Steven Sinofsky in Anaheim in September. (Microsoft photo)

He’s been called abrasive, hard-charging and — by GeekWire’s very own Todd Bishop — a misfit.

Sounds like Steven Sinofsky, who stepped down unexpectedly this week as president of Microsoft’s Windows division, might have what it takes to make the jump into the startup world.

Since Sinofsky’s suprise departure was announced on Monday evening, volumes have been written about what it means for Microsoft.

But I’ve got another question: What does it mean for Seattle?

Let me explain.

One of the rubs on our fair city is that there’s a dearth of super angels — wealthy tech barons in the spirit of Silicon Valley’s Vinod Khosla or Ron Conway or Reid Hoffman who’ve got the pocketbooks, smarts and aptitude to lend a helping hand to the next-generation of entrepreneurs.

Enormous wealth has been created in the Seattle area through the formation of companies like Microsoft, Expedia and over the years. But oftentimes that wealth is pushed into other deserving areas (arts, politics, education, non-profits, sports, etc.). It’s not — in the words of Seattle angel investor Chris DeVore — frequently “recycled” back into the tech ecosystem.

Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen continues to transform South Lake Union and the Seattle sports landscape, while dabbling in areas such as space exploration, music and brain science. Allen’s old pal, Bill Gates, is on a global (and noble) mission to wipe out disease and poverty.’s Jeff Bezos sprinkles some money around town via his investment arm Bezos Expeditions, but he’s largely been removed from the community as he attempts to maintain the skyrocketing growth of his company.

Steven Sinofsky

Other high-level Microsoft and Amazon executives have left town, moved on to other pursuits or retired — though exceptions include folks like Charlie Kindel, Ed Fries and the team at Ignition Partners. (Side note: I am especially interested to watch the next steps of Isilon co-founder Sujal Patel who announced his departure from EMC last month, and just this week joined the board of Elemental Technologies).

Now, I have no idea whether Sinofsky has any desire to get involved in the startup community. (I’ve never seen him speak at any startup-oriented events around town, and I’d say he’s largely an unknown in the startup ecosystem).

There are also questions whether someone who worked for 23 years at one of the largest software companies on the planet, overseeing billions in revenue and thousands of employees, would be interested in managing the petty pitfalls of the startup process.

But, here’s the deal: Seattle needs people like Sinofsky to stick around (despite the prickly manner).

The options in front of someone of his stature are pretty much endless. Certainly corporate headhunters will be on the prowl, hoping to score a dude who revitalized Windows after the embarrassment of Vista. At 47, he’s probably too young to retire, and he signaled in his farewell email to his team that he will have a post-Microsoft career.

“My passion for building products is as strong as ever and I look forward focusing my energy and creativity along similar lines,”  he wrote.

Now that he’s a free agent, here’s hoping that Sinofsky (at the very least) considers something on the home front. As one GeekWire reader noted on an earlier post:

“Question is does he go to (California), Asia, or do the crazy thing and get some things going here? Personally I’m pulling … for crazy. Crazy crazy crazy.”

Crazy and startups almost go hand-in-hand. It will be interesting to see where Sinofsky lands next.

PreviouslyPoll: Is Windows chief’s exit good or bad for Microsoft?… A Microsoft misfit moves on: Thoughts on Windows chief Sinofsky’s sudden exitSinofsky Shocker: Windows President is Leaving Microsoft

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  • guest

    He’s probably under a non-compete that limits what he can do over the next year or two, assuming he wants to do something similar – which is what he indicated in his departure memo. But that doesn’t rule out becoming CEO of a competing organization. I don’t see him being the startup type. I’m also not sure that’s where his real strength lies. But maybe he’s looking for a new challenge.

    The whole thing is very disappointing. He’s the only senior MS executive who gave me any confidence that MS’s lost decade might come to an end. Instead, the Ballmer/Gates tag team won and they can continue driving MS into the ground.

  • guest

    What should the former Microsoft exec do next?

    Buy the iPad he’s been wanting but couldn’t have?

    • guest

      You need some new material. You’re starting to repeat yourself already.

      • Guest

        Sorry I’m playing here all week.

        Try the veal, tip your waitress!

  • guest22

    There is (almost) nothing worse than someone with money, but without an entrepreneurial bent getting involved with entrepreneurs.

    After 23 years in a corporate environment…during a time of massive changes in the independent tech sector, this guy is probably clueless. I’m sure we’d all like him to toss some money around. But, never, never take money from the wrong guy…it always ends in disaster (especially, when “the money” also thinks they know more than anyone else in the room).

    • guest

      Could you have packed more generalizations and stereotypes into one paragraph?

      • another layer

        Where do stereotypes comes from?

  • guest

    Don’t know. But the character assassinations that are making the rounds, many apparently with the participation of senior MS insiders, are becoming disgusting. It’s all starting to look orchestrated. Like Frank Shaw has been tasked with “let’s try and destroy Sinofsky’s credibility before he starts spilling the beans and showing everyone how incompetent we are”.
    Although they’re very different personalities, it’s reminiscent of what happened when Muglia left. I don’t understand it. Both had exemplary records of achievement. Why not just let them go out with some dignity? Meanwhile when Allchin or Bach “retired” there was none of that, even though both failed miserably. MS’s SLT should be more concerned about filling the large crater they just left and figuring how they’re going to stop getting their asses kicked by Apple and Google, or how they’re going to arrest the decade long stock drop before it goes to $0. But then part of MS’s problem historically is that internal politics is just so much more fun and easier than actually competing in the marketplace.

  • guest5

    Dell baby …he is going to be at dell

  • Guest

    I really can’t imagine he’s going anywhere other than Amazon or Oracle. His skill-set is for lack of a better word, operational-vs.fostering innoavation, and my guess is he wouldn’t mind sticking it to Microsoft. There’s only a handful of companies that would really allow him to do what he does best (MS, Apple, IBM, Google, Oracle, Amazon).

    MS (obvious reasons) and Apple (just dumped Forstall) out of the picture, and I don’t think IBM (culture) or Google (culture, and don’t need a CEO in waiting) are viable. That leaves the above two.

    Oracle still doesn’t have a CEO in waiting, and Ellison has never been one to shy away from an agressive personality (or tweaking MS). Maybe he doesn’t want somebody who will challenge him like Sniofsky. Pesident at Oracle is pretty similar to what he did at Windows; manage the updating of existing products with an established customer base.

    Amazon doesn’t have an apparent need as much, but think they could use somebody to continue to develop, and Bezos is cut from the same cloth as Sniofsky. He may be finally looking for an exit too, or at least a way to explore other interests.

    • Guest

      Or maybe he goes to a smaller big company like Salesforce or Autodesk, but I think you hit the nail on the head in your opening about why he would avoid startups (managing the petty pitfalls )

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