Way back in 2008, Yammer made its first public appearance at the TechCrunch TC50 conference. David Sacks, who introduced himself as the CEO of the genealogy siteGeni, not Yammer, gave an 8 minute demo of the new product. He finished the demo by flipping the switch and officially launched Yammer to customers. Less than 4 years later, Yammer appears close to a $1.4 billion exit and purchase by Microsoft.
In this video captured via Ustream, Sacks explained how he came up with the idea:
“I’m David Sacks, and I’m the CEO of a company called Geni doing a startup with about 30 employees. And we needed to find a way to stay connected as a company. And we looked for something like an enterprise version of Twitter because that would have been ideal, and there was nothing out there that really did that. So we decided to build it ourselves as an internal productivity tool.”
Yammer was a hit from the start. In its debut post on TechCrunch, Erick Schonfeld wrote how Yammer was a private Twitter for employees of a company but “unlike Twitter, Yammer actually has a business model.” One of the panel’s judges, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff said “I really like this company the best. The name is not very corporate. It reminded me of what I’m having for Thanksgiving. Maybe you could use a Yam for a logo.” It’s a bit ironic that the Microsoft corporate logo might wind up now on the product.
In the demo, Sacks talks about certain features as being just like FriendFeed. There was no mention comparing it to Facebook.
Reading the comments in the original post is pretty entertaining. One wrote:
I somehow doubt a genuine Yammer stream would look anywhere as productive as their demo. In the real world, it probably be nothing but “Where we should go for lunch?” and “Who jammed the printer?”
Companies might end up “claiming their networks” just to shut the stupid things off so that employees get back to work.
Another asked “What company in its right mind is going to let its employees waste time and share company secrets with a third party web site?”
Yammer beat out all the other TC50 companies to take top prize and a $50,000 check at the conference.
While TechCrunch today has a love-hate relationship with the Yammer product, and they work on a different floor of our building, I’m hoping if they are acquired, Microsoft will use some of its decades old technology to get Yammer to auto-update properly. And Yammer won’t require Microsoft’s famous daily patch updates.