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We Were Yahoo!

Jeremy Ring

Let’s face it. Very few people have a chance to go to the moon. But, figuratively speaking, Jeremy Ring did just that.

When he strapped himself into his seat at Yahoo! in 1996, he couldn’t have known where the journey would take him. The truth is, no one knew where it was going, but Ring’s job was to build a sales force on the East coast and to do it, at least at the beginning, out of his Hoboken, New Jersey apartment. A tall order that he pulled off with stunning success.

He was hired as Director of Sales for Yahoo! in 1996 by legendary co-founder, Jerry Yang, after a profanity laced conversation castigating him for having the temerity to take a job elsewhere. When Jerry finished his tirade, Ring immediately resigned from his new job (after only 1 day) and joined the (at that time) tiny Yahoo! team for what he describes as a life changing five and half years. “The experience made me want to change the world,” he says. “And, I’ve never gotten over that.” 

The Yahoo! rocket ship was fueled by money, though that wasn’t the primary reason they launched the company in the first place. “Some people get rich and decide to change the world,” says Ring. “We set out to change the world, and got rich.” 

It’s easy to be seduced by success, and there was plenty of that early on. The executive team, including Ring, were given stock options as part of their employment agreement and soon those options were worth millions. On one particularly good day, the stock kept climbing and climbing, eventually finishing a whopping 75 dollars higher at the end of that day’s trading. Everyone was getting wealthy and the extravagant parties and company meetings were a dead giveaway. 

In the middle of all of this, there were a number of high profile missteps and blunders and a lot of missed opportunities, including, unbelievably, a chance to buy Google at one point for just a million dollars. 
And, then, as suddenly as the ride began, it all ended. The dot com bust of 2000 brought the Yahoo! rocket ship crashing hard down to earth. It survived the fall, but it was badly wounded and would never reach those previous altitudes again. Ring describes the slow death and disbelief in riveting detail. The company continued to tread water for more than a decade, still generating a few billion dollars in annual revenue. By the time Marissa Meyer arrived to great fanfare in 2012, it was too late to save a once great company with so much unrealized potential. 

Ring’s 50 yard line view of it all is unique, and his memory of events is keen, entertaining, and oftentimes humorous.  

Far from being a tell-all book, We Were Yahoo! (Post Hill Press, December 2017) is written with an unbiased journalistic take on it all. “The idea was not to trash anybody in all of this,” says Ring. “It was to simply tell the story from an insider’s view and let people take away what they will from it. Hopefully it will be entertaining and it will help others in some way as they attempt to build and sustain great organizations.” 

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