Uber has hired away Amazon's VP of voice shopping, Assaf Ronen, replacing Uber product chief Daniel Graf, Uber has confirmed to Retail Dive.
Ronen will begin work as SVP and Head of Product beginning later this month, according to a letter to employees from Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi emailed by a company spokesperson.
Amazon didn't immediately return Retail Dive's request for comment about his replacement. The news comes shortly after the departure this week of longtime Amazon Vice President of Prime Worldwide Greg Greeley, who has left to to lead Airbnb Homes.
Amazon's had quite the week of departures, with execs leaving from two of its most high profile operations — Prime and voice. Ronen has worked on Amazon's voice and interface shopping since late 2014, according to his LinkedIn profile. Previously, he spent nearly seven years at Microsoft, where he "managed multiple groups … across Consumer and Enterprise," including at Skype, according to his page.
Voice has emerged as a major priority at Amazon. With each of its quarterly releases, the e-commerce giant includes a litany of accomplishments, but in his statement with the company's Q1 report, CEO Jeff Bezos was all about Alexa. The company set optimistic projections for the virtual assistant last year, yet those were exceeded, he said. "We don't see positive surprises of this magnitude very often — expect us to double down."
The units lead by Greeley and Ronen are two of Amazon's most important, and Amazon has encouraged shoppers to buy its voice assistant by slashing prices on Echo machines.
"Given the aggressive discounting that they did on Alexa devices, just selling the device itself is not enough to get them excited," Keith Anderson, Profitero vice president of strategy and insights, told Retail Dive in an interview earlier this year. "There's mounting evidence that Alexa households that are Prime members tend to spend more."
Amazon is making good headway, amid fierce competition from Google Home and, more recently, from Apple's entry in the space. There are now more than 30,000 Alexa-supported skills from outside developers, and Alexa customers can control more than 4,000 smart home devices from 1,200 unique brands, and the company is seeing strong response to its new far-field voice kit for manufacturers, Amazon said in January. Over the holidays, customers wished Alexa "Merry Christmas," "Happy holidays" and "Happy Hanukkah" 3.5 times more in 2017 than in 2016, the company said in December.
Amazon hasn't, however, said how many devices the company has sold, except to note in January that the Fire TV Stick and Echo Dot were the best-selling products of the year and that Amazon customers purchased "tens of millions" of Echo devices in 2017.