20 Years – and no more. KenMo is not @Microsoft.

I’ve decided to leave Microsoft.

It was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make because I have worked at Microsoft for 20 years — and I love the company.

For those of you who care, this hasn’t been too hard to predict over the past 9 months — as I stepped out of my 5-year stint starting up and leading the technology for Live Search (a.k.a. MSN Search) as noted when I took a sabbatical and as I came back from my leave.  Many people have helped advise me through this period — and I think that it’s obvious to every one of them that it’s the right move for me.  I was one of the last to come to the conlusion that leaving the free pop behind is the right thing for me.

Why is it the right move for me?  Is it because Microsoft is a lame, bloated, has-been company?  Is it because I lost faith in Microsoft’s role in the future of software?  No, no and most certainly not.  Microsoft is one of the best companies in the world.  I have huge admiration for my many many friends who work there, and I know that there are great things in Microsoft’s future.  Microsoft is far from perfect — but so is everything else I’ve ever looked at in life — and I’ve never seen another company do as much good in the world as Microsoft.

It’s just that for me, personally, the next challenge I am craving happenned to be elsewhere — in part BECAUSE I have spent 20 straight years there…  In part because I have NEVER worked anywhere else…  The right next step for me is to try the one thing that Microsoft couldn’t offer me — starting a company from scratch.  That’s what I’m talking about… (you can’t see the smile break out on my face, and the butterflies start soaring around my stomach as I write that…)

But — it’s not easy for me.  I have invested a lot of personal brain cycles and heart in trying to make Microsoft be the best it can be — through the easy times, and through the tough times.  I have been to every company meeting since 1988.  I have been to 18 of the last 20 company picnics in the shadow of Mt. Si.  My kids have grown up trick-or-treating in the halls of buildings 6, 10, 16, RED-West and 88…  I have a Microsoft logo tattooed on my butt…  I have been thrown in virtually every water feature on campus by my friends and teammates…  (one of the above isn’t actually true…)

If there’s interest — I’ll be sharing more of my thoughts as I go through this transition.  But, for now, please know that despite all of the flatteringly great arguments that Microsoft’s top management made to me to try to convince me to stay for a little longer — this is indeed the right path for me.

The path ahead is uncertain — but I am sure it’s right for me to try it.  I can’t wait!

And — who knows — maybe I’ll end up back at Microsoft some day.  And, I for one, will NOT consider that a failure.

That’s it for now…

-Ken

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