- Ruben Sprich/Reuters
No one knows for sure what Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer will do after Verizon completes its planned $4.8 billion acquisition of the company.
Given her experience, Mayer could pursue another CEO job. Or take an executive role at a big tech company. She could even launch her own startup.
What we know so far is that Mayer has said she wants to stay at the Verizon-owned Yahoo. And she will step down from the board of the remaining, un-acquired parts of Yahoo – mostly the company’s Asian investments – after the proposed deal closes.
But Mayer’s best bet might be to dive into an area she’s never officially been a part of: venture capital.
According to Pitchbook data, Mayer has been a prolific investor since 2009, making over 20 early bets on startups that became big hits, like Square, Brit Media, and GetAround, as well as Snapchat’s 2014 round that propelled the app maker’s valuation to a whopping $10 billion. (Snapchat wasn’t Mayer’s personal investment – it was made through Yahoo when she was CEO.)
And although she took some beatings with One Kings Lane, the once $900 million startup that recently sold for $12 million, the rest of Mayer’s portfolio proves she could be a surprisingly shrewd VC investor in an industry that’s known for its notoriously high fail rate.
Mayer’s first personal investment was in Square’s 2009 Series A round, which valued the company at $45 million. Square is now public and has a market cap of $5 billion.
According to Pitchbook, some of her other personal investments include:
Minted: Invested in Series B round valuing it at $47 million; now worth $422 million. GetAround: Invested in Series A round valuing it at $44 million; now worth $144 million. Wealthfront: Invested in Series E round valuing it at $287 million; now worth $700 million. Lever: Invested in Series A round valuing it at $48 million; now worth $97 million. Periscope Data: Seed investment in 2012; now worth $100 million. Kamcord: Seed investment in 2012; now worth $115 million. Brit Media: Seed investment in 2012; now worth $70 million. uBeam: Invested in Series A round valuing it at $57 million; now looking to raise at a $500 million valuation, Pitchbook says – although it has recently been involved in a big controversy.
Of course, startup valuations are sometimes considered vanity numbers that don’t always reflect the health of the overall business. Also, Mayer has a horrible acquisition history at Yahoo that calls her eye for good startups into question.
Still, buying and investing are different. And the fact that most of the startups in Mayer’s portfolio continue to raise new rounds of financing at higher valuations says something about Mayer’s ability to make the right call.
Mayer’s best investment might not be any of her personal investments. Instead, the lone VC funding she made for Yahoo in Snapchat’s parent company, Snap, might turn out to be the biggest hit.
Yahoo never officially confirmed the size of its investment in Snap. Some reports said it was $20 million, but a person with direct knowledge of the deal told Business Insider that it was “somewhere below nine figures and well above” that.
“It’s not small. It’s not huge. But it is a nice investment and a very good return for Yahoo,” this person said.
So what makes Mayer a good investor?
For one, she has a huge network in Silicon Valley – including the famous Google APM crowd she created – that she could tap into. Her engineering knowledge and experience seeing companies go through stages of growth at both Google and Yahoo also help. She sits on the board of Walmart, too, giving her insights into how non-tech companies work.
Yet it doesn’t seem as though Mayer views being a VC as a full-time gig for her anytime soon. When asked during a recent interview with Bloomberg about where she sees herself in the next five years, Mayer said still in a CEO role.
“I think that I built a really strong set of skills and experiences as a chief executive, and I really hope I get the opportunity to apply those skills,” she said.