With half an hours notice I was asked if I’d like to interview Steve Guggenheimer, Chief Evangelist and VP of Microsoft. With little time to prepare I quickly googled him, looked at his LinkedIN profile, and then, for inspiration, watched this.
Here’s how it went.
Steve on the sofa at Odessa (I used to deliver bread to there, but figured maybe best not to mention that gem)
Irish Tech News were given an opportunity to hear whether Microsoft were managing to stay innovative and ahead of their competitors. As everyone knows Microsoft were caught cold on a few initiatives in their recent past. Steve Guggenheimer, Microsoft Vice President and Chief Evangelist had come over from Seattle, via Chicago, to visit the Irish operations. Guggenheimer was wearing a British and Ireland Lions jersey as he had just come from watching Team USA play the All Blacks rugby team in Chicago. He is a big rugby fan, and had delayed his trip to Ireland in order to see the match.
This perhaps inevitably lead to a discussion about whether Rugby fostered innovation and startups, especially in comparison to one other sport in particular … It was agreed to disagree, though I know that I’d rather have the creators of Google, Paypal, Whatsapp, Pebble, and a few others in my corner versus Brian O Driscoll’s app which even seems to be named after the opposition and Jamie Heaslip’s putative tech investments.
Sensing that the interview had perhaps taken a tricky turn, it seemed to make sense to discuss the companies strategy to innovate and remain on the cutting edge of new technologies. It was tentatively suggested large companies like Microsoft had become a bit monolithic. This was clearly not quite the right choice of word to use. It prompted a spirited and wide ranging discussion about all the areas in which Microsoft are both innovating and also continuing to remain in the business of earning large revenues also. Microsoft have clearly taken previous criticisms on board and have embarked on a rigorous and wide ranging strategy to anticipate future trends and position themselves in the right place to deal with them. They are currently and aggressively moving their products to the cloud.
Naturally you might expect the Chief Evangelist, to be, well, evangelical about this. However a number of other people in the Irish part of the company have also said that it is a dynamic atmosphere, where change has been embraced and welcomed. Clare Dillon for example, Developer Lead for Microsoft Ireland, had recently given a talk at UCD about the use of Yammer within the company to enable staff to identify useful conversation threads taking place outside of their own particular section. This had enabled her to quickly identify relevant initiatives that had already been developed in-house.
Guggenheimer did a good job of conveying the range of initiatives taking place, from students, to community groups, to startups, and how Microsoft was actively engaging with them. It seems too simplistic a story to simply describe Microsoft as a company that are out of touch with changing trends. Instead, like IBM, who they initially overtook and eclipsed, it seems highly likely that Microsoft are in the process of reinventing and redefining who they are are, and what they do. Perhaps I had just been evangalised by the evangelist?
Afterwards, as part of his community outreach program he then left to be a judge at a joint Microsoft / NDRC open mike night for tech startups.
Below is Microsoft’s description of their strategy.
· Startups are revolutionizing the way we work with smart, powerful and connected productivity solutions.
· To help ignite this new wave of services, the next Microsoft Ventures Accelerator in Seattle will focus on IoT in the enterprise.
· We will help startups foster exciting new ideas by providing mentorship, technology, access to capital and expertise to build global companies.
· Startups interested in applying to the program can sign up at www.microsoftventures.com/accelerators/seattle.
· Provide a strong call to action for startups to apply for the Microsoft Ventures accelerators.
· Microsoft is fostering innovative startups in the IOT space at home and in the workplace.