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 Amazon.com 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. Amazon.com’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.
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.
Previously: Poll: Is Windows chief’s exit good or bad for Microsoft?… A Microsoft misfit moves on: Thoughts on Windows chief Sinofsky’s sudden exit…Sinofsky Shocker: Windows President is Leaving Microsoft