Irene Au is an operating partner at Khosla Ventures, where she works with portfolio companies to make their design great. She is dedicated to raising the strategic value of design and user research within software companies through better methods and practices, processes, leadership, and quality. She does this by building high performing teams, establishing design practices, mentoring and growing the next generation of great designers, and directing the design of interfaces and experiences. She drives strategic discussions at the highest levels of companies, focusing first on user needs to inspire product innovation.
A lifelong gadget girl and math and science geek, Irene built robots in college and went to graduate school at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to pursue studies in electrical and computer engineering. There, she found herself surrounded by young men who built technology for the sake of technology. Having greater passion around focusing on building technology inspired by people’s needs, directed at solving people’s problems, she carved her own path. Taking courses in engineering psychology and human factors, computer science, and industrial engineering, she created her own program of study in human-computer interaction during a time when studying HCI was unheard of. Irene went on to be among the first designers with such a background in the consumer internet space, beginning her career as an interaction designer at Netscape Communications.
After Netscape, Irene joined Yahoo! in 1998 where she established Yahoo’s User Experience design practice and led the team for eight years. In 2006, Irene joined Google and led the User Experience team for six years, where she was responsible for design and research for all Google-branded products worldwide. Irene was VP of Product Design at Udacity prior to joining Khosla Ventures.
Irene also teaches yoga and meditation at Avalon Art and Yoga Center, one of Palo Alto’s oldest and most established yoga studios. She co-chairs the Board of Trustees at Bowman International School, a K-8 private Montessori school in Palo Alto.
Irene holds a Bachelor’s of Science in electrical and computer engineering from the University of South Carolina Honors College where she graduated summa cum laude and a Master’s of Science degree in industrial engineer and human-computer interaction from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.