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Tech Powerhouse Padmasree Warrior Will Lead China’s NextEV In U.S. Race Against Tesla

Shanghai-based electric car company NextEV recruited one of Silicon Valley’s most prominent female executives.

Tech Powerhouse Padmasree Warrior Will Lead China’s NextEV In U.S. Race Against Tesla
[Photo: Flickr user Web Summit]

NextEV, a China-based electric car company poised to compete with Tesla, has recruited one of Silicon Valley’s most prominent female tech execs to lead its U.S. division. Padmasree Warrior, who made her exit from Cisco’s executive ranks in September, is joining NextEV as its U.S. CEO and global development head.

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Warrior’s new role puts her at the helm of a would-be rival to Tesla, Elon Musk’s formidable electric car brand. But unlike other Chinese upstarts vying for Tesla’s spot in the market, NextEV has drawn $500 million in funding from high-profile investors like Sequoia Ventures, Hillhouse Capital, and Chinese Internet giant Tencent. (NextEV hopes to raise up to $1 billion.) Though the company has yet to deliver an electric vehicle, it intends to put out a “supercar” next year that can hold its own against upscale sports cars and duplicates Tesla’s “ludicrous” mode, which takes a car from zero to 60 miles per hour in less than three seconds.

“The principle vision is to build a car that is designed for the mobile and Internet era,” Warrior told Re/code. “We’re trying to imagine how the experience of having a car would be different today, and how you would involve the customer in the process.”

The ultimate goal is for NextEV’s offerings to be more affordable than Tesla’s high-end fare, according to Warrior, and its products will first be introduced in China. The company has already brought on 400 employees and set up R&D centers in London, Hong Kong, Munich, and San Jose, where Warrior will be based. The company’s president is Dr. Martin Leach, who was previously CEO of Maserati and president of Ford Europe.

Warrior–one of Fast Company‘s most creative people–was hired as Cisco’s chief technology officer in 2008, a position she held throughout her tenure at the company; in 2012, Cisco tacked on the title of strategy head. Warrior also sits on the boards of Microsoft, Gap, and Aaron Levie’s file storage company, Box.

Warrior, 55, left Cisco this summer after losing out on the CEO post to longtime exec Chuck Robbins. She reportedly considered a variety of jobs, including joining a venture capital firm and starting an educational-tech company. It was reported she was also being considered for the CEO job at Twitter. But after being introduced to NextEv founder and chairman William Li by a former Cisco colleague, Tom Schaefer, Warrior was inspired to take on the future of transportation.

Though her own Tesla Model S represents the cutting edge in cars, Warrior intends to build a car that excels in “user experience” and is more the “extension of the mobile Internet,” she tells Fortune. She also wants to “apply technology to solve fundamental problems” like climate change and global pollution.

In September, former Cisco president Rob Lloyd became CEO of Hyperloop Tech, another advanced transportation company, which is inspired by but not connected with Elon Musk.

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About the author

Pavithra Mohan is an assistant editor for Fast Company Digital. Her writing has previously been featured in Gizmodo and Popular Science magazine.

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