Xiaomi Poaches Spotify’s Donovan Sung To Lead International Product Development

Now that it’s apparently the third largest smartphone maker in the world, China’s Xiaomi needs experienced heads to help it build its business outside of Asia. And that’s exactly what it’s getting. TechCrunch understands that the company has completed a significant international hire, poaching Donovan Sung, who was Spotify’s first product manager in the US, to run its international product development team in a role based out of Beijing.

Xiaomi declined to comment in response to this story. We contacted Spotify for confirmation of Sung’s departure, but the company had not confirmed his exit at the time of writing.

Update: Sung’s departure was confirmed by Xiaomi VP Hugo Barra on Google+, image below.

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If what we’ve heard is accurate, Sung’s move is a significant development for Xiaomi, and a loss for Spotify. As the first product manager on US soil for the music streaming company, he was heavily involved in Spotify’s look and feel — including its discovery and recommendation features — and the move to make the service free across all platforms. Sung also played a hand launching the company in overseas markets and, according to his LinkedIn profile, managed product partnerships and other development opportunities.

It’s been just over a year since Xiaomi announced the surprise hiring of Hugo Barra from Google to become its new VP of International. American-Chinese Sung ticks a few boxes for Xiaomi. In addition to his track record working for a string of large tech companies — including Microsoft, Google, YouTube and Spotify — he worked with Barra at Google, and is bilingual. Sung will report to Barra and act as a bridge between the Brazilian, who is frequently traveling and does not speak Chinese, and Xiaomi’s executive team, many of whom are not fluent in English, according to our source with knowledge of the hire.

We’re told that Sung’s will start in the second week of November, before which he will relocate to Beijing from New York, where he’s been based working for Spotify since January 2012.

Sung has already begun getting into the spirit of life at Xiaomi, as his most recent tweets show — although his LinkedIn profile is yet to be updated.

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Barra is currently in the US, where he attended the WSJD Live event. We hear that he has approached a number of other US-based tech execs over the past few months with varying levels of success. It seems that the Google connection is strong, however, since another former Barra cohort — Jai Mani — joined Xiaomi this month to take up a lead product manager role in India, a market that is a key focus for the company. Mani will report to Sung directly, further cementing Xiaomi’s increasing Googliness and Barra’s influence.

Xiaomi’s last funding round closed in 2013 at a valuation of $10 billion, but we understand that executives inside the company believe that its progress over the past year — which has seen it extend beyond mainland China and into Taiwan, Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Indonesia and India — now values it at $20 billion.

The company sells devices at far lower prices than Apple and Samsung top products. Its flagship Mi4 is around $300 and its best-selling Redmi retails near $150, and it monetizes software services inside MIUI, its customized version of Android. Xiaomi expects to sell 60 million smartphones this year, with further international expansions planned, it is aiming to raise that figure to 100 million in 2015.

Headline image via Xiaomi