The story of Lockerz — the battered and bruised Seattle upstart that sold earlier this year to a Chinese e-commerce company at a fire sale price — is one of the more unusual ones we’ve encountered in recent years. And it’s a story that many folks would simply soon forget.
Tons of funding from some of the highest-profile investors on the planet. Layoffs and executive departures, following a string of acquisitions that didn’t pan out. Enormous Web traffic tainted with mystery. A name-change and product switch that never really took root. And then there was the high-profile founder of Kathy Savitt, who left the CEO post in August 2012, three years after starting the company, to head up marketing at Yahoo.
By becoming one of Marissa Mayer’s early appointees, Savitt landed in a position of power at the $38 billion Internet company, a position which she has bolstered in recent moths after the departure of Henrique de Castro.
It has been a fascinating journey, and now The Wall Street Journal takes a close look at the rise of the 50-year-old former public relations executive, connecting some interesting dots to her experience at Lockerz. Reporter Doug MacMillan writes that Savitt — who after founding her own PR firm worked as an executive at Amazon.com — has become ”a key architect in Ms. Mayer’s plan to turn around the Internet portal.”
What’s more interesting, however, at least for those who tracked the Lockerz saga, is the role that the Seattle company, which at one point was burning through $1 million per month and left many early employees with worthless stock, played in shaping her Yahoo role. MacMillan frames Savitt’s stint at Yahoo as a “second chance to accomplish what she failed to do with Lockerz: Build a cool online brand with youth appeal.”
He writes of Savitt’s hard-charging style, and pointed out how some of the ideas she cultivated at Lockerz became part of the lexicon at Yahoo. Namely the idea of cultivating “daily habits” for consumers, especially the young consumers that Lockerz coveted.
As part of that effort, Lockerz even experimented with an original Web comedy show, an idea that fell flat. But it’s not unlike some of the content experiments now under Savitt’s umbrella — though those, whether tech columnist David Pogue or TV host Katie Couric, certainly have bigger budgets behind them.
As I wrote at the time of the Lockerz sale to LightInTheBox Holdings, the company had always been a bit of an enigma in the Seattle startup scene. Maybe watching Savitt’s steps at Yahoo will show part of the path of where she had hoped to take it.
See the full Wall Street Journal piece — Marketing Chief Kathy Savitt’s Star Rises at Yahoo — here.