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Marissa Mayer's sprint for daylight

The Yahoo CEO has spent her first nine months recruiting a team that will give her a chance of succeeding in turning around the Internet pioneer.


Over the last several weeks, Marissa Mayer has talked about "sprinting." She is referring to Yahoo's run for daylight, after years of stumbling and being viewed as yesterday's Internet company.

Mayer's formula for a Yahoo resurgence starts with a sprint to get the "right people in place, and culture and energy where we want it to be so we can really run," she said during an interview last week at the Wired Business conference.

In her nine months as CEO, she has been adding and subtracting to Yahoo's talent pool, and rounding up people, including many ex-colleagues from Google, who can help her run Yahoo faster, smarter, and with more agility.

"Companies with the best talent win, and it's clear we are back in the game," she declared during Yahoo's first-quarter 2013 earnings call.

Marlon Brando as Don Vito Corleone in "The Godfather." Paramount Pictures

It seems that she can be very convincing in selling the virtues of Yahoo. Like the Godfather, apparently no one turns her down: "Each of the executive hires I made, and also hires I made throughout the company, I've gotten the exact person I have wanted, my first choice in every case. And in a bunch of cases they came to me," she said during the Wired interview. "It's an easy sell."

The easy sell probably has something to do with getting in on the ground floor of a brand and a stock-price resurgence, led by a CEO who spent 14 years helping shape the Google way of business, which only thrives with a superior pool of talent and thinking big.

Her latest conquests are former Googler and most recently Path Product Management Director Dylan Casey, and Cynthia Maxwell, an engineer responsible for Pinterest's mobile apps.

Since Mayer took the CEO job in July 2012, Yahoo has acquired 10 small startups, including three in the last week. Most of the startups are being shut down and the teams integrated with Yahoo's mobile unit.

With her hand-selected team in place, Mayer expects them to go on offense, and build mobile products faster and more brilliantly to stimulate user and revenue growth. "My job as an executive is to play defense and let the team play offense," she said.

In the "Art of War," Sun Tzu wrote: "You can ensure the safety of your defense if you only hold positions that cannot be attacked." Yahoo has many positions that can be attacked, which will make Mayer's job of defending Yahoo's turf a long, uphill battle.