At first, actually, Yammer was not intended to be a company at all. It was built as an internal feature within a genealogy startup called Geni, to let Geni employees communicate with each other about work. Soon, though, Geni co-founder David Sacks realized that this tool they’d built could be very useful for others. And voilà, Yammer was spun out and born as its own business, with Sacks at the helm (Geni, meanwhile, is still very much around as an independent entity, its current CEO Noah Tutak told TechCrunch via email today.)
The really cool thing is that TechCrunch was on it from the very beginning. Yammer launched officially in September 2008 at TC50, the TechCrunch-backed conference that has since been replaced with our bi-annual Disrupt events. David Sacks took the stage and did the first public demonstration of Yammer, positioning it as the private Twitter for intra-company communication, saying:
“We’ve been using it internally for about the past six months, and we think it’s so good that we decided to spin it out into its own company, Yammer, so that other companies can use it as well.”
You can watch that first demo, and the reactions of TC50 judges including Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, right here:
“Just like Facebook in the early days, which required a university e-mail address to join, Yammer requires a corporate email address to join.
Unlike Twitter, Yammer actually has a business model. It is free to use for employees, but if a company wants to claim their network and get administrative tools to remove messages and users, set password policies, or set IP ranges for who can use it.”
That same bottom-up “freemium” business model structure is what eventually helped to attract the acquisition interest from Microsoft, according to CEO Steve Ballmer. Yammer is “pretty unique, maybe very unique, in the viral adoption model. You can throw the word ‘enterprise’ and ‘social’ on a bunch of different stuff, but you can’t find anybody who has really built a customer base of enterprise customers in the same way virally with great respect from the IT department, with great love from the consumer,” Ballmer said in a conference call with press and analysts this morning. Post-deal, Microsoft said, that revenue model will stay intact.
We at TechCrunch have actually been both users and office neighbors of Yammer, so the relationship here has stayed pretty close — sometimes uncomfortably so. So we do have an extra bit of pride seeing Yammer’s big exit confirmed today (and Steve Ballmer’s limo parked outside), even if the price tag causes some to balk just a bit (and complain even more about Yammer’s lack of an auto-refresh feature. Grumble grumble.) But hey, you know what they say about what haters are liable to do. And it could be argued that many of those who hate on Yammer only do it because they also love it — and use it — so very much.
Anyway! Big congratulations are in order, Yammer. Don’t forget us little bloggy people now that your startup days are officially behind you.