Jerry Yang is a Taiwanese American entrepreneur, and co-founder and CEO of Yahoo! Inc. Yang’s 2007 net worth was estimated at US$2.2 billion, ranking him as one of the world’s 500 richest people according to Forbes. This young, smart online business explorer has made a great impact not only on mature internet markets such as the US, but also on the developing economies such as China.
Yang was born with the name Yang Chih-Yuan in Taipei, Taiwan on November 6, 1968; his mother was a professor of English and drama and his father died when he was two and by then Yang had a brother. In 1978, his mother moved the family to San Jose, California, where his grandmother and extended family took care of the boys while his mother taught English to other immigrants. After coming to the US Yang took the American name Jerry, his mother Lily, and his brother Ken. He says that he only knew one English word, "shoe", when he came to America, but became fluent in English in about three years.
Yang earned both a Bachelor of Science and a Master of Science in electrical engineering from Stanford University in four years.
He and David Filo started an internet website as an indexing directory of other websites called ‘Jerry’s Guide to the World Wide Web.’ Later renamed Yahoo, the site became wildly popular as a result of drastic improvements in surfing speeds. Realizing the potential of the website, they co-founded Yahoo! Inc. in 1995 as a multifunctional internet portal.
Yang started Yahoo at a time when internet applications were just becoming a part of people’s daily lives. According to Yang, in such ‘virgin territory’, creativity and new forms of services became one source of entrepreneurial success on the internet. As one of the few early innovators in terms of portal websites, Yang saw his business expand, and he earned a great deal of respect from users whose needs in terms of integrative and directional information the site fulfilled. Yahoo was also a brand-building website, for as Yang stated: ‘If you believe the Internet is the next big medium and if you realize every medium has had a brand associated with it like CNN with cable then it is conceivable that Yahoo will become one of those brands’ (Stanford University, 2008).
Yang retains the Chinese virtue of total dedication to his entrepreneurial business, and his traditional roots still underly his lifestyle. When Yang became a millionaire following Yahoo’s first IPO, he still wore casual clothes, and he and his brother still had dinner at their mother’s place on Sundays. He often turned his downtime into long explorations and refinements of his business, and spent a great deal of time in the Stanford trailer that functioned as his office. It almost seems that extra time for work has become his luxurious ‘fun time.’
Yahoo has been faced with strong competition from Google in recent years. The unanticipated exponential growth of Google led to Yahoo falling far behind in performance. In 2007 Yang was appointed CEO of Yahoo, enabling him to make executive decisions and respond to the increasing competitive intensity they were facing. In the first few months, Yang managed to stop the bleeding, and helped Yahoo earn back the positive expectations people had for the company.
From entrepreneur to CEO, Yang continues to explore opportunities to expand his business and create a more virtually realistic internet world that will make people’s cyber experiences more innovative and satisfactory. After all, it is innovation and customer satisfaction that support Yahoo’s legitimacy to operate and profit in the market. Under Yang’s new leadership, Yahoo has established a number of short-term and long-term goals: first, with its portal, mail, finance, sports, news, and various other useful sites, Yahoo will strive to be the starting point for internet surfers; the second goal is to establish Yahoo as a ‘must-buy’ for advertisers; the third is to create a platform to attract developers using building services on open APIs. For Yang, the future roadmap of his entrepreneurial venture is clear.
Besides his interest in and love for his company, Yang has additional titles and responsibilities with many other excellent internet companies. He has served on the board of directors of companies such as Alibaba (a top e-commerce service website in China), the Asian Pacific Fund, Cisco, and Yahoo! Japan. Moreover, Yahoo has assisted the development of other e-companies in emerging economies such as China. For instance, in addition to efforts to expand search engine-related businesses in China, Yahoo China has been collaborating with Alibaba.com group to utilize and facilitate the e-commerce value chain for small and medium-sized enterprises developed by Alibaba.
He met David Filo at Stanford in 1989, and the two of them went to Japan in 1992 for a six month exchange program, during which he met the woman who would become his wife, who was there as part of the exchange program. Yang is married to Akiko Yamazaki, a Japanese woman who was raised in Costa Rica, whom he met in 1992 during a 6 month Stanford exchange program when they were both students there. Yamazaki graduated from Stanford University with a degree in industrial engineering and is a director with the Wildlife Conservation Network. He currently resides in Los Altos Hills, California.