Salim Ismail To Head Yahoo Brickhouse

Yahoo Brickhouse, a new semi-autonomous business unit to foster new product development, is yet to be formally launched. They’ve been busy, though. Yahoo Pipes, which launched on February 7, is a Brickhouse project.

Tomorrow they’ll announce that Salim Ismail, a non-Yahoo entrepreneur, has been hired to run Brickhouse. He takes the operational reigns from (Flickr co-founder) Caterina Fake, who will continue to lead strategy and vision at Brickhouse (see her post here).

Ismail’s most recent startup, Confabb, just announced the hiring of a new CEO, David Dell. Ismail remains at Confabb in the Chairman role. As to recent rumors that Confabb is being acquired, Ismail says that the company is currently talking to venture capitalists about a round of financing, as well as exploring other strategic alternatives. He says Confabb is doing well, noting that they are starting to get traction with paying customers and will be powering a “major political conference” later this year.

I had a chance to talk with Ismail about Brickhouse this evening. There’s little available information about the project (see this recent Business Week article).

Ismail says the purpose of Brickhouse is to foster innovation in a startup-like environment. Brickhouse is located in San Francisco, far from Yahoo’s Sunnyvale headquarters. Project ideas will come from inside Yahoo – Ismail says Yahoo’s numerous Hack Days have generated hundreds of ideas for new products, with additional ideas coming directly from Yahoo staff. Brickhouse will tackle the most promising ideas, and plans to release 4-6 new products in the coming year.

Brickhouse employees will be recruited mostly from inside Yahoo, who may take a sabbatical from their normal jobs to work on a project. Ismail told me that Brickhouse will also hire from outside of Yahoo as necessary. They are also putting a bonus system in place that will reward employees for successful projects in a similar manner as if they were at a true startup with venture financing.

Ismail will report to Bradley Horowitz, Yahoo’s VP of Product Strategy.

Congratulations to Yahoo for hiring a seasoned entrepreneur to run Brickhouse. Bringing in new blood to stir things up is exactly what they need, and I’m looking forward to seeing the new Brickhouse projects in the near future. Pipes is an excellent start.