Ride-hailing firm Grab is losing its CTO

Grab is once again on the hunt for a CTO after Theo Vassilakis, the former Microsoft and Google executive who currently occupies the role, announced that he will leave the ride-hailing company this summer.

Vassilakis became Grab CTO in October 2017, ending a very long search to fill the job, but he explained in a LinkedIn post that he is leaving the Singapore-based firm, and Southeast Asia, for family reasons:

My family and I moved to Singapore in late 2017 when I joined Grab. Living and working in Southeast Asia has been an adventure that broadened our horizons and will always be in our hearts. Unfortunately, our personal circumstances have changed unexpectedly and we’ll need to spend most of our time outside the region — mostly in the south of China for the foreseeable future.

Following his exit on June 30, Vassilakis will remain an advisor to Grab, with a specific focus on “coaching our senior tech leaders and shepherding our ongoing AI and marketplace optimization efforts.” He said that he will be involved in finding and hiring his replacement.

While it will lack a “group CTO,” Grab does have CTOs for its transport and financial business units — Mark Porter and Vikas Agrawal, respectively — while head of product and design Jerald Singh will be involved in filling the void. Grab’s first CTO was Wei Zhu, who is credited with creating Connect with Facebook, but he left in 2015¬†after just a year and later sued over alleged unpaid earnings.

Under Vassilakis’ leadership, Grab massively increased its tech presence. The company now has seven R&D offices — Bangalore, Beijing, Ho Chi Minh City, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, Seattle and Singapore — and it claims to have doubled its headcount in 2018. Grab said in December that it is projected to add a further 1,000 “tech roles” this year.

The company has also expanded from merely transportation services to on-demand services, apps from third-parties via its “platform” strategy and payments and financial services.

Grab has also become the largest tech company in Southeast Asia by some margin in the eyes of investors. The company was most recently valued at $14 billion when it raised nearly $1.5 billion from SoftBank’s Vision Fund in March. To date, Grab has raised in excess of $7.5 billion from investors, and there’s more to come. The company said earlier this month that it plans to pull in $2 billion more from investors this year to battle rival Go-Jek, make acquisitions and develop its “super app” strategy.