Archive for February, 2021

Qualcomm veteran to replace Alain Crozier as Microsoft Greater China boss

Microsoft is getting a new leader for its Greater China business. Yang Hou, a former senior vice president at Qualcomm, will take over Alain Crozier as the chairman and chief executive officer for Microsoft Greater China Region, says a company announcement released Monday. After eight years at Qualcomm where he led sales and business development, Hou will spearhead strategy, sales and operation for Microsoft in the Greater China region. Hou was credited for achieving 3X revenue growth for Qualcomm’s semiconductor business and fostering partnerships in the smartphone, industrial and automotive industries in China, according to the announcement. A native of northeast China, Hou had a five-year stint at McKinsey & Company after he graduated from the University of Michigan and Peking University. Crozier joined Microsoft back in 1994 and will officially pass the torch to Hou in July. His next step is yet to be announced. Crozier is resigning at a time when China is racing to outrace the U.S. as the global technology leader. The ongoing U.S.-China trade dispute has shaken the global supply chain, jacking up manufacturing costs for American hardware makers. Meanwhile, a number of legacy U.S. tech giants are scaling back their presence in China, where historically they have maintained research teams to better grasp the flourishing Chinese market. In 2019, Oracle laid off hundreds of staff at its R&D center in China. Last year, IBM closed its R&D center in China after 25 years in part due to increased labor costs, former employees told TechCrunch. The Microsoft counterpart, Microsoft Research Asia, is widely respected and regarded as the “West Point” for China’s artificial intelligence scientists. Famed alumni include ByteDance founder Zhang Yiming and the founder of autonomous driving unicorn Momenta. Compared to its fame in China’s tech industry, Microsoft’s revenue in China is modest as a result of rampant piracy and competition. In a 2018 interview, former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said 90% of companies in China were using the Microsoft operating system but only 1% were paying for it. On the new business front, Microsoft has tried to peddle its Azure cloud computing product to Chinese enterprises but has so far been dwarfed by domestic players Alibaba, Tencent and Huawei. China contributed less than 2% of Microsoft’s annual revenue, or around $2 billion, president Brad Smith said in January 2020. Like other foreign tech firms operating in China, Microsoft is often caught in the middle between local authorities and speech advocates. Its professional social network LinkedIn and search engine Bing have both been criticized for censoring content considered sensitive by the Chinese government.

Autonomous drone maker Skydio raises $170M led by Andreessen Horowitz

Skydio has raised $170 million in a Series D funding round led by Andreessen Horowitz’s Growth Fund. That pushes it into unicorn territory, with $340 million in total funding and a post-money valuation north of $1 billion. Skydio’s fresh capital comes on the heels of its expansion last year into the enterprise market, and it intends to use the considerable pile of cash to help it expand globally and accelerate product development. In July of last year, Skydio announced its $100 million Series C financing, and also debuted the X2, its first dedicated enterprise drone. The company also launched a suite of software for commercial and enterprise customers, its first departure from the consumer drone market where it had been focused prior to that raise since its founding in 2014. Skydio’s debut drone, the R1, received a lot of accolades and praise for its autonomous capabilities. Unlike other consumer drones at the time, including from recreational drone maker DJI, the R1 could track a target and film them while avoiding obstacles without any human intervention required. Skydio then released the Skydio 2 in 2019, its second drone, cutting off more than half the price while improving on it its autonomous tracking and video capabilities. Autonomous drone startup Skydio raises $100 million and launches the X2 commercial drone Late last year, Skydio brought on additional senior talent to help it address enterprise and government customers, including a software development lead who had experience at Tesla and 3D printing company Carbon. Skydio also hired two Samsara executives at the same time to work on product and engineering. Samsara provides a platform for managing cloud-based fleet operations for large enterprises. The applications of Skydio’s technology for commercial, public sector and enterprise organizations are many and varied. Already, the company works with public utilities, fire departments, construction firms and more to do work including remote inspection, emergency response, urban planning and more. Skydio’s U.S. pedigree also puts it in prime position to capitalize on the growing interest in applications from the defense sector. a16z previously led Skydio’s Series A round. Other investors who participated in this Series D include Lines Capital, Next47, IVP and UP.Partners.