The first rule of being cool is not telling people you want to be cool. Yahoo is not following this rule, with its M&A team in full pray-and-spray acquisition mode post-Marissa Mayer hire, hitting on everything that walks, or at least has traction.
I’ve heard rumors that Yahoo was trying to get into the following deals over the past couple of months: Foursquare (at an $800 million asking price). Path (at a $2 billion asking price). Pinterest. Hulu. Zynga. Daily Motion. And at a smaller scale: Gdgt. Wavii. Media Ocean (?). A spate of others. And now Tumblr. “Literally they talk to everyone,” said one person familiar with the matter on the matter.
There was a kid in my high school who used to buy the popular kids lunch so he could sit with them. Yahoo has become that kid. At a reported $1b Tumblr would be a pricey picnic, about all of the cash Yahoo has on hand.
But it could work if it goes through, which I hope it won’t. A Tumblr buy fixes the issue of declining Yahoo traction, particularly amongst us wild, mobile-addicted youth. Yahoo, which wants to be a “key part of everyday life,” is limited by the fact that young people don’t want to use it at all, let alone every day. Tumblr is the exact opposite, hitting the sweet spot of mobile, social communications, messaging and viral distribution — Even bringing in some coin in the process.
Just to heap another dollop of speculation on top of this already absurdly speculative post: It wouldn’t be surprising if Google was also courting David Karp, as Mayer, a former Googler, still thinks like she’s in Google M&A, “Hey, a critical mass of people are using it … Let’s buy it and stick ads on it!.” Imagine what the social blogging platform could do to revive Google+ engagement and content creation … And how much more it would be worth to Google?
And it certainly makes sense for Yahoo to explore this strategy as well, in its larger, non-acquihire deals. But perhaps it should try being less promiscuous about it.