Li Takes Over at Qualcomm Ventures as Kashyap Joins Microsoft

Nagraj Kashyap, who led Qualcomm’s corporate venture arm for the last 12 years, has left the wireless technology giant and the temperate climate of San Diego for Seattle, where light rain and drizzle averages close to 39 inches a year.

Kashyap, who was a senior vice president of ventures and innovation for Qualcomm Technologies and the global head of Qualcomm Ventures, has joined Microsoft Ventures, a spokesman for Microsoft confirmed by e-mail this week. Fortune was first to report on Kashyap’s departure Friday.

If Kashyap’s exit was a surprise, Qualcomm appears to have quickly recovered.

The company’s website already lists Quinn Li as Kashyap’s successor, identifying him as the head of Qualcomm Ventures, responsible for overseeing Qualcomm’s $1 billion strategic venture investment portfolio of over 140 investments. A Qualcomm spokesman did not immediately respond to e-mail and phone queries about the change.

Li was previously responsible for all Qualcomm Ventures activities in North America. Prior to joining Qualcomm Ventures in 2005, Li held various engineering and management roles in the wireless industry, including stints as a product manager at IBM, senior staff scientist at Broadcom, and as a technical staffer in the wireless infrastructure group at Lucent Technologies.

Another potentially relevant tidbit is the appointment of Brian Modoff, a seasoned Wall Street analyst, as Qualcomm’s new executive vice president of strategy and M&A, a new position the company announced in October. Modoff, who was previously managing director in equity research at Deutsche Bank Securities, reports directly to Qualcomm CEO Steve Mollenkopf, and has company-wide oversight for strategy, M&A, and Qualcomm’s venture portfolio.

Nagraj Kashyap

Nagraj Kashyap (photo courtesy of Qualcomm)

Qualcomm established its corporate venture arm 16 years ago, and Kashyap led the group for all but the first four years. He told me in a 2009 interview that a pronounced slowdown in VC activity during the great recession that began in 2008 was probably the key factor in Qualcomm’s decision to launch its global “QPrize” competition.

Qualcomm has invested the biggest chunk of its venture funding (31 percent) in consumer startups and technologies, about 26 percent is invested in enterprise technology deals, with hardware and healthcare each getting 15 percent. Systems and components got the remaining 13 percent.

In addition to giving Kashyap credit for launching the QPrize, Fortune reported that Kashyap also helped to establish the Techstars robotics accelerator at Qualcomm. However, the company pulled the plug on that initiative a couple months after the inaugural class of robotics startups graduated from the intense, 16-week program.

While a Microsoft spokesman confirmed that Kashyap has joined its team, he added, “Unfortunately, we have nothing more to share.”

Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at bbigelow@xconomy.com or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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