Over the better part of the last decade we have poured our energy, passion, and time into building Twitter—the product, the business, the platform, the culture and the company. Collectively we’ve seen the company grow from a start-up of a few dozen employees and pre-revenue to a publicly-traded global organization. Some of us (Jana Messerschmidt, Jessica Verrilli, Katie Stanton, and Vijaya Gadde) are still focused on Twitter and will continue to be. Others (April Underwood and Chloe Sladden) are beginning the next chapter of our entrepreneurial endeavors. But all of us love working with start-ups. And we love working together. We’re excited to join together in an investment group, #Angels, to leverage this experience to help start-ups as angel investors*.
Technology is no longer an industry category. As has been well-chronicled, it has become a foundation to every business, ranging from healthcare to transportation to finance to education and beyond. Every company will be a technology company. And the lessons learned from building a company like Twitter are relevant to an increasingly wide range of products, businesses, and industries.
Together, we bring a unique breadth of operating experience across product development, partnerships, fundraising, acquisitions, internationalization, platforms, media, legal, corporate governance and policy in a hyper-growth company. We have built and grown consumer experiences, platform products and ecosystems, and revenue-generating businesses.
Start-ups are hard. Taking risk is daunting. Strategic inflection points are never simple. We will work as a team and lend our collective expertise to support the teams any one of us backs, helping answer questions such as:
- How do you make your new product and service strategically critical to traditional markets and businesses?
- How do you balance market size, competitive environment and market/product fit when choosing international markets to focus on? How do you open the first international office and use it as a blueprint to scale globally?
- How do you establish and evolve a product development approach that works for your entire team of engineers, designers, and product managers as it grows?
- How do you build and evolve the infrastructure, policy and incentives of your ecosystem so that it maximizes innovation and distributes risk without cannibalizing your core business?
- How do you leverage acquisitions to push the business or product forward? How do you give start-ups within a larger organization well defined ownership, autonomy and an ambitious mission to set them up for success?
- When should you raise capital and how much? How can you leverage your board of directors and your investors as you are scaling your business?
A bit more about who we are:
April Underwood (@aunder) joined Twitter in 2010 and led Product, Marketing, and Business Development teams at Twitter, most recently as Director of Product. Over her time at Twitter her teams built and managed Twitter’s syndication (e.g., Tweet Button), advertising (e.g., Ads API & ads.twitter.com), and data (e.g., Firehose) product suites — products used by millions of websites, developers, and advertisers. Before Twitter, April held product and partnership roles at Google, Travelocity, Climate Corp (Weatherbill), and was a software engineer at Travelocity and Intel. She holds a BBA from the University of Texas at Austin in Management Information Systems and an MBA from University of California, Berkeley (Haas). Since departing Twitter earlier this month, April is focused on investing and advising early-stage companies.
Chloe Sladden (@chloes) joined Twitter in 2009, when the company was pre-revenue and 40 employees, and built the company’s deep media and entertainment partnerships and strategy from the ground up. She was most recently Vice President, North American Media, responsible for content across news, music, TV, sports and government. She individually forged Twitter’s partnerships with every major TV network and news organization across the US. By 2013, Twitter was integrated on-air in over 60% of primetime programming on top-rated networks and its user base had grown from a few dozen celebrities and journalists to active participation by many tens of thousands of the US’s most high profile individuals. In 2014, Twitter won an Emmy for innovation in TV engagement. Chloe was also pivotal in building Twitter’s media ecosystem, enabling strategic companies such as Dataminr and Bluefin to drive substantial growth for the company. She left Twitter in August 2014 and is now advising, investing and plotting.
Jana Messerschmidt (@janamal) Jana joined Twitter in 2010 and is the Vice President of Global Business Development and Platform. She is responsible for a variety of teams including Business Development, Data Licensing Sales (Firehose & Gnip), Developer & Platform Relations, Partner Engineering & Platform Marketing worldwide. In addition to negotiating Twitter’s key strategic partnerships with Apple, Google, Yahoo!, Comcast, Nielsen, Salesforce, IBM, and more, she’s responsible for driving the widespread adoption and revenue of Twitter’s platform products such as @Fabric, @crashlytics, @digits, @Gnip, @twitterAPI, and syndication. Her team’s work has driven significant reach of Twitter content off network (achieving 185B syndicated Tweet impressions in Q314) in addition to syndicated ad opportunities. In 2014, her Developer & Platform Relations team kicked off its annual @Flight developer conference and continues to innovate the developer events experience through #twitterflock and #twitterdrive to reach developers globally. Prior to joining Twitter in 2010, Jana was Director, Business Development at Netflix. Jana earned a B.S. in Computer Engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Jessica Verrilli (@jess) joined Twitter in 2009 and is Director of Corporate Development and Strategy. In this role she has worked on 25+ acquisitions and driven major product and business initiatives including the acquisitions to establish a mobile platform (through Crashlytics and MoPub) as well as a multi-app portfolio (Vine). Throughout her nearly six year tenure at the company Jessica has built, institutionalized, and scaled the corporate development process and operations internally. She has also held leadership roles in business development and broader operational capacities, including opening the Twitter London office in 2011 and leading BD for the region. Prior to Twitter Jessica was on the investment team at Venrock, a venture capital firm based in Menlo Park, and prior to that helped the founders of Veracyte take the company from idea to Series A funding (now publicly traded). She is a Stanford University graduate, a Mayfield Fellow, a former Division 1 lacrosse player and occasional ultra-marathoner.
Katie Jacobs Stanton (@katies) joined Twitter in 2010 and is the Vice President of Global Media. She is responsible for building media partnerships around the world and across strategic verticals including news, television, sports, fashion and music. Prior to this role, Katie ran the International Market Development team which established key content partnerships and Twitter’s first official presence in strategic markets including Japan, the UK, Brazil, Australia, France and India, among others. Today, the Global Media team spans across 25 markets and supports worldwide events that is expected to yield over 150 Billion Impressions on Twitter in 2015. Prior to Twitter, Katie worked for the White House, State Department, Google, Yahoo! and Chase Manhattan Bank. Katie is on the Board of Vivendi, a French multinational media company headquartered in Paris. She is a mom to 3 spirited kids and a poorly trained @tacopuppy.
Vijaya Gadde (@vijaya) joined Twitter in 2011 and is currently the General Counsel and Secretary. She is responsible for the company’s global legal affairs and was one of the leaders of the company’s IPO process and multiple rounds of financings. At Twitter, Vijaya is also responsible for the platform’s innovative content policies, including policies around user safety, advertising policies and other policies related to copyright and trademark issues. She also advises the board of directors on a variety of corporate governance matters. Prior to her work at Twitter, Vijaya was an attorney at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, P.C. for nearly a decade, advising technology companies on a broad range of matters, including equity and debt financings, IPOs, mergers & acquisitions and corporate governance matters. Vijaya holds a B.S. in Industrial and Labor Relations from Cornell University and a J.D. from New York University School of Law.
If you are an entrepreneur pursuing a big idea or an investor looking to collaborate, we’d love to hear from you. Our doors are open at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can find us, of course, on Twitter.
*Some additional notes: We’re collaborating together but will be making individual angel investments, not forming a fund. And, as many of us are still actively operating at Twitter (and will continue to be), we will not be investing in companies that could create a conflict of interest from a competitive or potential acquisition point of view.