Lessons From Luminaries: Jerry Yang on Yahoo!, Chinese Tech, and Early-Stage Investing

We are honored to have Jerry Yang, co-founder of Yahoo! and founding partner of AME Cloud Ventures, among our small group of luminary LPs whose financial capital and engagement power the next wave of Village Global founders.

Jerry Yang joined us in downtown San Francisco to be interviewed by Village Global co-founder and partner, Ben Casnocha.

Watch the full video of the fireside chat here:

They talked about stories from the early days of Yahoo!, what American entrepreneurs can learn from China, and his strategy for early-stage investing.

What lessons can American entrepreneurs learn from the extraordinary success stories in Chinese tech?

Jerry talks about the intensity with which Chinese entrepreneurs work and how that intensity transfers to the work environments of the startups that they build. He says that startups become like family because the employees are working long hours with each other all the time.

He says that some of the people he meets with regularly want to start meetings at 11pm, because they work during the day, put their kids to bed, then carry on working in the evening.

“Jack at Alibaba and Pony at Tencent were the global entrepreneurs that put Chinese tech on the map. What is interesting to observe is that there are generations of entrepreneurs in China. There has been generation one, two, three and four. There is a lot of admiration between them but they all want to kill each other. They want to be better than each other. In many ways you’re seeing the acceleration with guys who think they can one-up the one before them.

Can you be nice and still win in business?

Jerry is widely known in the industry as a very nice guy. Ben asked how that helped or hindered his career.

“I don’t really think about whether I’m nice or not. I think about whether I am treating people the way I would want to be treated. I don’t like that asymmetry even though you can get away with that in a position of power. A lot of people use that asymmetry and get away with it.”

Jerry recounts the time that Steve Jobs called him after he became CEO at Yahoo!:

“I remember when I became CEO Steve Jobs called me and said ‘congratulations Jerry, but you’re making a huge mistake.’ I said, ‘why Steve?’ He said ‘you’re too nice to be CEO, Jerry.’ His advice was, you have to take your management team and fire every other one. ‘How many VPs do you have? Get rid of half.’”

Jerry explains his investing thesis at AME Cloud Ventures.

“We had three founding principles:
One is, anything that looks and smells like Yahoo! we won’t do. We didn’t do any consumer internet initially and we still haven’t done much.
Second was we wanted to do early-stage. A lot of times we’re the first or second check in.
The third is that we want to invest in data-driven businesses. We want to follow the data to cloud to big data to mobile to biotech. We want the company to have some deep science or deep tech behind it.”

He also talked about some of the books that he recommends and gives to people, as well as what he’s learned from Eric Schmidt, Herb Allen, Aneel Bhusri, Marisa Mayer, and more.

Check out the full album of photos from the event.

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