Posts Tagged ‘silicon-valley’

Zynga’s Pincus: "None of Us Ever Expected to Face a Day Like Today"

June 3, 2013  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

Here’s the tough-to-write blog post that Zynga CEO Mark Pincus just put up and also sent to the San Francisco gaming giant’s staff. The company just announced layoffs of 18 percent of the company and also lowered its second-quarter guidance. In it, the founder of what was once a rocket ship of a startup in Silicon Valley, Pincus appropriately began on a somber note: “Today is a hard day for Zynga and an emotional one for every employee of our company … None of us ever expected to face a day like today, especially when so much of our culture has been about growth.” Indeed, the fall has been fast and hard for Zynga, as it struggles to cope with a massive consumer migration to mobile that happened faster than its management — or, to be fair, anyone in the Internet business — could cope with. Until now, its fast growth has been based on its Web business and flagship franchises such as FarmVille. But, as several sources noted and Pincus addressed in this note, Zynga must now get smaller again to get larger, doing little things really well rather than a lot of things at scale. “The scale that served us so well in building and delivering the leading social gaming service on the Web is now making it hard to successfully lead across mobile and multiplatform, which is where social games are going to be played,” he wrote. Zynga had made smaller cuts of five percent last fall, but the fall-off of its Web business — especially on the Facebook platform — was faster than anticipated, sources said. That business has been, as one person close to the situation, been “brittle,” and it broke more easily than expected. That is not to say there has not been some promise, in games such as Running With Friends and even at its flagship FarmVille, which is still a strong title. And Zynga now has 65 million mobile users. Pincus had been signaling more changes to come of late, trying to keep the company cash-flow positive, as he sought to rationalize costs. In the company’s last earnings call, he stressed that 2013 would be “transitional” for Zynga and has rejiggered its top management to better focus the efforts on mobile. Sources said that severance benefits will extend for several months and include some acceleration of stock options. Still, it is not a pretty day for Pincus, or for the staff of Zynga, showing a lot of hard-charging entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley the very steep downside of being a public company CEO in a much tougher and fast-changing environment. Here’s the full Pincus post and memo: To our Zynga Community, Today is a hard day for Zynga and an emotional one for every employee of our company. We are saying painful goodbyes to about 18% of our Zynga brothers and sisters. The impact of these layoffs will be felt across every group in the company. None of us ever expected to face a day like today, especially when so much of our culture has been about growth. But I think we all know this is necessary to move forward.

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Google Plans to Fund, Develop Wireless Networks in Emerging Markets

May 24, 2013  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

Google Inc. is working to connect a billion or more new people to the Internet. The Silicon Valley company is deep in the throes of a multipronged effort to fund, build and help run wireless networks in emerging markets such as sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia, said people familiar with the strategy. The wireless networks would be available to dwellers outside of major cities where wired Internet connections aren’t available and could be used to improve Internet speeds in urban centers, these people said. Read the rest of this post on the original site »

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Amazon Kills Zombies, Keeps John Goodman as It Plans First Season of Web Series

May 17, 2013  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

Just like a regular TV network, Amazon ordered up a bunch of pilot shows this year , and will end up making a series out of some of them. Unlike a TV network, Amazon has asked the Internet to watch and rate its test shows , and has said the input will help the company make its decisions. And now we’re getting to see some of those decisions play out. We only have definitive word on one of the 14 pilots Amazon has ordered. That’s because Rhett Reese, the writer/producer behind “ Zombieland, ” has announced, via Twitter, that it’s not getting picked up: Our Zombieland series will not be moving forward on Amazon.Sad for everyone involved. — Rhett Reese (@RhettReese) May 17, 2013 Reese wasn’t done, though. He also complained about people who didn’t like the show — presumably fans of the original movie his series was riffing on: I’ll never understand the vehement hate the pilot received from die-hard Zombieland fans.You guys successfully hated it out of existence.

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Elon Musk and David Sacks Depart, Mark Zuckerberg’s Political Action Group

May 10, 2013  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

Elon Musk and David Sacks, two of the Silicon Valley stars behind, Mark Zuckerberg’s political action committee, have left the group, according to sources familiar with the matter. The group, spearheaded by Zuckerberg himself and launched in late March , aims to advocate for issues related to immigration reform and education, among other things. Along with former members Musk and Sacks, the group touts an all-star list of Valley luminaries, including LinkedIn’s Reid Hoffman, eBay’s John Donahoe, Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer and Kleiner Perkins’ John Doerr, among many others. But has recently come under fire inside the beltway and by some in Silicon Valley, due to some of the group’s tactics and ties to conservative lawmakers on the hill. Environmentalist groups like the Sierra Club and League of Conservation Voters, as well as and immigration-rights organizations like, announced they would pull existing Facebook ads and hold any orders for new ones for a minimum of two weeks — a response to seeing political ads for conservative lawmakers who support controversial policies like Arctic oil drilling and building the Keystone XL pipeline. Musk, of course, is the CEO of Tesla Motors, which specializes in eco-friendly electric vehicles. He also sits on the board as chairman of SolarCity, a company focused on solar energy. A spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Facebook declined to comment.

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Former Yahoo Exec Rich Riley Is New Shazam CEO: "For Next Stage of Growth and IPO"

April 29, 2013  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

Shazam, the music discovery mobile app that is now calling itself a “media engagement” company, said it had hired former top Yahoo exec Rich Riley as its new CEO, with longtime CEO Andrew Fisher moving to executive chairman. The London-based company — which reports that it has 300 million users in 200 countries around the world, including 90 million in the U.S. — said it made these moves to strengthen its leadership team and “position Shazam for next stage of growth and IPO.” Shazam also recently hired the BBC’s Daniel Danker as chief product officer. “I look forward to extending our dominance in media engagement, from our roots in music to our leadership position in second-screen TV and want to ensure that Shazam is the company that helps people recognize and engage with the world around them,” said Riley in a statement. It’s an unusual and interesting career move for Riley, who had been at Yahoo for more than 13 years. He was most recently EVP Americas for Yahoo, its most important unit, and before that was managing director and SVP of the Silicon Valley Internet giant’s Europe, Middle East and Africa region. The exec, who will be working out of Shazam’s New York offices, came to Yahoo when it bought a company he co-founded called, which later became the Yahoo Toolbar. This is Riley’s first gig as a CEO, although several sources said he had almost been recruited to be the CEO of performance advertising company Criteo. At Shazam, he will be charged with expanding and turbocharging the fast-growing app’s business from its roots in music to a range of other arenas. As one of the more popular, though less flashy, apps on Apple iOS and Google Android, Shazam says it has more than 60 million monthly active users who install it on their smartphones to identify songs based on how they sound, via tagging of its 27 million tracks. Shazam said that drives $300 million in digital sales annually through affiliate partnerships with Apple iTunes and Amazon. Shazam gets a cut of these sales leads. The company recently launched a TV service, with a companion app that has a range of features such as finding music in the broadcast, providing cast photos and a variety of other show information, and linking to sites with more information or to those with show-branded merchandise, previous episodes or the ability to rent or buy programming. Shazam is also offering a form of “clickable” advertising that links users to rich brand content, and is working on new tablet apps, too. Whether all this activity translates into an IPO is to be determined, but that seems to be the aim. But Shazam is certainly well-funded, having raised $32 million since it was founded in 2002, from investors such as Kleiner Perkins, Institutional Venture Partners, Acacia Capital and DN Capital.

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Better Late Than Never: Yahoo’s Mayer Finally Talks About Telecommuting Kerfuffle

April 19, 2013  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

At a human resources conference yesterday, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer finally commented on the massive controversy generated after the Silicon Valley Internet company decided to end its work-from-home offering to its employees. News of the change came in February after AllThingsD published a hopelessly awkward memo on the new dictate that resulted in a firestorm of debate . That was no surprise, since the missive was confusingly penned by HR head Jackie Reses, who noted, in part: “Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home. We need to be one Yahoo!, and that starts with physically being together.” Along with an incomprehensible aside about the “cable guy,” there were few details. And because Yahoo PR’s goal is to not comment, except when pushing shiny new products, it was disinclined to say anything at all once the memo was public. ATD reported initially it was a couple hundred employees, but the memo made it unclear who would be impacted and how. Yahoo later made an unusually bloodless statement that work from home was not what was right for the company at that time, given its need to turn itself around. Mayer underscored that point in her keynote speech, with Fortune reporting that she put up an image of a purple elephant with WFH letters on its side and said, “I need to talk about the elephant in the room.” She also tried to push blame onto, well, I am not sure whom, noting, “It was wrongly perceived as an industry narrative.” This mistakes-were-made tactic was clever, but the situation spun out of control simply due to the fact that Mayer was tin-eared on a hot-button issue and was poorly advised not to give a quick and cogent explanation of it at the time, causing a lot of unnecessary external and internal confusion and worry. What was too bad was Mayer had a valid enough point — even if it was very harsh medicine to end the popular policy — that Yahoo probably needs all hands on deck right now to return to innovative relevance. She also said in her speech that while “people are more productive when they’re alone … they’re more collaborative and innovative when they’re together. Some of the best ideas come from pulling two different ideas together.” As I said, it’s an excellent point, even if how Mayer delivered her message turned out to be a lesson as a new CEO in how it’s not what you say, but how you say it. And, of course, when

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Yahoo Attempts to Poach AOL Ad Chief Brody to Lead U.S. Sales, Setting Up Possible Legal Battle

April 10, 2013  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

In an unusual hiring for a top advertising role, Yahoo has made an offer to AOL’s top sales exec Ned Brody to take over as head of its North American sales, according to sources close to the situation. Brody has already resigned from AOL, said sources, where he headed AOL Networks — which used to be called the It hawks premium display, video and mobile network ads for the Web portal. It is not clear if he has officially taken the job at Yahoo, but it seems likely given the terms, which includes a lucrative salary. More interestingly, sources said that because Brody has a 12-month, non-compete agreement with AOL that the Silicon Valley Internet giant — as part of the deal it is close to striking with him — will pay him to not work in that period. Sources close to both companies said AOL has already informed Yahoo that it might face a legal challenge to hiring Brody, because of the way it might attempt to subvert the 12-month non-compete. Because of big Yahoo offer, AOL did not make a counter-offer to keep him. These kind of fights over ad sales execs have happened before. For example, Microsoft mulled a legal challenge of Facebook’s hiring of Carolyn Everson , for example, a tense battle that was later settled . The attractive terms offered to Brody underscore the difficulty that Yahoo has had in filling the slot, which has been open since former U.S. head Ross Levinsohn left the company a year ago. Top ad duties have been shared by Mark Ellis , VP of North American sales and global partnerships (as well as a former AOLer) and Peter Foster, who is VP of solutions development and MMD sales.

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WSJ’s Worthen Joins Sequoia as Head of Content

March 25, 2013  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

Longtime Wall Street Journal reporter Ben Worthen is joining Sequoia Capital as head of content to work with its startups, including on improving its blogs, social media and video. The Silicon Valley venture firm confirmed the move by Worthen, who has covered tech for 13 years, most recently focused on enterprise software.

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Another Reason Google Reader Died: Increased Concern About Privacy and Compliance

March 24, 2013  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

Google has warned that it will shut down its Google Reader news aggregator July 1. Many people (myself very much included) are mourning a beloved and useful product, but the company cited declining usage. Shutterstock/ Yuri Arcurs Under CEO Larry Page, Google has made a practice of “spring cleaning” throughout all the seasons so it can narrow its focus. Reader was just a another bullet point on the latest closure list. But the shutdown wasn’t just a matter of company culture and bigger priorities, sources said. Google is also trying to better orient itself so that it stops getting into trouble with repeated missteps around compliance issues, particularly privacy. That means every team needs to have people dedicated to dealing with these compliance and privacy issues — lawyers, policy experts, etc. Google didn’t even have a product manager or full-time engineer responsible for Reader when it was killed, so the company didn’t want to add in the additional infrastructure and staff, the sources said. But at the same time, Google Reader was too deeply integrated into Google Apps to spin it off and sell it, like the company did last year with its SketchUp 3-D modeling software . The context for this concern about compliance is Google’s repeated public failures on privacy due to lack of oversight and coordination

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"Zombie" Startups Look for Ways to Come to Life

March 20, 2013  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

After tapping a flood of venture capital in recent years, a growing number of startups are getting caught in purgatory. These companies, which include consumer and e-commerce businesses, have just enough capital to keep going, for now. But they aren’t growing fast enough to raise more financing or secure a big “exit” through a sale or by going public. In Silicon Valley, they are often called “zombies.” Read the rest of this post on the original site »

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