Memories of Yahoo’s Jerry Yang

Back when Yahoo was just getting started, I interviewed Jerry Yang, who’d just bought a new suit, and David Filo.
As I recall they were in bare feet and eating burritos wrapped in foil. Sleeping bags were stashed under their desks. Here’s the column:

Publication: SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS
Headline: VALLEY FASHION: JEANS, T-SHIRTS, MAYBE SHOES
Subhead:
Web Headline:
Reporter: By MIKE CASSIDY, Mercury News Staff Writer
Day: Sunday
Print Run Date: 5/12/96
Section: Front
Edition: Morning Final
Page Number: 17
Section Letter: A
Memo: See related stories on pages 1A, 17A
Corrections:
Dateline:
Slug
Text: Cruising the halls of Silicon Valley’s high-tech companies in search of fashion tips is a little like calling Howard Stern for a few pointers on etiquette.

While it is said the tradition of Dress Down Friday started in Silicon Valley, for many companies here, dressing down would be dressing up. They may be Fortune 500 material, but Fashion 500? No way.

“It’s in our DNA not to dress up, ” says Guy Kawasaki, Apple Computer Inc.’s in-house product evangelist who has a decided preference for T-shirts.

It apparently all started with Hewlett and Packard, was embraced by Jobs and Wozniak and is being carried on by Yang and Filo. Yeah, Jerry Yang and David Filo, the founders of Yahoo!, a Sunnyvale Internet search company. A statistical profile of the two:

Combined age: 57

Combined value of stock held at close of Yahoo’s first trading day: $330 million.

Combined number of suits owned: 1.

“I’ve been a T-shirt and jeans person most of my life, ” says Yang, 27, the suit’s owner. Yang, who prefers socks to shoes in the office, walked over to the futon mattress scrunched against his cubicle wall, flipped aside a rumpled blanket and held up two nice sweaters.

“I’ve got a couple pair of khakis, ” he added for good measure.

It helps to have a flexible wardrobe at a start-up where people sometimes work all night.

“I think we tend to dress more casually on Fridays, ” says Jennifer Hunn, brand manager at Yahoo!, “shorts, thrasher clothes. Some people wear the same clothes every day.”

Same style, right?

No. Same clothes.

But you have to understand this valley is different. More than a few companies have been started by entrepreneurs right out of college – and college is what guided the corporate culture.

“We refer to our buildings as a campus, ” says Deborah Yarborough, senior human resource manager at Silicon Graphics in Mountain View. This from a company that names meeting rooms after Warner Bros. cartoon characters and old 1960s television shows.

“It’s the idea of continuous learning, of having the ability to question authority, of being passionate about ideas.”

Clothes just aren’t as important as the ideas.

Which is not to say there is no dress code in the high-tech world. Greg Stikeleather – who just sold aha! software, his Mountain View start-up, to Microsoft – said he can tell where he is by the way people are dressed. In Silicon Valley, it’s jeans and a polo shirt. At Microsoft in Seattle, it’s Patagonia, North Face and Lands End. And in San Francisco?

“When you go up into the city, to multimedia gulch, there is a lot more black, ” says Stikeleather. “If you’re dealing with multimedia there is a lot more leather in your wardrobe.”

Calling Howard Stern.

Infobox:
Chart:
Illustration: Photo
Caption: PHOTO: JUDITH CALSON – MERCURY NEWS
Attire is casual for Robert Killer, Mark Stadler, Celeste Fowler, Dan Baum, Mark Young and Heather Wright at Silicon Graphics.
[960512 FR 17A 2]
Column:
Word Count: 485
Keywords: SAVE Legacy Import; EMPLOYMENT; FASHION; SILICON-VALLEY<
Series Name:

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