Yahoo Builds Brickhouse Around Talent

Yahoo is in the process of setting up an in-house incubator in an attempt to hold onto its expensive talent, sources say. The project, called Brickhouse, will be led by Flickr founder Caterina Fake.

Big companies are no longer the safe havens they were during the tech bust. Self-styled “startup people” — especially those like Fake, who were brought in through acquisitions — long for the bureaucracy-free feeling of going up against the Man, not being the Man. With funding so easily available, Yahoo’s stock treading water, and most of their options vested, it’s tempting to jump ship.

SideStep CEO Rob Solomon, who was employeee 2,100 or so at Yahoo, told me earlier this year there were perhaps 300 or 400 left of the employees who were at Yahoo when he started. Other recent departures include Rob Lord (Songbird), Bruce Karsh (Wink), Gary Flake (Microsoft Live Labs), Toni Schneider (Automattic/True Ventures {backers of GigaOM}), Derek Dukes (VideoEgg), and many more.

Big company incubation is certainly not new to Yahoo. Microsoft has an internal incubation effort called AdLab which is focusing on adCenter related innovation. Google has its Google Labs and 20 percent time. Yahoo is smart to try to hang on to its high-priced talent. Letting the web 2.0 cool factor slip away would be a costly aberration.