Microsoft’s Satya Nadella: A solid first pick in any fantasy CEO draft

Microsoft’s momentum in AI has its CEO “finally getting cred” as a top Big Tech leader.

It’s that time of year when fantasy football geeks arrange their draft boards, but we’re out-geeking them today — playing fantasy boardroom.

Satya Nadella

If you were drafting execs you’d most want leading a team right now, it’d be hard to argue against Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s leader for nearly a decade now, as a top pick.

In 2023, AI wins count extra

Fast Company’s September cover story spotlights Nadella, claiming he has Microsoft “winning Big Tech’s AI war.”

Nadella doesn’t disagree — he took a victory lap during last month’s earnings call, acknowledging Microsoft’s “in the lead” selling cloud-based AI services. (He later demurred, saying, “Early leads in technology don’t matter”).

But Nadella can’t be blamed for a celebratory mood — his $13B deal with OpenAI rocketed Microsoft to the AI forefront, giving it a first look at the ChatGPT creator’s latest tech. That’s paying off, per Fast Company:

  • Microsoft’s market value, stuck at ~$300B when Nadella took the top job, recently passed $2.5T, positioning the company to join Apple as the only members of the $3T+ club.
  • An Evercore ISI analyst predicted AI could add up to $100B to Microsoft’s annual revenue by 2027, quite the return on a $13B investment.

AI > past missteps

Before the AI boom, Nadella’s run included “laggards,” per CNBC:

  • Bing was long an afterthought to Google’s search dominance.
  • Amazon had AWS running laps around Microsoft’s Azure.
  • Surface PCs never captured imaginations like Apple’s hardware.

Even with flashy acquisitions of LinkedIn, GitHub, and “Minecraft” maker Mojang Studios, Microsoft trailed other Big Tech firms in perception. This year, it’s eliminated 10k+ jobs.

But things change fast in tech. After “betting everything on AI,” the company is back in the driver’s seat, per Wired, and Nadella is “finally getting cred.”

That means lionization on magazine covers — and on theoretical fantasy CEO draft boards.

Reality check: While Nadella is a hot pick right now, anyone who’d instead take Apple’s Tim Cook first isn’t wrong. Also, if anyone is actually playing a fantasy boardroom game, please let us know how you score it.

Topics: Microsoft

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