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David Sacks' philosophy on design and release

A buggy product can have a second chance; Yammer already influencing Microsoft's enterprise strategy

Entrepreneur interview by Steven Loeb
October 21, 2012 | Comments
Short URL: http://vator.tv/n/2b01

Is Yammer starting to influence Microsoft's enterprise strategy? With Yammer's social enterprise expertise and frequent release cycles, it appears that it is. 

At this past week's Startup Sessions, co-produced by Google Ventures and Vator, Bambi Francisco sat down with David Sacks, founder and CEO of Yammer. The event held at Google Ventures Startup Lab was sold out two days prior to the event.

Francisco asked Sacks about his design and release philosophy, and Sacks essentially said that his philosophy is to release new features frequently.  

Since Yammer has such a short release cycle, does that mean that Sacks is not a perfectionist? asked Francisco.

Sacks said that he differentiates between an initial release of a new product line, and subsequent releases that are just different iterations of what is already out there.

"I do think it's worth holding a product back until it's at a point where... it has a chance of being successful," Sacks said. "You don't get a second chance to make a first impression," so he said he does not believe in throwing something out there that is not somewhat polished. 

"So you don't get a second chance if you put out a buggy product," Francisco asked.     

While you can have a second chance, Sacks believes that "there is value in coordinating your initial release to maximize the chance of it working out." 

At Yammer, for example, the product was worked on for 9 months before it was launched, and it was then dogfooded inside of Geni for six months before releasing it.

Design and release influencing Microsoft

When Francisco asked how Yammer was influencing Microsoft's enterprise strategy, Sacks said Yammer's release cycle has begun to influence Microsoft, instead of the other way around, as Microsoft is looking to move to a similar system. Microsoft purchased Yammer for $1.2 billion in cash this past June. Sacks also said that release strategies should be different for new products and updated ones.

Then Francisco asked whether Yammer would have enough independence to remain nimble and innovative. She said that startups are like speed boats whereas big corporations are like cruise ships. They just want to stabilize. 

Though Sacks says it's a risk with any acquisition that autonomy will be lost, Micrsoft is giving the company operational freedom and indepence, including retaining its office in San Francisco, and it is keeping its rapid, quarterly-release cycle. 

"I actually think there's a pretty interesting opportunity for us to help influence Microsoft from that angle," Sacks said.

"They'd love to more from three year product cycles, to one year, maybe even to quarterly at some point." 

Note: Yammer is hosting its first-ever "Hacktoberfest" -- a 27-hour competition challenging developers to build innovative applications on the Yammer Platform.  The event will be held at Yammer headquarters in San Francisco on Sunday, Oct. 28. Judges include execs from Yammer and Microsoft as well as Mamoon Hamid, general partner, Social + Capital Partnership, and Ravi Belani, managing director of Alchemist Accelerator. Prizes include up to $5,000 in cash and a spot in Alchemist Accelerator (an accelerator exclusively for enterprise startups) – which is pretty sweet given there are only 12 spots.


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Bio: David has been involved in the Internet space for over a decade as an entrepreneur, executive and investor, starting with PayPal in 1999....

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