors realized that the company’s ownership stake in Alibaba itself was far more valuable than Yahoo!, which had been struggling since its failure to jump on the social and mobile tech waves.

Present Day Activities

Yang is currently an active startup investor with his own venture capital firm, AME Cloud Ventures, based in Palo Alto, California. He served as the director of Yahoo! Japan Corporation and Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. until January 2012. He was the director of Cisco System, Inc. from July 2000 to November 2012. Yang currently sits on the board for Lenovo.

Maintaining a loyalty to his alma mater, in 2007 Yang and his wife pledged $75 million to Stanford University for the building of the Jerry Yang and Akiko Yamazaki Environment and Energy Building. He serves on the Stanford University Board of Trustees.

Nisha Katti

About Nisha Katti

Nisha Katti is BlueTone's Marketing Coordinator. She specializes in content writing and social media management, among other activities. Nisha is a native of Atlanta, yet her heart will always lie with the magnificent magnolias of Athens, Georgia, where she attended the University of Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication.

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