Hugo Barra discusses his move to Xiaomi, and why he left Google

September 12, 2013
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Nexus 7

In a recent interview with Kara Swisher of All Things D, Hugo Barra was candid about his involvement with Xiaomi, and his reasons for leaving Google. Barra discussed all kinds of things from why the Chinese device manufacturer is so impressive, to his transparent exit strategy from Google.

Bin Lin, founder of Xiaomi, was a Googler himself. Barra met him while in Beijing for a strategy summit, when both worked for Google. Barra was working on Google’s mobile efforts in Europe, and Lin ran mobile engineering in China for the Mountain View powerhouse. As Barra moved to Mountian View to join the Android team, he found himself particularly interested in what Xiaomi was up to. “I had a keen interest in what they were doing, and what they were doing was pretty phenomenal.”

In the interest of full transparency, Barra also involved Google with his Xiaomi discussions early on.

With praise from Matias Duarte about what Xiaomi was accomplishing, as well as Barra’s own interest in what Xiaomi was doing, talks for Barra to join the team in China had been developing for well over a year. With the release of the Mi2, Xiaomi began picking Barra’s brain a bit. “At first, their questions were, ‘How do you think we should go about expanding internationally?’ And that evolved into, ‘Maybe you should come help us,’” recalled Barra. Lin wanted someone to lead their global expansion, and who better than the guy who had become the face of the Android device market?

In the interest of full transparency, Barra also involved Google with his Xiaomi discussions early on. Barra was excited at the prospect of working with Bin at Xiaomi, too. He felt they had a “similar DNA”, and a team he was already familiar with. While Google was understandably sad to see him go, but Barra notes “I think it came down to, if you’re going to lose someone from the team, you might as well lose them to a friend.”

Xiaomi is definitely a friend to Google, and both are very important to each other. Google is clearly impressed with everything Xiaomi is doing, and they’ve now got two high profile former teammates at the Chinese giant. While Xiaomi has made some amazing strides in China, the push is still to go worldwide, and that’s what Barra’s focus is. “If I do my job right, in a few years, the world will be talking about Xiaomi in the same way that they talk about Google and Apple today.”

Get to work, Hugo. We’re excited to see what you can do.

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