25. Jeremy Ring – We Were Yahoo!

Jeremy Ring was the first on-staff salesperson at Yahoo!, joining just before the IPO in in 1996. He entered the Yahoo! rocket very early and rode it through its rise and rise until shortly after the dot-com bust of 2001, when he decided “it was time” and disembarked. Subsequently, Ring got into politics in the State of Florida as a State Senator, and he now runs the GTM Group consulting firm.

Jeremy is the second in our (so far) two-part interview series featuring early, early Yahoo! employees and FoJ’s (Friends of co-founder Jerry Yang) who lived to write a book about it. The first was Episode #23’s David Shen, author of Takeover. Jeremy’s own book is called We Were Yahoo!, published in 2018 and spanning the period of Ring’s Yahoo pre-history to a recap of the company’s management steps and missteps since he left.

Starting as a media planner in New York City in the early 1990’s, Jeremy actually replaced our previous guest Steven Comfort at the pioneering agency Messner Vetere and placed some of the first online banner ads for clients such as MCI. He began to work with an agency called Interactive Media Sales, which won the Yahoo! media sales RFP before it had its own sales team.

Eventually, as Jeremy tells Marty in this far-ranging chat [Jill is out this week], Yahoo! decided to hire him as their first sales staffer and his Hoboken apartment became the company’s East Coast HQ around the time of the IPO. Jeremy worked closely with co-founder Jerry Yang – whom he describes as “beloved” and someone who “remembered your name” – and co-founder David Filo, certainly less exuberant externally but “internally … very active.”

The dot-com boom times were fun, of course – “You give a bunch of people in their twenties a lot of money and they’re going to find a way to have fun,” he says – but “we were not ‘The Wolf of Wall Street.’ … It was not a sex and drugs and rock and roll kind of place.” Despite the occasional trashed hotel room and high-stakes poker game.

As he describes it, Jeremy saw the dot-com crash coming around the time that many of his customers, preponderantly venture-backed dot-com companies, stopped paying their bills. He sold Yahoo! stock, left after the crash and never looked back.

Yahoo! had opportunities to acquire rising stars like Google and Facebook, at various points, but Jeremy thinks its biggest preventable mistake during his tenure was its elevation of product over sales, minutely respecting an uncontextual reverence for search-as-editorial that made it much too late to see the business opportunity in paid search and CPC ads.

And what are his feelings looking back at his Yahoo! experience during those extraordinary years? “Mixed,” Jeremy admits. “But Yahoo! definitely changed the world.”

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