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 venture company. A Stanford Regulation graduate, he worked at two blue-chip investment banks in advance of joining the cybersecurity organization McAfee as a senior corp dev employee, afterwards logging six a long time at the human methods software package enterprise SuccessFactors and, in 2018, landing at Twitter, the place he headed up its 12-particular person company advancement crew till June.

The even larger surprise is that Suriyapa — who just joined the L.A.-based venture firm Upfront Ventures — did not make the leap sooner. “The catalyst was finding a firm that felt like the actual ideal suit for me,” states Suriyapa.

We talked previously today with Suriyapa — who life and will keep on being in the Bay Region — about his new role at Upfront, where he will be foremost its growing advancement-phase apply with business founder Yves Sisteron.

He also shed light on how Twitter — which has been on a little bit of getting spree — thinks about acquisitions these times. Our chat has been edited lightly for length.

TC: How did you wind up signing up for Upfront?

SS: [Longtime partner] Mark Suster and I have been launched through a mutual business enterprise acquaintance in the venture environment, and I acquired to know him more than a time period of time and seriously arrived to come across him to be a exceptional personal. He’s considerate about the organization by itself, he’s an unbelievable brand builder. I believe you could argue that [Upfront] place L.A. on the venture map.

TC: It was also, for a prolonged time, an early-stage business, but now it has a ‘barbell’ method. Is your new occupation to make certain it can preserve its stake in its portfolio firms as they improve? Can you store outside of that portfolio?

SS: The mission for me will be supporting the most effective of Upfront’s hundred-as well as current portfolio businesses that are poised to scale, and also to commit in providers not currency on the system, and I anticipate [the latter] will come about much more and extra in excess of time.

TC: Twitter was a great deal a lot more lively on the corp dev entrance in the course of the decades when you were there. Why?

SS: When i joined in 2018, Jack Dorsey had been CEO for about 3 years, and seriously his focus was on the core mission of driving the public discussion, and in executing that, Twitter shrunk alone out of a large amount of corporations and [shrunk] persons clever as perfectly.

TC: I try to remember it laid individuals off in 2016.

SS: And a person of the offshoots of that was way considerably less in the way of newer merchandise, so there were no new acquisitions in the three many years prior to me signing up for, and that muscle mass atrophies if you never exercise it. So [ahead of me] Jack had reworked the management staff, which had been, comparatively talking, a revolving doorway of executives until that stage, and I was brought in with a particular mandate of reviving a corporate growth apply that experienced been peaceful for a number of several years. I’d recognized [CFO] Ned Segal when he was a banker at Goldman Sachs and [while] I was at SuccessFactors, so when I read about the part as a result of the grapevine, I reached out.

TC: And Twitter commences purchasing, getting up the news reader provider Scroll, the publication system Revue. Ended up these choices coming down from the top or vice versa?

SS: The best way to describe it would be that it was products-need to have driven. The enterprise had a few unique aims. Just one was to diversify Twitter from its dependency on getting an ad-driven business. A little something like 80% of revenue comes from ads.

Second, there’s an extraordinary have to have to ramp up its machine discovering and synthetic intelligence as a corporation. If you’re hunting for toxicity in conversation, it’s not scalable to employ tens of 1000’s of people to do that. You will need machine studying to discover it. Twitter finished effectively is also ready to display you the discussions that are most attention-grabbing to you, and to do that, it has to get alerts from what you comply with and expend time looking at and what you interact with, and that, at its main, is ML AI.  [Relatedly] Jack has a eyesight that anyone who tweets in whichever their indigenous tongue is should really be able to talk with someone else in their native tongue as aspect of a world discussion, and to do that, you need to have [natural language processing] techniques galore.

TC: There is also this concentration on customer purposes.

SS: That’s the third objective. What are the equipment that followers and creators can use in dialogue with just about every other? So [Twitter] extra audio [via its Clubhouse rival Spaces]. We bought Revue, which is a competitor to Substack. So there’s a lot of innovation taking place all around the form of content that a person really should hope to see or generate on Twitter.

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

SS: From the outside it would appear reactive, but the reality is we’d been pondering a good deal about anything like Spaces even just before Clubhouse took off. I assume what’s noticeable to me is [Spaces] is 1 of the initially times you’ve viewed a corporation like Twitter establish up a functionality and a new merchandise location that’s heading head-to-head likely against a enterprise that’s centered only on that realm, and it’s aggressive from day one. Twitter defeat Clubhouse in [offering an] Android variation due to the fact it poured assets into it, and I’d argue that a lot of the mechanics of Twitter and the fact that creators are on Twitter places it in an wonderful location to win this segment.

Twitter also just has a huge sum of knowledge in getting toxicity and items you want to be cautious of when you’re a social media engage in, and a corporation of Clubhouse’s dimension, at minimum in its preliminary times, will have a tricky time obtaining there.

TC: Twitter has so many interests, which includes all-around cryptocurrencies and decentralization. 

SS: In terms of priorities at Twitter,  a whole lot is below wraps in phrases of the systems that we anticipate [will rise up over] the upcoming five  to 10 years, but [a lot of thought is being given to] the effects of cryptocurrency and the fundamental protocols all around it and how Twitter participates in a trustless, permissionless [world] exactly where there is a decentralized world-wide-web that can guard people’s privacy and allow for people today not to stress where their content material is saved. Men and women think of Twitter as a customer app but there is incredible and significant diversity below the hood.

TC: Do you believe due to the fact of the present-day regulatory surroundings that it has a far better shot at functioning with providers and assignments that may possibly have gotten snapped up by Facebook and Google?

In terms of the regulatory ecosystem, the fact is that even if you acquire the Facebooks and Googles out of the equation, there are acquirers that are aggressive that would action up and acquire points, so it’s a little short-sighted to assume of just individuals two. But even when they had been energetic, we ended up winning [deals]. A ton of the firms we obtained self-picked to be at Twitter mainly because they like what it stands for, they like the way that Jack Dorsey sales opportunities the firm, and they think in the stands that he will take and the positions that he and his leadership espouse.

TC: You are now representing a quite different brand name. How will your get the job done at Twitter assist you compete for bargains on behalf of Upfront?

SS: I have this community of remarkable business owners around the earth simply because of firms across my job that I’ve helped get or tried out to receive or who are jogging corporations I also [have relationships with] VCs at distinct levels who actively spot companies about the earth [and introduce them to corp dev teams]. You could possibly also know that Twitter has a diversity and inclusion system where they intend to have 25% of leadership be numerous about the future quite a few many years, so my team was often involved in finding the finest methods to discover numerous targets to get. I also led a series of LP investments into freshly emerging money, some LatinX-started, some gals-established, some Black-established, some that ended up various from a geographic standpoint that are scouting companies in far flung locations . . .

TC: Does Twitter also make immediate investments?

SS: We did direct investments but [backing fund managers] is a more leveraged strategy. Most of them are seed funds and they’ll in transform commit in 30 to 60 organizations every single. But certainly, I scouted corporations in considerably flung destinations, such as [India’s] ShareChat in which I served on the board for two yrs. [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 have a lot of interactions, but it would however seem definitely really hard to compete for advancement-stage discounts when so lots of other outfits are now investing there, far too. How do you strategy to compete?

SS: I will clearly be drawing on those people networks to find discounts. I’ll be investing in sectors wherever Upfront has by now invested in, but in the beginning I’ll be double-clicking that ihave a sturdy curiosity in, which includes close to creator economic system ecosystem, because I did o a great deal of that at Twitter. And w3b 3., ow this permissionless arrives togerh, edge computing ML AI and shared day that goes across a selection of disciplines that i’ve workedin, i assume one of strong points that will cinterdiscplianry spots, also in sustainability are but I will not child myself. You compete by discovering what your value proposition is. At Twitter, my tactic was profitable on pace, realizing persons before, and [underscoring] Twitter’s benefit proposition [to close deals]. I just cannot speak about my [VC] technique devoid of having executed still I’ll have to figure out what’s most appealing to business owners that the megafunds don’t supply.



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