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My Steve Ballmer near miss at Yahoo!

225px-Steve_ballmer_2007_outdoors2.jpgSo, here’s a little story I’ve told a few times privately, but only once publicly before. It happened so long ago at this point, and given today’s news, it doesn’t really matter to the parties involved.

After a late Friday night down on the Santa Clara campus, I decided to sleep under my desk rather than drive home to San Francisco. I woke up the next morning to a loud booming voice that I thought I recognized. “Developers, developers, developers!” Ok, he didn’t actually say that, but I shuffled to my feet only to see Steve Ballmer standing outside my cube.

I didn’t actually scream, but I might have let out a small yelp. Now, I’m too old to hate now, but then, oh man, did I hate Microsoft. If you’ve ever heard me swear before (sailor’s blushing, etc), imagine the cacophony of swear words that was going off in my head at that particular moment.

Worse than just seeing Ballmer, I saw Jerry and TK as well. The only thing I could think was, “Holy crap, we’re being acquired.”

I mean, a clandestine Saturday morning meeting between the Evil Empire and the heads of Yahoo!? What else could it be?

I said to myself, “I’m so outta here if Microsoft ever buys us.”

As this happened 8-9 years ago, nothing ever came of it (as far as I know). Jerry later told me that meeting face to face was something that they did periodically and that they did it on the weekend so folks wouldn’t freak out or speculate. I don’t know if I bought it, but it was Jerry, so I let it go.

Yahoo! Today

I worked at Yahoo! from 1996 to 2001. It was the best of times. When I started there were less than 40 people there and when I left there were 3000 people. I think that especially back then, Microsoft acquiring Yahoo! would have destroyed the company.

I don’t work at Yahoo! anymore, but just given their shear size and the maturing of the company and the industry as a whole, would it be such a bad fit now? I really can’t say for sure.

Good luck

Yahoo! has been hurting for a while in the press and their stock has been fairly depressed. A lot of the down attitude toward Yahoo! isn’t so much a reflection of the company but a constant comparison to Google and their quarter after quarter barn burners.

Google is a tough competitor. Can a combined Microsoft and Yahoo! compete effectively? I hope so.

To all my friends and the rest of the folks down in Sunnyvale – I wish you the best.

Ich bin ein Yahooer!

[Steve Ballmer photo from Wikimedia]