Lightspeed Hires Microsoft’s John W. Thompson as Venture Partner

Microsoft Chairman John W. Thompson is joining Silicon Valley’s Lightspeed Venture Partners as a partner. The announcement, which came at the end of April, makes the IT executive one of the most prominent African American venture capitalists.

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Thompson took over as Chairman of the Redmond, WA-based legacy tech titan in 2014, when co-founder Bill Gates stepped down from the position.

While 43-year-old Microsoft, a publicly traded company with a market capitalization of roughly $726 billion, is far from a startup, the tech giant’s recent efforts to modernize have turned it into a leader in the evolving tech landscape of the 21st century.

As part of the management team at Microsoft, Thompson has played a vital role in aiding Chief Executive Officer Satya Nadella champion the company’s transformation away from declining businesses such as its personal computer and Office segments to higher growth markets including workplace productivity tools, cybersecurity, the Internet of Things (IoT) and hybrid cloud computing with its burgeoning Azure platform.

At Lightspeed, Thompson will focus on young companies that are building cybersecurity or infrastructure technology for enterprises, according to an email cited by Bloomberg. He will work with a wide array of Lightspeed portfolio companies including photo and video sharing platform Snap Inc., application performance management provider AppDynamics Inc., and ethical consumer goods maker The Honest Co., co-founded by celebrity Jessica Alba. The Menlo Park, Calif.-based VC firm has $1.2 billion in capital commitments from its most recent fund in 2016, according to Bloomberg.

In an industry dominated by Caucasian and Asian men, the appointment of a black VC marks significant news. Earlier this year, General Catalyst named Kenneth Chenault, the former CEO of American Express, as a partner.

Thompson served as an independent member of Microsoft’s board since 2012, and has held leadership positions in software and IT companies including Chief Executive at cybersecurity pioneer Symantec and venture-backed Virtual Instruments Corp., a Lightspeed portfolio company.