The 2014 CRM Influential Leaders
that it threatens the legacy providers. This is what makes him influential," he adds. Win or lose, Kanojia will go down in history as the man who threatened the status quo, and called on cloud giants to rethink where their technology falls within the gray areas of copyright law.
Marissa Mayer, CEO, Yahoo
The Inspiration Pro
Marissa Mayer is two years into her reign as Yahoo CEO. During that time, Yahoo's stock price has doubled, and company morale is creeping back up. The former Google executive has brought stability to a company that ran through four CEOs in five years.
She's also stated her commitment to mobile solutions. Mobile technology was "everyone's hobby and nobody's job" when she started at Yahoo, Mayer told the audience at the TechCrunch Disrupt Conference in May. Yahoo's recent acquisition of Blink, a mobile messaging service that competed with WhatsApp and Snapchat, reflected that focus.
Blink is only one of the more than three dozen acquisitions completed under Mayer's watch; the microblogging Web site Tumblr, which was acquired for more than $1 billion, is another. Many of these acquisitions, including Blink, have been apps that have been shut down. In what's often called an acqui-hire, employees from the acquired companies were brought on to improve Yahoo's core offerings. For a company that was low on inspiration and without a start-up ethos, those talent injections could have a major impact on the company culture as a whole.
The company is also making a strong play in the content arena, to fulfill its stated mission to "inspire and entertain" and set it apart from its competitors, namely Google and Bing. Yahoo recently wooed New York Times tech columnist David Pogue to author the Yahoo Tech section. Katie Couric has also signed on as a "global anchor" for Yahoo News. Adding these stars might reinvigorate the Yahoo brand, drawing in new viewers and advertisers.
Mayer's strategy has not only won over the finance community, which has increased the company valuation, but it's also helped inspire her employees, who were battered by Yahoo's decline. Besides adding talent through acquisitions, a program to win back former employees led to 14 percent of new hires being Yahoo alumni. She also centralized the company to nurture its culture, including her much-discussed decision that forbade Yahoo employees from working from home. "Some of her moves have been controversial," Laurie McCabe, partner of SMB Group says, citing that policy change. "While I certainly do not think that was a good move, what it does signal is that she's not afraid to step up and be a leader, and not please everyone. You can't make everyone happy. The fact that she's not afraid to lead is a good omen."
Mayer's gender is often talked about, if only because female tech leaders are still rare. "Whenever we see a woman [at] a big technology vendor being put in a leadership position, that's a good thing for all of us women in the tech business," McCabe states. "Women are still underrepresented in a lot of technology companies in senior leadership," with IBM's Ginni Rometty and HP CEO Meg Whitman being a couple of notable exceptions.
Yahoo still has a long road ahead, with thriving competitors such as Google, Facebook, and Microsoft leading the digital race. "Obviously, the company is still struggling. They're flat or declining, so she still has her work cut out for her," McCabe states. "There's a lot that remains to be seen," observes Paul Greenberg, president of The 56 Group. "I don't think the story is fully written."
Mayer has one important crossroads ahead in her turnaround game. The IPO of Alibaba could happen as soon as early August. Yahoo owns 23 percent of the Chinese e-commerce behemoth, and it will sell 40 percent of that stake, giving it an estimated $10 billion. What Mayer does with the cash—fund acquisitions or give back to investors—will be her latest move to watch.
Jack Ma, Founder, Alibaba
The Global Entrepreneur
Jack Ma may not yet have the name recognition of Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos, or Mark Zuckerberg, but stay tuned—the charismatic entrepreneur behind the largest e-commerce company in China won't remain anonymous for long.
When Ma founded Alibaba in the late 1990s, the dot-com bubble was in full swing in the United States; venture capital was flowing, computers were becoming increasingly mainstream, and people were excited about technology. In China, things were different. Internet access was scarce; there wasn't much equity or venture capital available; and the population's interest in technology wasn't as pressing. "People tend to compare Ma to American entrepreneurs, but if you factor in the degree of difficulty, there's no comparison. What Ma had to do in the company's formative years was vastly tougher, but Alibaba still went on to