Talking shop with Twitter’s recent head of corp dev — and now VC — Seksom Suriyapa – TechCrunch

Seksom Suriyapa was seemingly destined to land at a enterprise agency. A Stanford Regulation graduate, he labored at two blue-chip funding banks earlier than becoming a member of the cybersecurity firm McAfee as a senior corp dev worker, later logging six years on the human sources software program firm SuccessFactors and, in 2018, touchdown at Twitter, the place he headed up its 12-person company growth staff till June.

The larger shock is that Suriyapa — who simply joined the L.A.-based enterprise agency Upfront Ventures — didn’t make the leap sooner. “The catalyst was discovering a agency that felt like the precise proper match for me,” says Suriyapa.

We talked earlier as we speak with Suriyapa — who lives and can stay within the Bay Space — about his new function at Upfront, the place he might be main its increasing growth-stage observe with agency founder Yves Sisteron.

He additionally make clear how Twitter — which has been on a little bit of shopping for spree — thinks about acquisitions today. Our chat has been edited flippantly for size.

TC: How did you wind up becoming a member of Upfront?

SS: [Longtime partner] Mark Suster and I have been launched by a mutual enterprise acquaintance within the enterprise world, and I obtained to know him over a time period and actually got here to search out him to be a outstanding particular person. He’s considerate in regards to the enterprise itself, he’s an unimaginable model builder. I feel you could possibly argue that [Upfront] put L.A. on the enterprise map.

TC: It was additionally, for a very long time, an early-stage agency, however now it has a ‘barbell’ technique. Is your new job to ensure it will possibly keep its stake in its portfolio corporations as they develop? Are you able to store exterior of that portfolio?

SS: The mission for me might be supporting the perfect of Upfront’s hundred-plus present portfolio corporations which might be poised to scale, and in addition to put money into corporations not forex on the platform, and I anticipate [the latter] will occur increasingly more over time.

TC: Twitter was much more lively on the corp dev entrance in the course of the years whenever you have been there. Why?

SS: When i joined in 2018, Jack Dorsey had been CEO for about three years, and actually his focus was on the core mission of driving the general public dialog, and in doing that, Twitter shrunk itself out of loads of companies and [shrunk] individuals sensible as nicely.

TC: I keep in mind it laid individuals off in 2016.

SS: And one of many offshoots of that was approach much less in the best way of newer merchandise, so there have been no new acquisitions within the three years previous to me becoming a member of, and that muscle atrophies in case you don’t train it. So [ahead of me] Jack had reworked the administration staff, which had been, comparatively talking, a revolving door of executives till that time, and I used to be introduced in with a particular mandate of reviving a company growth observe that had been quiet for a couple of years. I’d identified [CFO] Ned Segal when he was a banker at Goldman Sachs and [while] I used to be at SuccessFactors, so after I heard in regards to the function by the grapevine, I reached out.

TC: And Twitter begins procuring, shopping for up the information reader service Scroll, the e-newsletter platform Revue. Had been these selections coming down from the highest or vice versa?

SS: One of the best ways to explain it will be that it was product-need pushed. The corporate had a couple of completely different aims. One was to diversify Twitter from its dependency on being an ad-driven enterprise. One thing like 80% of income comes from adverts.

Second, there’s an unimaginable have to ramp up its machine studying and synthetic intelligence as an organization. When you’re in search of toxicity in dialog, it’s not scalable to rent tens of 1000’s of individuals to try this. You want machine studying to search out it. Twitter accomplished nicely can be in a position to present you the conversations which might be most attention-grabbing to you, and to try this, it has to take indicators from what you observe and spend time studying and what you work together with, and that, at its core, is ML AI.  [Relatedly] Jack has a imaginative and prescient that anyone who tweets in no matter their native tongue is ought to be capable to speak with another person of their native tongue as a part of a world dialog, and to try this, you want [natural language processing] methods galore.

TC: There’s additionally this deal with client functions.

SS: That’s the third goal. What are the instruments that followers and creators can use in dialog with one another? So [Twitter] added audio [via its Clubhouse rival Spaces]. We purchased Revue, which is a competitor to Substack. So there’s loads of innovation occurring round the kind of content material that somebody ought to anticipate to see or create on Twitter.

TC: Would you describe these acquisitions as proactive or reactive?

SS: From the surface it will appear reactive, however the actuality is we’d been considering lots about one thing like Areas even earlier than Clubhouse took off. I feel what’s noticeable to me is [Spaces] is without doubt one of the first instances you’ve seen an organization like Twitter construct up a functionality and a brand new product space that’s going head-to-head going in opposition to an organization that’s targeted solely on that realm, and it’s aggressive from day one. Twitter beat Clubhouse in [offering an] Android model as a result of it poured sources into it, and I’d argue that loads of the mechanics of Twitter and the truth that creators are on Twitter places it in an superior spot to win this section.

Twitter additionally simply has an enormous quantity of experience find toxicity and stuff you need to be cautious of whenever you’re a social media play, and an organization of Clubhouse’s dimension, at the least in its preliminary days, may have a tough time getting there.

TC: Twitter has so many pursuits, together with round cryptocurrencies and decentralization. 

SS: By way of priorities at Twitter,  lots is below wraps by way of the applied sciences that we anticipate [will rise up over] the subsequent 5  to 10 years, however [a lot of thought is being given to] the affect of cryptocurrency and the underlying protocols round it and the way Twitter participates in a trustless, permissionless [world] the place there’s a decentralized web that may shield individuals’s privateness and permit individuals to not fear the place their content material is saved. Folks consider Twitter as a client app however there’s superb and appreciable variety below the hood.

TC: Do you suppose due to the present regulatory setting that it has a greater shot at working with corporations and tasks which may have gotten snapped up by Fb and Google?

By way of the regulatory setting, the fact is that even in case you take the Facebooks and Googles out of the equation, there are acquirers which might be aggressive that may step up and purchase issues, so it’s slightly short-sighted to consider simply these two. However even once they have been lively, we have been profitable [deals]. A variety of the businesses we acquired self-selected to be at Twitter as a result of they like what it stands for, they like the best way that Jack Dorsey leads the group, and so they consider within the stands that he takes and the positions that he and his management espouse.

TC: You’re now representing a really completely different model. How will your work at Twitter enable you compete for offers on behalf of Upfront?

SS: I’ve this community of unimaginable entrepreneurs world wide due to corporations throughout my profession that I’ve helped purchase or tried to amass or who’re operating companies; I additionally [have relationships with] VCs at completely different levels who actively spot companies world wide [and introduce them to corp dev teams]. You may additionally know that Twitter has a variety and inclusion program the place they intend to have 25% of management be various over the subsequent a number of years, so my staff was usually concerned find the perfect methods to search out various targets to purchase. I additionally led a collection of LP investments into newly rising funds, some LatinX-founded, some women-founded, some Black-founded, some that have been various from a geographic standpoint which might be scouting corporations in far off locations . . .

TC: Does Twitter additionally make direct investments?

SS: We did direct investments however [backing fund managers] is a extra leveraged strategy. Most of them are seed funds and so they’ll in flip put money into 30 to 60 corporations every. However sure, I scouted corporations in far off locations, together with [India’s] ShareChat the place I served on the board for 2 years. [Editor’s note: TechCrunch reported earlier this year that Twitter explored buying ShareChat at an earlier point; the company has since raised numerous rounds of funding and was most recently valued by its investors at nearly $3 billion.]

TC: You may have loads of relationships, however it will nonetheless appear actually exhausting to compete for growth-stage offers when so many different outfits at the moment are investing there, too. How do you propose to compete?

SS: I’ll clearly be drawing on these networks to search out offers. I’ll be investing in sectors the place Upfront has already invested in, however initially I’ll be double-clicking that ihave a powerful curiosity in, together with round creator financial system ecosystem, as a result of I did o a lot of that at Twitter. And w3b 3.0, ow this permissionless comes togerh, edge computing ML AI and shared date that goes throughout numerous disciplines that i’ve workedin, i believe considered one of robust factors that may cinterdiscplianry areas, additionally in sustainability are however I received’t child myself. You compete by studying what your worth proposition is. At Twitter, my technique was profitable on velocity, understanding individuals earlier, and [underscoring] Twitter’s worth proposition [to close deals]. I can’t speak about my [VC] technique with out having applied but; I’ll have to determine what’s most attention-grabbing to entrepreneurs that the megafunds don’t provide.

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