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Irene Au Joins Khosla Ventures to Focus on Design

"It all manifests in the user interface," says the well-known Silicon Valley product design exec.

Khosla Ventures

Irene Au, a well-known Silicon Valley product design exec, is joining Khosla Ventures as an operating partner, where she will focus on helping its portfolio companies with design issues.

“Helping companies create well-designed products and services goes deeper than people and process; design is a manifestation of the company’s vision, values, strategy, scope, and ability to execute — to that end I expect to work with founders and CEOs on all of these challenges,” said Au in a blog post. She will start next month at Khosla.

Au has worked at a range of tech companies, including Google, Udacity, Yahoo and Netscape and has recently been advising a range of different startups.

She noted in an interview yesterday that “bad design usually points to other issues that have not been resolved at a company … it all manifests in the user interface.” That is why Au said she wanted to join the high-profile Khosla, where she said she will work with founders and their product development teams.

Khosla investment partner Ben Ling, who brought Au into the firm, said that the effort there has been to not just bring money to startups, but also “venture assistance, to differentiate ourselves.”

In another blog post, investment partner and firm founder Vinod Khosla noted:

“Design makes technology accessible and effective. Whether it’s hardware or software innovation, at Khosla Ventures, we understand design’s power to make even the most complicated technology usable. It even goes beyond that and has the ability to define a brand in a more organic way than traditional marketing is able to achieve.”

While that design focus can sometimes be just blabbery on the part of VCs, Khosla actually has some companies in its portfolio — Jawbone and Square — that have been pushing design boundaries in the still relatively design-ignorant Silicon Valley.

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