Grab hires former Silicon Valley entrepreneur as new CTO

  • Theo Vassilakis brings expertise in developing large-scale machine learning systems
  • Appointment latest in significant expansion of global R&D capabilities in 2017

Grab hires former Silicon Valley entrepreneur as new CTO

GRAB, the leading on-demand transportation platform in Southeast Asia (SEA), today announced the appointed of Theo Vassilakis (pic) as CTO. Based in Singapore, Grab’s largest R&D centre, Vassilakis is the third CTO for Grab after Wei Zhu, who held the post for a year, leaving in Aug 2015. Zhu was followed by Arul Kumaravel, who took over the CTO function while retaining his Head of Engineering post. However, Arul left in Aug this year for personal reasons, according to a report in Tech Crunch.

Vassilakis comes with impressive credentials having been an entrepreneur who raised US$7 million in funding for his big data startup that he subsequently sold 15 months after launch to Microsoft in Dec 2015. The addition of Vassilaki is the latest announcement in the significant expansion of Grab’s global R&D capabilities with investments in deep learning and data engineering capabilities enabling the platform’s services to keep pace with growth.

“Vassilakis’ fantastic track record as an engineering leader, entrepreneur and teacher at global technology companies makes him an invaluable addition to our executive team. With our platform generating 10 terabytes of data per day and doubling that number every quarter, we’re happy we can bring on board his deep expertise in scaling machine learning and engineering systems,” said Anthony Tan, Group CEO and cofounder, Grab.

“Vassilakis joins Grab at a moment of opportunity as we cement our on-demand transport market leadership and expand GrabPay to more merchants and small businesses. In his role as CTO, he will oversee Grab’s transport and payments platforms, lead the growth of our services, and support the further development of our machine learning, AI, data science and infrastructure scaling capabilities,” Tan added.

Just in 2017, Grab has launched a range of new services, including GrabNow, a service which digitizes street-hailing; GrabShuttle, a shuttle bus service; and JustGrab, a service combining multiple transport options to form Singapore and the rest of SEA’s’ largest on-demand network. Earlier in 2017, Grab doubled the number of its R&D centres from three to six, adding new centres in Bangalore, Ho Chi Minh City and Jakarta. Grab is on track to add close to 1,000 R&D jobs across its six R&D centres by end of 2018.

Prior to joining Grab, Vassilakis held several senior engineering positions at global technology companies. Among others, Theo was a Partner, Architect and Dev Manager for Azure at Microsoft and a Principal Engineer and Engineering Director at Google. Vassilakis has a degree from Stanford University and a PhD from Brown University, both in mathematics.

“Southeast Asia is an incredibly exciting region. There’s an opportunity to make the lives of hundreds of millions of people easier by developing products and services that can bring convenience and income opportunities. I look forward to working with Anthony and the Grab team to drive further the scalability, reliability and machine-learning capability of our platform as we move towards that goal,” said Vassilakis.


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