S. “Soma” Somasegar joined Microsoft in 1989, back when the Redmond software company had less than 5,000 employees and was gearing up for the first release of a new productivity suite it was calling Microsoft Office.
More than two decades later, Somasegar was a well known figure around campus when he announced in October he would be leaving after 27 years.
It was a big loss for Microsoft, but Somasegar didn’t go far. Just last week, he was named the newest venture partner at Seattle-based Madrona Venture Group.
Somasegar says he was just ready try something new. He was already an angel investor, and now he’ll use his years of experience and expertise to sniff out the next generation of tech giants for Madrona.
Somasegar is certainly bullish on Seattle, saying at the time of joining Madrona that the region has a big opportunity to foster startups and innovation like no other place.
“The talent that is available in Seattle today rivals any other part of the world, at least in terms of the technical and engineering talent,” Somasegar said when he took the job.
During his tenure at Microsoft, Somasegar worked on eight releases of Windows before joining the company’s Developer Division. There, he helped to lead Microsoft’s push into open-source technologies, including the decision last year to open-source the .NET core server runtime and framework. He also led Microsoft’s efforts to spread development centers all over the world, founding the company’s India research and development center and sponsoring similar operations across India, China and Israel.
He also has the distinction of being a father of past Geek of the Week honoree, Archana Somasegar, who was chosen in 2012 for her advocacy work with girls in developing nations. This marks the first time GeekWire has selected both a parent and child for the Geek of the Week recognition.
Meet our new Geek of the Week and continue reading on for his answers to the Q&A.
What do you do, and why do you do it? “I am a venture capitalist today with Madrona Venture Group. The Seattle area has a tremendous amount of engineering talent and the entrepreneurial landscape is rich with incredible potential. The barrier to entry for somebody with a great idea has never been lower than it is today. For all the successes that we have seen in the start-up ecosystem in Seattle, I think there is a huge opportunity ahead of us and I am excited to see how I can help some of these entrepreneurs and start-ups scale their technology and business to be as effective and successful as they can be.”
What’s the single most important thing people should know about your field? “We are here to help founders and entrepreneurs scale and succeed.”
Where do you find your inspiration? “I find my inspiration in the people I work with. At Microsoft, and now at Madrona, people with a high degree of integrity and a work ethic that don’t settle — that is what inspires me. The rapid pace at which technology is evolving and people who think about bringing disruptive ideas to market riding on the back of these technology shifts, like cloud and mobile for example, is another thing that I find very inspiring.”
What’s the one piece of technology you couldn’t live without, and why? “As a new technology becomes mainstream, we sometimes forget that the world lived quite well for a long time without that particular technology. Having said that, I can’t imagine living without a mobile phone, though I didn’t own a phone (land-line) for the first 20 years of my life. The mobile phone helps me stay connected with family and friends and work in ways that are incredibly valuable and effective. Not to mention catching a cab, getting lunch and tracking when my Amazon package is going to be delivered.”
What’s your workspace like, and why does it work for you? “Though each of us have individual offices at Madrona, the environment is quite an open environment with a lot of open spaces for casual interaction and informal working that makes it naturally very collaborative. At the same time, the work environment and culture are set up in a way to respect privacy and focus as needed.”
Your best tip or trick for managing everyday work and life. (Help us out, we need it.) “Remember that you’re in a marathon. Only you know how best to pace yourself for the long haul. Work and life are both integral parts of what each of us need to do and focus on. Having the right balance is important and it varies from individual to individual. Each person needs to understand what it means to them, personally, and then put a plan in place to make that their reality.”
Mac, Windows or Linux? “Windows. Really? Did you have to ask?”
Kirk, Picard, or Janeway? “Kirk.”
Transporter, Time Machine or Cloak of Invisibility? “Time Machine.”
If someone gave me $1 million to launch a startup, I would … “Pull together a small, high-caliber team and get started in an area that I think has got a tremendous amount of market potential and customer reach – ideally something that can be both disruptive and highly impactful. One technology area that I am currently very fascinated about is virtual reality. I think the kind of scenarios that can come to life both in the consumer space and enterprise space is going to be fundamentally transformational.”
I once waited in line for … “The Indiana Jones ride for a couple of hours and enjoyed every minute of waiting in line with the anticipation and thrill (I am a huge fan of Steven Spielberg, Harrison Ford and the Indiana Jones series).
Your role models? “My Mom and Dad. Their work ethic, focus on prioritizing their kids’ education over everything else and trying to fulfill their responsibilities in the best way possible are all things that I have observed and tried to imbibe in my life.”
Greatest Game in History? “Cricket, particularly the newer formats of 20-over matches. The 1983 World Cup Cricket series is one of my all time favorites.”
Best Gadget Ever? “Fitness (Health) Band.”
First Computer? “IBM 360 main-frame during undergrad at Anna University and Compaq 386 at Microsoft. My first introduction to computers was when I was a freshman in college.”
Current Phone? “Windows Phone (Lumia device).”
Favorite App? “Mail app and Twitter app.”
Favorite Cause? “My wife and I are very passionate about education and empowerment of girls and women around the world. Specifically, we are big supporters of the Girl Up campaign that is a part of the UN Foundation.”
Most important technology of 2015? “Machine Learning.”
Most important technology of 2017? “Virtual Reality/Augmented Reality/Mixed Reality.”
Final words of advice for your fellow geeks: “Dream big and follow it up with great execution. Whatever you end up doing, do it as best you can.”