Much was made this week of the nomination of Google executive Marissa Mayer to the Walmart board and for good reason. She will add a new layer of depth and expertise to Walmart’s board, but she won’t be the only digital darling on the board.
Does the name Jim Breyer ring a bell? The partner at the Silicon Valley venture capital firm Accel Partners became involved with Walmart in the late 1990s, and in early 2000 Accel invested in a joint venture with Walmart to accelerate development of its online efforts, which were being ridiculed at the time. Eighteen months later, Breyer was named to the Walmart board and the following months Accel’s stake in the dot com joint venture was acquired. He’s been on the board ever since.
It is also worth noting that at the time of the buyout, Greg Penner was promoted to SVP finance and operations at Walmart.com. If his name sounds familiar it is because he joined the Walmart board in 2008 and is Walmart chairman Rob Walton’s son-in-law. Penner brings some digital insights of his own to the board as he has served on the board of Chinese search engine giant Baidu Inc. since 2004 and is on the board of online dating site eHarmony.
With Breyer on the board for the past decade Walmart has gained a unique perspective on the digital world that Google’s Mayer will complement. For example, Breyer has served on the Facebook board since 2005 and owns a considerable stake in the company and he was also intimately familiar with Kosmix, a company Walmart acquired last year. Various Accel funds owned a 15.56% stake in Kosmix.
The perspective Mayer brings to the board is decidedly different, as she is an engineer who helped build Google and has served as VP local and maps at Google since 2010, according to Walmart’s proxy statement filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Monday. In her current role, Mayer leads the product management and engineering efforts of Google’s local, mobile, and location-based products including Google Maps, Google Maps for Mobile, Local Search, Google Earth, and Street View. Prior to assuming her current role with Google, Mayer had served as Google’s VP search products and user experience since 2005. Mayer, 36, enjoyed the distinction of being Google’s first female engineer in 1999 and during her career has been responsible for launching hundreds of products and features. She holds a bachelor’s degree in symbolic systems and a master’s degree in computer science from Stanford University.
Through her experience at Google, she will bring to Walmart long-term experience in Internet product development, engineering, and brand management, according to the company. In addition, the board will benefit from Mayer’s expertise in governance and strategic planning gained through her experience on the boards of numerous non-profit organizations. She serves on the boards of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the San Francisco Ballet, the New York City Ballet and the Smithsonian Cooper – Hewitt, National Design Museum.
At 36 years of age, Mayer will become the youngest member of a Walmart board by a wide margin. Currently, 10 of the 16 directors are over the age of 60 and the next youngest director is Greg Penner, 42.