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Longtime Microsoft Veteran Jensen Harris Leaves for Text Analysis Startup

Harris worked on Outlook, Office and Windows during his long tenure in Redmond.

Jensen Harris, the director of Microsoft Mobile Labs and a 16-year company veteran, is leaving the software giant to pursue a new startup.

Harris sent a farewell note to Microsoft colleagues on Thursday and officially leaves next week to launch Textio, a company that scans company documents to find patterns. For example, Textio can look through job descriptions and performance reviews to uncover unintended discrimination.

“There is big opportunity in the HR space with respect to bias, but there are other interesting opportunities as well,” Harris said.

Leaving Microsoft is a big move for Harris, who worked on Office, Windows and Outlook.

“I’ve worked my entire adult life at Microsoft,” Harris said. “I got to play with a lot of the toys that I wanted to play with.”

For the new venture, Harris is teaming up with Kieran Snyder, who worked with Harris on Office and also worked at Amazon. At Textio, Snyder will be CEO and Harris will be technology chief.

The idea for Textio came up after Snyder wrote an article looking at how company documents can reveal hidden bias. Companies came to her looking to see if she could apply that analysis to their documents.

For now, Textio is just Snyder and Harris, with the company currently identifying a few early companies to work with to hone the technology.

“Our intent would be to ship the first product spring-ish next year,” Snyder said.

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