William Lai


William Lai is a multi-disciplinarian with a firm belief in effecting positive changes thru creative use of technology.

He wrote his first computer program at a department store computer kiosk, printing obscene messages in an infinite loop, ranting against ‘The Man’.

William started his professional software career working with the Pentagon & intelligence community. In 1994 he joined Microsoft to enable touch interfaces for computer peripherals such as printers, copiers, and fax machines.

A pioneer in the development of instant messaging, William led the development team that was nominated as a “Legendary Development Team of Microsoft” releasing MSN Messenger.  He grew the service to become a cornerstone of the Microsoft web offerings.  Ten years later, the technological infrastructure he invented is still being used to connect 350+ million people around the world.

Believing that the free IM movement should make money too, he started up a monetization follow-up to Messenger, called Microsoft Alerts, that leverage the untapped asset of the hundreds of millions of IM users. Partners such as eBay, Citibank, ESPN, and MSNBC sent billions of customer care messages using Alerts in a very cost effective way.

William participates in his community as a City of Bellevue Planning Commissioner, and volunteering at Literacy Bridge to help eradicate illiteracy around the world.

In life, William believes in: the creative freedom to experiment; the insatiable need to create; and the never-ending need to simplify, simplify, simplify.

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