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Ex-Windows chief Sinofsky flogs brains to Valley startups

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Microsoft’s former Windows chief Steven Sinofsky is re-inventing himself in Silicon Valley as an investor and startup mentor.

In his role as a newbie at Silicon Valley venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, Sinofsky is now an advisor to file-sharing service Box. Co-founder and chief executive Aaron Levie blogged that Sinofsky will "lend his experience and insights as we take Box’s product and platform strategies and organizations to the next level".

Levie continues:

Steven has spent much of his career thinking about technology transformations, navigating them, and — in many cases — helping to drive them. We’re very excited to have him advising us as we hopefully bring the next generation of tools to the next billion workers.

The appointment comes seven days after Sinofsky announced he was branching into venture capital as a board partner with Andreessen Horowitz.

Sinofsky wrote: "I’m relatively new to the VC world and have a lot of learning to do – and I am very excited to do that. I can’t think of a better place to do this."

One half of Andreessen Horowitz is, of course, the Netscape inventor and one-time browser wunderkind Marc Andreessen. Venerated in Silicon Valley, Andreessen's company achieved notoriety for having pulled a Jedi mind trick on out-going Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer, persuading him to buy its loss-making investment Skype for a cool $8.2bn against no other bidders.

It’s also been reported to be of help in inflating bubbles on tech-stock valuations, something it has denied.

Sinofsky says he will represent Andreessen Horowitz on the board of investment properties but stressed he’s not a full-time member of the Silicon Valley team. His first company is Local Motion.

The move into Silicon Valley and investments sees Sinofsky break cover from his pastime of blogging at length and working as executive in residence at Harvard Business School – although he hasn't ditched either job. He took up both straight after Microsoft.

Sinofsky comes with a considerable track record.

He is considered a model of efficiency on getting product out the door – he made quick work of the development and shipping schedules of Microsoft Office and Windows. However, the Windows chief also developed a reputation for tight control and alienated many inside Microsoft during his tenure.

Sinofsky left Microsoft abruptly and without explanation midway through the launch of his own big products, Windows 8 and the Surface tablet PC in November 2012.

Since then, Windows 8 has been notably for its ability to kill off PC sales while Microsoft over-estimated sales of Surface RT by such a degree it was left with a $1bn writedown. That, in part, cost Steve Ballmer his job. ®

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