Trending: Microsoft, Amazon and Google jockey for title of 2nd most valuable company on the planet

Gaurav Oberoi. (LinkedIn Photo)

Gaurav Oberoi, an entrepreneur and startup executive known for co-founding Precision Polling, BillMonk and SurveyMonkey Audience, has joined the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence (AI2) as an entrepreneur in residence, GeekWire has learned.

“I’m interested in computer vision, and am exploring ideas that use cameras to provide actionable information about the world, as well as techniques for video and image generation,” Oberoi told GeekWire in an email interview.

Oberoi most recently spent a stint as an entrepreneur in residence at Pioneer Square Labs, before ultimately deciding his Internet-of-Things project didn’t have the needed market value to move on. He is known for co-founding and serving as CEO of Precision Polling, which was acquired by SurveyMonkey. He then went on to co-found and lead SurveyMonkey’s Audience division for almost six years.

Oberoi pointed to AI’s transformative and disruptive potential as one reason he chose to join AI2, along with the organization’s world-class research and engineering talent.

“AI will be transformative for many industries, and much has been written about that already,” he said. “The two things I can offer on a more practical level: first, I think cameras are incredibly rich sensors that are everywhere, and now that we can effectively make computers ‘see,’ there are many applications to be built. Second, there is lots of great work coming out of academia that is fairly mature and ready to be productized — making this an incredible time for software entrepreneurs to combine these capabilities, with real business problems.”

Juha Alakarhu. (Axon Photo)

Axon, the maker of tasers, body cameras and other law enforcement technology, announced Monday that it has scooped up a team of former Nokia and Microsoft camera engineers led by Finnish innovator Juha Alakarhu. The team will remain at its home in Tampere, Finland, where it has been working together on Nokia technologies for a decade.

The company said the group will “focus on enhancing the capabilities of Axon’s future wearable and in-car cameras and developing a platform for future advancements that leverage augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR) and artificial intelligence (AI).”

Axon does not currently list any AR or VR products on its site, pointing to the potential for the team to create new AR/VR products for law enforcement.

“For the last decade, our team has revolutionized the imaging industry, and the revolution will continue at Axon,” Alakarhu said in a press release. He has held senior roles in Nokia’s camera and imaging teams since 2014, and served as the director and lead program manager in Microsoft’s Phones Imaging team for a year after it acquired Nokia. He returned to Nokia in 2016.

“The team and I are excited for the opportunity to apply our skills to help ensure Axon can deliver the highest quality cameras to law enforcement across the world,” Alakarhu said.

Amy Whaley. (Pitchbook Photo)

— Private capital resource database PitchBook announced Monday that it has added longtime Marchex executive Amy Whaley as its VP of people. Whaley joins the company after spending the previous 10 years as SVP of human resources at Marchex.

“My entire career has been rooted in developing and overseeing HR programs for growing tech companies, so when I came across this opportunity at a fast-growth company like PitchBook, I had to jump at it,” Whaley said in a press release. “PitchBook is at a unique growth inflection point, making this role as VP of People an opportunity to be part of something truly meaningful. In the short time I’ve been part of the company, I’ve been thoroughly impressed by the incredibly talented and motivated individuals that make up the PitchBook team. I’m eager to become engrained in this exceptional culture.”

Michael Spencer. (LinkedIn Photo)

Microsoft announced that Michael Spencer, the former general manager of Office Finance, is taking over as the GM of investor relations. Spencer replaces Chris Suh, who held that position for five years. Suh is moving to a new role as the senior finance leader of Azure and Windows Server.

Spencer first joined Microsoft in 2007 after the company acquired TellMe Networks, where he was the director of finance. The moves were announced on  Microsoft’s quarterly earnings call.

Larry Stapleton. (Optimum Energy Photo)

Optimum Energy, a Seattle startup that helps buildings reduce energy costs, announced that longtime president and CEO Bert Valdman is handing off the reins. Valdman has led the company since 2014, and will stay involved as a member of the company’s board of directors.

Larry Stapleton, formerly the VP of sales and marketing, will now lead the company as its president. Stapleton joined Optimum Energy in 2015 and previously held executive roles, including president, at Ballard Power Systems in Bend, Ore.

“I know Larry will run with this opportunity, and I’m confident that he and the rest of Optimum Energy’s talented management team can take the company to the next level,” Valdman said in a press release. “I look forward to working closely with them during this transition.”

— Act-On Software, the Portland-based marketing automation company, has added Nina Church-Adams as its SVP of marketing. She joins the company from financial software provider Finastra, where she was a leader in the company’s Americas marketing division, and has previously held product marketing and executive roles at Nike, D+H and American Express.

“I am honored to join the Act-On team in its journey to help marketers anticipate, automate, and accelerate their engagement efforts,” Church-Adams said in a press release. “As a marketer myself, I’m passionate about the idea of empowering marketers to do their best work, and am excited that Act-On is poised to be the leader in the next generation of digital marketing engines.”

Jeff Mazer. (Moovel Photo)

— Moovel North America, a Portland-based transportation tech company owned by the same parent as car2go, announced the addition of finance executive Jeff Mazer as the company’s chief financial officer.

Mazer most recently founded Acme Financial, a firm that offered business and financial strategy and legal consulting. He has previously held leadership positions at Allstate, Libra Securities and Bank of America.

“The mobility sector is rapidly expanding and modernizing, and moovel is leading the charge toward a more connected, accessible and convenient transportation system,” Mazer said in a press release. “The company’s growth over the past few years has been nothing short of remarkable, and I couldn’t be more excited to join the team at such a pivotal time.”

Candace Thille. (Stanford University Photo)

Amazon recently added a big name in higher education. Stanford education professor Candace Thille has taken a leave of absence to join Amazon as the company’s director of learning science and engineering, according to a report by Inside Higher Ed. Amazon confirmed Thille’s addition to Inside Higher Ed but did not share details on what she is working on.

Thille is the director of Stanford’s Open Learning Initiative, a project that she originally founded at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. Her work focuses on using cognitive science and data on how students learn to shape education — in fact, she is an assistant professor in the school’s interdepartmental neurosciences program instead of its education department.

Editor’s Note: This post has been updated to reflect Moovel North America’s relationship to car2go. Both companies are owned by parent company Daimler Mobility Services. Moovel is not car2go’s parent company.

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