But CEO Marissa Mayer knows Yahoo! must work this way if it's to compete with the Facebooks, with the Googles, and with all the start-ups born of the cloud era. This intense team style of programming is necessary to make big ideas come to life, and projects scale instantly. But Yahoo!, as a media company, had no orchestra. Media companies have chains of command and scheduled meetings. Even if there's a "bullpen" at the center of the office, there are still offices, where men and women in nice clothes plot strategy and stare meaningfully at the surrounding skyline. Which brings us to Tumblr. Tumblr was born in the Facebook era of cloud development. Tumblr has a talented staff of young programmers who know how to work together, in close collaboration.
Tumblr has something else Mayer needs, offices at the top of a nondescript New York office building on 21st Street, between Madison Square and Union Square. It's close to big advertising, media and financial offices and is a quick subway ride away for programmers who commute from Brooklyn or Queens.
I know. "Having just the vision's no solution, Everything depends on execution." (Stephen Sondheim, a New Yorker.) But, with Tumblr, no other tech company has as many of the moving parts needed to build an immense cloud-based product-and-services ecosystem as Yahoo!. Google lacks the product connection, Facebook lacks the New York base, and Amazon.com ( AMZN) lacks the sizzle that comes from having both the Valley and the City, under one virtual roof. I don't think Tumblr was worth $1.1 billion to anyone else. I think, in the end, Mayer knew she was bidding against herself, and was swooping in with a blow-them-away offer. She has to keep that Tumblr team together, and that Tumblr style, which will be tough once the money comes raining down on people who have never seen it before. She's depending on her own skills, as a development manager, as an executive, and (yes) as a celebrity to make it happen. It's a huge risk. But that's what good business stories are made of. At the time of publication, the author was long GOOG and YHOO. Follow @DanaBlankenhorn This article is commentary by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.