Portfolio Spotlight: Natalie Sportelli, Head of Content at Thingtesting
From journalism to VC to startups, Natalie Sportelli has witnessed an evolution in content. Now, she’s elevating Thingtesting’s brand voice for the modern consumer.
Natalie Sportelli’s first job out of college was as an editor for Forbes. She worked on lists, the entrepreneurship vertical, and eventually 30 Under 30. “I learned a lot about technology and startups, and a little about VC, but the one thing that was really exciting to me was learning about these new ideas, and feeling like you were first to something as a reporter,” she says. “I love to tell those stories to other people.”
There’s no better way to feel first to an idea than to hear an early-stage founder’s origin story. So, after two and a half years at Forbes, she wanted to be even closer to the entrepreneurial action than she was in journalism. In 2017, Sportelli joined the team at Lerer Hippeau, an early-stage venture capital firm in New York City. “Venture capital was a really great next step, to have a vested interest in supporting founders’ success while making content and writing about them,” she says.
Sportelli had the chance to meet many emerging founders with big ideas, but Jenny Gyllander stood out. In 2018, while they were both working in venture, she met Gyllander at a VC Platform Summit. The two started chatting, and Gyllander happened to mention her “side project,” the original Thingtesting Instagram. She conceptualized the account as a hub for information, the story behind the “thing,” and a home for transparent brand reviews. After that conversation, Sportelli was hooked. “I immediately started following,” she says. “At every step, I wanted to be supportive and helpful, because I just thought the idea was amazing.” As Gyllander grew her team and raised venture funding, she stayed in touch with Sportelli, who ultimately joined Thingtesting in February.
Sportelli says working in VC prepared her for the startup experience. “I definitely feel comfortable in a startup environment, being scrappy and thinking creatively,” she insists. What’s different, however, is the dedicated space she gets to support one brand, one founder, and one mission through her work. Sportelli had a great early foundation to build content around Thingtesting with the Instagram community that Gyllander had cultivated, and has largely turned her focus to distribution in her first months on the job. “Distribution is so important in content, and it’s not necessarily given the attention it deserves,” she says. “You can put a lot of money, energy, and time into creating content, but if you don’t have a way to share it — getting people to share it across social, newsletters, and other channels — that’s just really important.”
Sportelli has also spent a lot of time fine-tuning Thingtesting’s content ethos. The brand voice is evolving to be intentional: thoughtful, educational, answering the consumer’s key questions. “It was like, ‘How do we take Thingtesting to the next level by addressing new kinds of ideas and answering questions?’” she says. “Not only can our readers find out, ‘What’s an adaptogen?’ But they can also discover brands using that kind of ingredient on Thingtesting.”
In all her content work, she wants Thingtesting’s values of honesty and transparency to shine through — tenets that resonate with Sportelli, and haven’t changed much from her journalism days. “When you’re reading a piece of content, you have to think about the writer’s motive,” Sportelli says.
“If you’re a reporter, the motive is to educate the reader or bring attention to an issue, or share something new and newsworthy. A lot of these things are what makes content really great: Is this newsworthy? Are you speaking from a place of authority? Can they trust you? Or are you selling something?”
Modern readers are very perceptive, Sportelli says, and they know a piece of advertising when they see it — something that you won’t find on Thingtesting. “People don’t like to be marketed to, and they don’t like to read marketing speak,” she says. “They want to read something that makes them smarter and answers questions.”
Learn more at thingtesting.com.