TC Disrupt: Reid Hoffman On What He’d Do With Yahoo

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Today to kick off TechCrunch Disrupt, LinkedIn founder, Greylock partner, and prolific angel investor Reid Hoffman took the stage for a chat with TC founder Michael Arrington for a conversation that spanned everything from helping bright underprivileged children go to college to Hoffman’s upcoming book on how everyone can learn life lessons from the way entrepreneurs work. A video of the full conversation will be added to this post shortly.

To kick off the conversation, Arrington asked Hoffman what he would do were he to take over Yahoo, which recently ousted CEO Carol Bartz. Hoffman said that he thinks a key thing for all tech companies to have is a solid strategy for where they’re going to build their product and innovate in the next 2-3 years, which Yahoo hasn’t done. He points out there are still business models we have yet to invent (Zynga’s success with virtual goods is one great example), and says that he’d try to focus Yahoo’s engineering talent on creating something new. He adds that the company has brand recognition, raw traffic, and valuable assets that could help such projects get traction.

But there are a few issues: it’s hard to get good talent to work at Yahoo, because it hasn’t been focused on creating new products, and there’s a concern that Yahoo’s cashflow — which much of which comes from its display ads business — might fall off more quickly than they expect.

Another interesting topic that came up during the conversation is Hoffman’s backing of QuestBridge, a company that works to find underprivileged, all-star students who probably wouldn’t even apply for college, and help connect them with top institutions (these students often receive significant offers of financial aide that would enable them to attend).