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Pioneers in Tech: Happy birthday to Chief Yahoo David Filo

Pioneers in Tech: Happy birthday to Chief Yahoo David Filo

You’ve heard of Ben and Jerry, but are you as familiar with Jerry and David? Unless you’re a keen watcher of Silicon Valley, perhaps not. But the website founded in 1994 as “Jerry and David’s Guide to the World Wide Web” became a household name under its ultimate moniker: Yahoo! Let’s talk about this month’s Pioneers in Tech spotlight, David Filo.

Born April 20, 1966, in Wisconsin, David Filo met Jerry Yang while they were both doctoral students at Stanford University. They were working on a project to create computer chips using computer-aided design. When their faculty supervisor took a sabbatical, they decided to engage in the time-honored higher education tradition of procrastination. They surfed the Web, as one did in mid-1990s parlance. And they found lots of cool sites. The one problem was finding those cool sites on return visits.

They decided to make a directory that listed their favorite sites in an organized manner—a digital card catalog of sorts. Initially meant for their friends, “Jerry and David’s Guide to the World Wide Web” soon attracted enormous attention for its usefulness—so much that Stanford University asked Filo and Yang to move their project off-campus due to overwhelming server traffic. At this point, the co-founders of what was now known as Yahoo decided to make it official and no longer turn away offers of capital. (They had already turned down a buyout offer from AOL and partnerships with Microsoft and Prodigy.) With funding from Sequoia Capital, Filo and Yang took a leave of absence from Stanford and began making internet history.

Yahoo eventually became a major search engine, but the initial concept for organizing websites lived on as the Yahoo! Directory until 2014. The Yahoo business model has had multiple twists and turns and shifts in ownership, but Filo today has an estimated net worth of $3.5 billion. He and his wife, Angela, founded what is now known as the Skyline Foundation in 2000. The foundation now supports initiatives related to climate, democracy, education, and improving the birth experience in the United States.

Did you enjoy this installation of SmarterMSP’s Pioneers in Tech? Check out others here.

Photo: 13_Phunkod / Shutterstock

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