There are three kinds of chief information officers: the ones who fail and get fired; the ones who do a good job of pedaling in place until they get bored or shuffled out; and the ones who do a great job, take on more responsibility and get tapped for more senior jobs.
Count David Yu among the latter. Over the past 15 years, the California-raised Yu has served variously as IT consultant, software engineer, head of engineering or chief technology officer at several startups in California and the U.K. Now age 38, he was just named chief executive officer of Betfair, a privately held Internet betting exchange based in London. Last year he was COO, and the year before that he was CTO.
Betfair allows gamblers to bet directly against each other for lower fees than they would pay to bookmakers. The company estimates that on its busiest days it processes more than 5 million trades a day. For its last fiscal year, which ended in April, Betfair reported more than U.S. $200 million in revenues. It is said to be pondering a public offering (though Yu won't comment on this). If it does go public with Yu at the helm, he would become one of the youngest CEOs of a publicly traded company.
"There's no doubt, I've gotten extremely lucky with Betfair's success," Yu says. After all, when he joined as CTO in 2002, Betfair had just 40 employees, including about 10 in IT. By 2005, when Yu was promoted to chief operating officer, Betfair had burst into the midmarket, with 500 employees. Now the company has roughly 650 employees, including about 175 in IT.
But Yu manufactured a lot of his own luck, too, by always studying business, not just its enabling technologies. "I've always thought I might either want to start a company or ultimately want to run one," Yu says.
This was first published in March 2006