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Srinija Srinivasan
Friday, November 21, 2008
You won’t believe this. Which is why you should check it out yourself. Go to Yahoo.com and run a search for “Srinija Srinivasan.” It throws up one broken link to an article titled “Nawabs of Cyberspace” that appeared in Little India, a free ethnic publication in New Jersey. The same search on AltaVista threw up 241 Web pages; and Northern Light yielded 302 items from 137 sources.
The woman who runs the world’s foremost search engine hides well behind the power of her own creation. As Editor-In-Chief of Yahoo, Srinivasan wields a lot of power in deciding what information gets mined on the Web, and what remains deeply buried as Yahoo assumes to itself the gargantuan task of ordering the chaos of the Web.

“We spend lots and lots and lots of time looking at lots and lots and lots of sites, deciding what’s interesting, what’s compelling, what’s new, making sure the best of what’s out there is in Yahoo,” she once told an interviewer. “Hopefully, it’s organized in a way that people find what they’re looking for and all the while can successfully avoid all that stuff they weren’t looking for.”

In another interview, she made a distinction between what Yahoo does and what other search engines do. “Using the metaphor of a book, we like to think of Yahoo as a table of contents for the Internet, whereas the robotic search engines serve as an index at the back of the book,” Srinivasan said.

She has been featured in top global publications. Newsweek named her in its “The Net 50” and the San Francisco Focus once listed her under its “40 Under 40.”

Known to be media shy, Srinivasan declined an interview for this listing. In our opinion, she belongs on this list for two reasons. From early on, Srinivasan assumed a significant role in a company that itself played a defining role in the Internet era. This achievement qualifies her for any listing of South Asians who matter in technology. She was the fifth employee at Yahoo and we are sure that the phenomenal rise of Yahoo stock has added substantially to her wealth. But she is not an “insider” under securities law and consequently, her current or prior stock holding is not public information, we will not hazard a guess.

Srinivasan took the leap of faith in the spring of 1995 as she was completing her B.S. in Symbolic Systems. She had gotten to know Stanford mates David Filo and Jerry Yang well after a “college-bonding” experience on a study tour to Japan – she as an undergrad and the Yahoo founders as doctoral candidates.

Before a decisive luncheon meeting with Yang that led to her joining the startup, Srinivasan was working on an artificial intelligence project called Psyche. “The scariest part (of joining the fledgling Yahoo) was leaving a job I really, really genuinely enjoyed,” she said in an interview with Soledad O’Brien of women.com.

Yahoo, as we all know, rocketed to both fame and fortune, prompting Srinivasan to tell an interviewer “I’ve not had a chance to stop and sort of take it in and understand or formulate a conceptualization of what has occurred.”

She is a bit foggy about the future as well. “I wish I had any idea…if there’s one thing I can be sure of, it’s that next week will be different from this one. And that’s the thing that keeps things interesting and keeps me there,” Srinivasan has said.

Srinivasan participates in the adopt-a-school program and funds a school in Montana.

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