The Top 10: #9 Samir Kumar, managing director, M12

Samir Kumar is managing director for M12, the corporate venturing fund owned by software and electronics provider Microsoft, where he leads the technical aspects for the AI (artificial intelligence) Fund.

Kumar also manages investment activities in other disruptive technology domains such as quantum computing and autonomous vehicles. For example, he led series B rounds for advanced computer processor developer Syntiant and driver safety technology developer Netradyne on behalf of M12 in October 2018, the former securing $25m while the latter receiving $21m.

He serves as a board member for Syntiant and Netradyne, as well as other portfolio companies, including new processing software developer Agolo, artificial intelligence software provider Element AI, agricultural data analytics platform developer FluroSat, customer success measurement platform Cerebri AI and autonomous driving system developer ClearMotion.

At the time of FluroSat’s A$4.6m ($3.2m) seed round in July 2019 that was co-led by M12, Kumar said in a statement: “Computational agriculture will help the world feed 10 billion people in the decades to come. FluroSat’s machine learning-powered FluroSense platform empowers agronomists with actionable insights so they can scale helping more farmers make the right decisions for the first time.”

Kumar sat on the board of AI technology developer Bonsai when he joined M12, then known as Microsoft Ventures, in March 2017, until it was acquired by Microsoft the year after.

Before M12, Kumar had been with mobile semiconductor product maker Qualcomm for nearly five years. He was brought on board as director of business development and product management in April 2012 where he led technology validation strategy for research and development (R&D) efforts in neuromorphic computing.

Kumar oversaw product management for Qualcomm Research – Silicon Valley (QRSV) R&D projects in mobile heterogeneous computing, on-device machine learning, mobile security and indoor location technologies. He also collaborated with the corporate venturing unit, Qualcomm Ventures, to support investment strategy and established technology partnerships for Qualcomm Research with some of the portfolio companies.

Qualcomm promoted Kumar to senior director of business development and product management where he led the team to conduct strategy, value proposition development and R&D partnerships, covering academic and industrial aspects, for QRSV programs in machine learning and deep learning.

The team explored and developed optimisations focusing on deep neural networks targeted at power and performance constrained embedded platforms with applications in mobile, automotive and internet of things, including algorithmic research on optimising various DNN (deep neural net) architectures for embedded deployment, software accelerated run-time frameworks and libraries as well as novel hardware accelerators.

Kumar started his career at Microsoft where he spent more than nine years from 2000 first as a technology specialist before shifting to product management and planning roles in 2003.

Having held a brief stint at personal digital assistant maker Palm, which was later acquired by IT company Hewlett-Packard, as a product line manager, Kumar joined electronics manufacturer Samsung as a director of North America technology sourcing before he joined Qualcomm.

Kumar holds a bachelor’s of science degree in mechanical engineering from Cornell University.

Edison Fu

Edison Fu is a reporter and Asia liaison at Global Corporate Venturing.