Exclusive: Niall Kennedy's Microsoft exit interview: He'd only rejoin if Microsoft split up

Today, a product team manager left Microsoft's Windows Live division to start his own company. That manager was Niall Kennedy, who had only joined Microsoft in April after leaving Technorati. I chatted with him about his move.

Valleywag: Wanna do an exit interview?

Niall: Want to do it now, before I have Vietnamese noodles?

Wag: Yes.
You left Microsoft after starting in April. You say in your blog that your ability to, well, DO anything was frozen soon after you arrived. Is there any way you could have foreseen that?

Niall: Not really. Everything looked pretty good as I joined. Brand new initiative with Windows Live, the sleeping giant waking up and ready to define a few new spaces on the Internet. In the case of the feed syndication platform, it was a chance for Microsoft to establish a market leader position where many other Live properties such as Search and AdCenter were playing catch-up.

Wag: Were you part of a larger movement of hires for the Live division? How long had your team been at Microsoft?

The answer to that and more, after the jump.

Niall: When I joined my team was newly formed. My group unit manager rejoined the company in March after having left the company for a few years to work with a startup.

My group was part of a larger movement for defining new products within the Live division — I was part of Live platforms, powering multiple webapps at once — and part of the creation of new groups and products includes staffing those efforts, yes.

Wag: Microsoft seems friendly toward people returning after leaving for their own startups. I've seen a few people leave for other companies and return with no problem. Do you see yourself ever doing that?

Niall: Not really, but perhaps if the company was split up first and there was some new project I was excited about that could only be done at a company such as Microsoft.

Wag: Split up?

Niall: Splitting the company into desktop, server, online, and possibly gaming divisions. It's just too big.

Wag: Is that likely to happen?

Niall: I'm not sure. it was certainly the direction the DOJ and European Union have explored in the past

Wag: A quick question about your future ventures before you go. You said you have some startup ideas, but you can't share much while your contract with Microsoft is still winding down. Any little hint?

Are pastel boxes with rounded corners involved? Will you present at a Stirr Mixer by the year's end?

Niall: I suck at visual design. I'll have lots of outside input on that one. Although VRML in Ajax does look tempting, I'll be doing something new.

Anything else before I go eat some Vietnamese noodles?

Not one to deny a man his lunch, I let Niall go.

Leaving Microsoft [Niall Kennedy's weblog; photo by Scott Beale]