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Steven Snyder

Steven Snyder

Steven Snyder is a businessperson involved with high technology management. He was an early employee of Microsoft where he was Microsoft's first business unit general manager, leading the Development Tool Business. He was also founding CEO of Net Perceptions, a leading company in recommender systems during the late 1990s.

Early life

Steven Snyder was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He earned a B.S. in Mathematics from Drexel University and a M.B.A. from Harvard. He then consulted at Touche Ross & Co.


Snyder joined Microsoft in 1983, and was made responsible for turning around the relationship with IBM, which had been faltering over the delivery of an operating system that could work with the networking features of the upcoming IBM PC-AT

computer. Snyder was then promoted to be the first general manager in Microsoft history, with responsibility for the Development Tool Business, helping develop the products into industry leaders, as evidenced by winning the PC

Magazine annual awards competition two years in a row.

Personnel Decisions International

After leaving Microsoft in 1988 Snyder joined the Ph.D. program in Psychology at the University of Minnesota. His thesis was Task Strategy Development during Transition to Self-Managing Work Teams.While working on his dissertation at Minnesota, he consulted with accompany called Personnel Decisions International (PDI), which helps companies develop the talent of their employees. At PDI Snyder helped the company develop a computer-based coaching program that would enable leaders to develop specific leadership competencies. The product had a user interface for presenting the components of leadership development: assessment, a personalized development plan, and an everyday learning process. These ideas became the basis of a US patent, held by PDI.

Net Perceptions

In April 1996 Snyder met members of the GroupLens Research group. He quickly saw the commercial potential for their technology, known as collaborative filtering, a form of recommender system, and discussed the possibility of forming a company around the technology. Snyder argued that a research group from MIT had formed a company in 1995 that was already commercializing collaborative filtering, and that the window of opportunity was closing. (The MIT company would later become Firefly). The team of Snyder, Brad Miller, John Riedl, Joe Konstan, and David Gardiner founded Net Perceptions in May 1996, and licensed the technology from the University of Minnesota in June 1996. Soon after they received initial funding from Hummer Winblad Venture Partners (Hennes 2001).

Led by Snyder as CEO, Net Perceptions became a leading company for recommender systems during the Internet boom through the late 90's and early 2000s (Dragan 2001). Net Perceptions had many of the leading Web companies as customers, and was very visible in the Internet food chain. Net Perceptions received the MIT Sloan School E-Commerce Award for Technology Innovation in May 1999 (MIT News Office 1999). Among many other media interviews, Snyder participated an ABC Nightline show about Net Perceptions technology in Dec 1999 (Krulwich 1999).

Business Ethics

When Snyder stepped down as CEO of Net Perceptions in 2001, he began a new career teaching, studying, and communicating about his vision for business ethics. Snyder has been teaching courses on business ethics at the University of Minnesota, and developing his ideas about sustainable business leadership. His key idea is sustainability reporting, which he calls triple-bottom-line business accountability, in which traditional business reporting is expanded to include environmental and social performance in addition to economic performance. In January 2008, Snyder presented a speech on his ideas as the Tata Oration on Business Ethics at the XLRI- Xavier School of Management in India.

Leadership Research

In 2009, Snyder began on a program of leadership research, first as an Executive-In-Residence at the University of Minnesota’s Center for Integrative Leadership, and then as an Executive Fellow in Leadership at the Opus College of Business at the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis. The research culminated in the book, Leadership and the Art of Struggle. Snyder studied 151 episodes of leadership struggle, and synthesized a set of practices by which leaders can more effectively navigate through challenge and adversity.


November 22, 1954
Steven Snyder was born in Philadelphia.


Further Resources

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