Yahoo director Max Levchin defends Marissa Mayer’s “buy everything” strategy, denies BuzzFeed purchase rumor


max-levchin-4This morning we posted the full video of our PandoMonthly with PayPal/Glow/Affirm co-founder Max Levchin. It was a staff favorite– and for a series that has included Elon Musk, John Doerr, Reid Hoffman and many others– that is saying something.

In case you haven’t yet found two hours to watch it, there was a bit of gold at the end we haven’t highlighted yet. I asked Levchin– who is also a Yahoo board member– to defend a claim he made to Charlie Rose earlier this year that Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer has focused the company.

As I wrote at the time:

This morning Yahoo board member Max Levchin was on “CBS This Morning,” and when asked about Mayer and her job at Yahoo he said, “Marissa loves simplicity.” Really? Then she must be in hell right now, because her approach to saving Yahoo seems to have more in common with the kitchen sink than a Zen Garden.


Katie Couric.

A new logo!

A million other acqui-hires we’ve never heard of.

None of this ties into a strategy, unless that strategy is everything. Are you doubling down on user generated content or expensive premium content? Video or mobile? Deep or broad? Youth or an older demographic? If Mayer was hoping to figure out a way to make Yahoo relevant again for the younger, mobile-first generation — as analysts hoped with the pricey Tumblr deal — Katie Couric doesn’t make much sense.

When asked how Mayer’s “daily habit” articulation is any different than a portal, Levchin had a strikingly honest answer: “Portal has become a dirty word not because it’s a bad idea, (but because companies who called themselves portals) went out of business.”

Further, he said defending the claim of Mayer’s focus, but saying we don’t see all the Yahoo divisions and products she is quietly closing. “For every this or that or anything you see Yahoo do, there are probably two dozen things… that get put to pasture,” he said.

Finally, he admitted it was “focus” on the relative scale of Yahoo– a company that’s in dozens and dozens of businesses. “From my brief time on the board the number of things I’ve seen de-powered and the resources in terms of energy, human or otherwise that have been placed behind something core has been noticeable,” he says.

He also throws cold water on a rumor making the rounds that Yahoo may — or should — snap up BuzzFeed for a few billion.

Here’s the whole clip:

[photo credit: Brad Jonas for Pando]