Yahoo’s “accidental” genius

The guy who bought Flickr, Bradley Horowitz of Yahoo

Tonight I was honored to be able to shake the hands of the guy who bought Flickr (and del.icio.us and upcoming.org, among other things) for Yahoo. Bradley Horowitz, VP of Technology Development at Yahoo.

He told me that it wasn’t due to any real brilliance on his part. He worked on computer vision and graphics at MIT and knew that it’d be really tough to get any useful data out of the images themselves. So, when Stewart Butterfield, co-founder of Flickr along with Caterina Fake, showed him how they were getting users to add metadata by making it fun to do so he said “that’s brilliant” and worked to buy the company. The way he told the story Yahoo got very lucky in getting Flickr. He learned later that a VC firm was about to put a sizable investment into the company. I told him that I told Bill Gates to buy the company about three weeks before the deal was done, but that wasn’t successful.

He told me, and also wrote on his blog that he “will forever be either hero or goat to [Caterina and Stewart] depending on how things go.” Why a goat? Because he knows that if Flickr had stayed private for a couple more years that it would have ended up selling for about half a billion.

He also said that the final story on Flickr hadn’t been written and that growth is going off the charts and told me to “stay tuned.”

Definitely a guy to watch. I wonder what the team he’s a part of will do next.

UPDATE: One thing I love about blogging is that it’s two-way. So here Bradley added onto my post with his own thoughts, which I’m putting in the post so it might get through to some RSS readers:

Gulp… … For the record, truly huge amounts of luck involved, but even more than luck… truly huge teams of people talented, clueful, uncredited people involved. I was lucky enough to help bring in Flickr (who first came to my attention courtesy of an Engineer in Bangalore), but it was actually Flickr (specifically Stewart) who helped bring in upcoming.org, and Eckart Walther (a guy who actually deserves the word genius) who brought del.icio.us to Yahoo… Hack Day was all about Chad Dickerson, Brickhouse was all about Caterina Fake, Pipes was Pasha, etc. It sounds cliche, but surrounding myself with great people and getting out of their way has been a pretty good recipe for goodness… Especially when my own bosses (Jeff Weiner, Ash Patel) also subscribe to this strategy and clear all the roadblocks on my behalf.

Dave, I do expect that my team is going to flourish under the new regime… Jerry and Sue have pretty much been the exec champions for everything I’ve wanted to do…

13 thoughts on “Yahoo’s “accidental” genius

  1. When I was a product manager at Yahoo! Photos, I, along with my web developer, were the first people to let Yahoo!s know about Flickr and I was a proponent of acquiring Flickr when Yahoo! was in “Google-bought-Picasa-so-we-need-to-buy-something” mode. Unfortunately, management wanted to acquired another company (which I was against) and that acquisition was rightfully killed by Jerry Yang (that company would eventually be bought by Microsoft to compete against and included in the Expressions line to compete against Adobe).

    I met Bradley Horowitz when he first joined Yahoo! Great guy. I was a big fan of Horowitz since he was a co-founder of Virage – a company ahead of its time…

  2. When I was a product manager at Yahoo! Photos, I, along with my web developer, were the first people to let Yahoo!s know about Flickr and I was a proponent of acquiring Flickr when Yahoo! was in “Google-bought-Picasa-so-we-need-to-buy-something” mode. Unfortunately, management wanted to acquired another company (which I was against) and that acquisition was rightfully killed by Jerry Yang (that company would eventually be bought by Microsoft to compete against and included in the Expressions line to compete against Adobe).

    I met Bradley Horowitz when he first joined Yahoo! Great guy. I was a big fan of Horowitz since he was a co-founder of Virage – a company ahead of its time…

  3. For the record among all those only del.icio.us was something new and innovative.

    And Yahoo bought del.icio.us only after their own service (myyahoo) clearly lost the competition.

  4. For the record among all those only del.icio.us was something new and innovative.

    And Yahoo bought del.icio.us only after their own service (myyahoo) clearly lost the competition.

  5. “I *told him* that I told Bill Gates to buy the company about three weeks before the deal was done, but that wasn’t successful.”

    Bill used to terrorize employees and have 80k per year salaried employees waste thousands of dollars counting swear words whilst he berated people in interviews.

    Now he’s letting bloggers and marketers push him around and tell him what to do. If you tried that on the old Bill Gates he may have fired you on the spot. This is a true sign that MSFT is truly going down the sh*tter.

    BTW, if MSFT bought flickr, they would have turned it into a sewer, the same as they have done with every other web service they purchased.

  6. “I *told him* that I told Bill Gates to buy the company about three weeks before the deal was done, but that wasn’t successful.”

    Bill used to terrorize employees and have 80k per year salaried employees waste thousands of dollars counting swear words whilst he berated people in interviews.

    Now he’s letting bloggers and marketers push him around and tell him what to do. If you tried that on the old Bill Gates he may have fired you on the spot. This is a true sign that MSFT is truly going down the sh*tter.

    BTW, if MSFT bought flickr, they would have turned it into a sewer, the same as they have done with every other web service they purchased.

  7. Gulp… … For the record, truly huge amounts of luck involved, but even more than luck… truly huge teams of people talented, clueful, uncredited people involved. I was lucky enough to help bring in Flickr (who first came to my attention courtesy of an Engineer in Bangalore), but it was actually Flickr (specifically Stewart) who helped bring in upcoming.org, and Eckart Walther (a guy who actually deserves the word genius) who brought del.icio.us to Yahoo… Hack Day was all about Chad Dickerson, Brickhouse was all about Caterina Fake, Pipes was Pasha, etc. It sounds cliche, but surrounding myself with great people and getting out of their way has been a pretty good recipe for goodness… Especially when my own bosses (Jeff Weiner, Ash Patel) also subscribe to this strategy and clear all the roadblocks on my behalf.

    Dave, I do expect that my team is going to flourish under the new regime… Jerry and Sue have pretty much been the exec champions for everything I’ve wanted to do…

  8. Gulp… … For the record, truly huge amounts of luck involved, but even more than luck… truly huge teams of people talented, clueful, uncredited people involved. I was lucky enough to help bring in Flickr (who first came to my attention courtesy of an Engineer in Bangalore), but it was actually Flickr (specifically Stewart) who helped bring in upcoming.org, and Eckart Walther (a guy who actually deserves the word genius) who brought del.icio.us to Yahoo… Hack Day was all about Chad Dickerson, Brickhouse was all about Caterina Fake, Pipes was Pasha, etc. It sounds cliche, but surrounding myself with great people and getting out of their way has been a pretty good recipe for goodness… Especially when my own bosses (Jeff Weiner, Ash Patel) also subscribe to this strategy and clear all the roadblocks on my behalf.

    Dave, I do expect that my team is going to flourish under the new regime… Jerry and Sue have pretty much been the exec champions for everything I’ve wanted to do…

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