Less than a year ago, the rumor mill was churning about a clash between Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and Windows Chief Steve Sinofsky that seemingly caused Sinofsky to leave the company in November 2012. Now, the former president of both Windows and Windows Live will be working with Silicon Valley venture-capital firm Andreessen Horowitz.
Sinofsky is joining the firm as a board partner, in what he calls a "unique" role. In the new position, Sinofsky will represent the firm on the boards of portfolio companies, when called upon, but will not be a full-time member of the firm.
"I'm relatively new to the VC world and have a lot of learning to do -- and I am very excited to do that," Sinofsky wrote in a blog post. "I can't think of a better place to do this than a16z [short for Andreessen Horowitz], as they share the commitment to learning and sharing that learning, for example through all the blog posts the GPs write."
A Team Player?
Sinofsky brings 23 years of Microsoft experience to the table. While in Redmond, Ballmer credited him with building an "incredible foundation" with new releases of Microsoft Office, Windows 8, Windows Phone 8, Microsoft Surface, Windows Server 2012 and Halo 4, as well as the integration of services such as Bing, Skype and Xbox across all the company's products.
But for all Sinofsky's success, he tended to ruffle feathers. Upon his departure from Microsoft in November last year, Enderle Group principal analyst Rob Enderle told us Sinofsky wasn't the right man to help Ballmer connect the dots in building a homogenous solution that crosses services on the backend, hardware on the front end, with Microsoft at both ends in between.
Andreessen, however, seems to believe Sinofsky is the right guy for the board partner role. In his blog post, Sinofsky said he sees things at the venture capital firm that remind him of the values that contribute to all great product and company efforts: team effort and a long-term approach.
"My own experience in product development has been focused on learning and changing from within an organization as part of teams -- scaling teams, building the first professional GUI dev tools for Windows, marshaling the company around the 'InterNet,' bringing together disparate apps to create Office, creating the first collaboration servers, and shifting to the tablet era," he said. "Each was decidedly a new effort working to change the rules of the product game while learning along the way. Bringing this relevant experience to new companies is something I'm excited to do."
Sinofsky Set To Soar
The Guardian pointed to an SEC filing that indicates Sinofsky is contractually obligated not to join forces with Microsoft rivals before 2014. But that doesn't stop him from helping the next generation of young bright software companies.
We asked Enderle for his take on Sinofsky working with Andreessen. He told us the ex-Windows chief has a deep grasp of the technology market and offers a keen understanding of software companies seeking funding.
"Sinofsky has the kind of skill set you want in a group that's handing out money," Enderle said. "Often people at Sinofsky's level who leave companies will find their next job at a VC to look at things from the outside."