Fast Company

Yahoo's IntoNow Provides Signs Of Life For The "Premier Digital Media Company"

Yahoo is known for acquiring startups and letting them languish. But IntoNow cranked out a whole new product--and a possible game-changer for the TV industry--in six months. Is this the beginning of something new?

Yahoo has gotten a lot of flack over the last few years for acquiring innovative companies and then basically letting them languish--if not actually die--on the vine. The most recent example was Delicious, the popular bookmarking site acquired by Yahoo in 2005, whose fate provoked an infuriated outcry in tech circles late last year when it became known that the Sunnyvale behemoth was looking to jettison it altogether.

But Yahoo’s handling of IntoNow--the TV “check in” app it acquired in April--might suggest a turning point for the company. Not only has the acquisition continued to thrive since coming under the Yahoo umbrella, but it actually turned around an entirely new product--and a pretty revolutionary one--just six months after walking in the door. (See "How Yahoo's Into Now 'Listens' and Revolutionizes The Way We Watch TV.")

"Yahoo has been very good about keeping us as a team and allowing us to do what we want to do," Adam Cahan, IntoNow’s founder and now a Yahoo vice president, tells Fast Company. "We’re a microrganization within Yahoo. We are primarily a technical and product team, which means we get to just work on our own for a while, which is great. That’s very different."

Indeed, as Cahan told us, it was during those months after the acquisition, when the IntoNow team was allowed to explore and ideate, that they came up with the IntoNow tablet app that might be a potential game-changer for the television industry.

Cahan tells Fast Company he didn’t have any intimate knowledge of what had happened with other Yahoo acquisitions. But, generally speaking, he says: "Where a lot of these acquisitions tend to go sideways is when there’s too much emphasis on integration upfront, which basically completely stops the product process. Especially, when moving from a small company to a large company, you start getting into involved in cross-functional stuff. You can spend a lot of time managing that. We’ve not had to deal with that. That’s why we’ve been able to iterate and develop a lot of product in a short time frame."

It’s still too early to give Yahoo’s product process a top grade. Witness the personalized newsstand tablet app, Livestand, for example, which was developed in-house at Yahoo and launched today. While potentially useful, the app is not particularly innovative, and some are already criticizing it for missing the point of how a personalized news app should work.

But the fact that Yahoo didn’t let an acquisition languish, and instead created the conditions it needed to thrive and innovate--that’s a sign that, as the old Monty Python saying goes, the company might not actually be dead yet.

[Image: Flickr user Annie Lindgren]

E.B. Boyd is FastCompany.com's Silicon Valley reporter. Twitter | Google+ | Email

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