You can buy technology, but not culture

Arik Hesseldahl at Business Week has some great points for Steve Ballmer: don’t try to be all things to all people. Then you spread yourself too thin, you know, like peanut butter.

If and when this Yahoo-Microsoft deal happens, who, out of all of the talented engineers and managers in both companies are going to stick around for the pain and FUD of the merger? Not Many. “Screw this, I do not have to deal with this. I am going to Google/Facebook/start my own company/cash in my stock.”

Yahoo is made of people. Yahoo’s advantage over Microsoft is that Yahoo has a more open-minded culture. Not the “not invented here” mentality (even though it thinks it wants what Yahoo has), which has helped it to snatch up some of the best web companies in the last couple of years. The Microsoft culture would kill this. Yahoo without its best people is a liability to Microsoft. It would be a big, empty machine that would need to be run the Microsoft way. Is it worth the risk for the most talented employees and most passionate users to defect? Without these, Yahoo is nothing.

Ballmer’s ego and the unnecessary need for fast growth are in the way of Microsoft’s success in new markets. If Microsoft would just change its corporate culture from the inside, it would not feel the need to acquire Yahoo. Ballmer’s management style is, design-by-committee, old-hat, industrial age, last century. And this is perfectly clear when you compare Steve Ballmer with the Steve Jobs (ok he has an ego as well but somehow it does not get in his way), Sergey Brin, Larry Page, Eric Schmidt, Mark Zuckerberg, Jason Fried, or Jerry Yang.

One is a big, sweaty monster, making the others appear as Zen masters.

Update
And so the exodus begins.
6/20/08
Josh Schachter.
6/19/08 Qi Lu, Brad Garlinghouse, Vish Makhijani.
6/17/08 Caterina Fake and Stewart Butterfield.
6/12/08 Usama Fayyad and Jeremy Zawodny.
6/12/08 Jeff Weiner.

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