[qi:046] It was almost a year ago when Yahoo (YHOO) set up Brickhouse, an effort to foster innovation within the company so that its brightest would stay and cook up clever ideas instead of playing the Sandhill Road Roulette. Unlike Yahoo Research, which has a five-year horizon, Brickhouse attempts to identify technologies and ideas that can be brought to market within one to three years.
The first signs that the Brickhouse experiment is working are Yahoo KickStart and Zync — two ideas that are being launched on Nov. 5th. These launches are pretty important for Yahoo Brickhouse, for some of its early efforts such as Yahoo Pipes — despite the initial buzz — have faded from the spotlight. (Wired has reported that two of its co-founders recently left Yahoo.)
These two services have gone from being mere concepts to mainstream offerings. Yahoo KickStart helps recent college graduates find jobs using social-networking features. Linking recent (or soon-to-be) graduates via alumni and fraternity and sorority organizations, Kickstart is trying to help college students overcome their lack of “professional networks.” And in order to kick-start the effort, Yahoo is offering $25,000 to a U.S. university with the largest number of alumni profiles by Dec. 31.
Zync is another Research/Brickhouse idea that has graduated. It allows collaborative watching of YouTube (GOOG) videos over the Yahoo IM client; friends can chat via Yahoo IM and also control the video playback. Zync has now been baked into the Windows version of Yahoo Messenger 9.0.
“Every month we take between eight and ten ideas to the senior management, and they then decide and green-light two ideas,” Salim Ismail, who heads up Yahoo Brickhouse, said in an interview. “It is very much like a VC model, where the senior management decides on funding for projects and then subsequent funding.”
Yahoo is also announcing the launch of a beta version of FireEagle, a global location platform that can be mashed up with other web services. You can tell the platform where you are and it will eventually come back with a potpourri of services around your location. End users can enter their information via IM, GPS-enabled phones, or even through Facebook.
There has been a sharp increase in geo-location and location-based services in recent months. That’s good news for Yahoo, and they should be throwing a lot of resources behind FireEagle. I will dig into this particular service when time permits.