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

by Jeremy

Season Suriyapa was seemingly destined to land at a venture firm. A Stanford Law graduate, he worked at two blue-chip investment banks before joining the cybersecurity company McAfee as a senior corp dev employee, later logging six years at the human resources software company SuccessFactors and, in 2018, landing at Twitter, where he headed up its 12-person corporate development team until June.

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The bigger surprise is that Suriyapa — who just joined the L.A.-based venture firm Upfront Ventures — didn’t leap sooner. “The catalyst was finding a firm that felt like the exact right fit for me,” says Suriya.

We talked earlier today with Suriyapa — who lives and will remain in the Bay Area — about his new role at Upfront, where he will be leading its expanding growth-stage practice with firm founder Yves Sisteron.

He also shed light on how Twitter thinks about acquisitions these days, which has been on a bit of buying spree. Our chat has been edited lightly for length.

T.C.: How did you wind up joining Upfront?

S.S.: [Longtime partner] Mark Suster and I were introduced through a mutual business acquaintance in the venture world, and I got to know him over sometime and came to find him to be a remarkable individual. He’s thoughtful about the business itself; he’s an incredible brand builder. I think you could argue that [Upfront] put L.A. on the venture map.

T.C.: It was also, for a long time, an early-stage firm, but now it has a ‘barbell’ strategy. Is your new job to ensure it can maintain its stake in its portfolio companies as they grow? Can you ship outside of that portfolio?

S.S.: The mission for me will be to support the best of Upfront’s hundred-plus existing portfolio companies that are poised to scale and invest in companies not currency on the platform, and I anticipate [the latter] will happen more and more over time.

T.C.: Twitter was a lot more active on the corp dev front during the years when you were there. Why?

S.S.: When I joined in 2018, Jack Dorsey had been CEO for about three years, and really his focus was on the core mission of driving the public conversation, and in doing that, Twitter shrunk itself out of a lot of businesses and [shrunk] people wise as well.

T.C.: I remember it laid people off in 2016.

S.S.: And one of the offshoots of that was way less in the way of newer products, so there were no new acquisitions in the three years before me joining, and that muscle atrophies if you don’t exercise it. So [ahead of me], Jack had transformed the management team, which had been a revolving door of executives until that point, and I was brought in with a specific mandate of reviving a corporate development practice that had been quiet for a few years. I’d known [CFO] Ned Segal when he was a banker at Goldman Sachs and [while] I was at SuccessFactors, so when I heard about the role through the grapevine, I reached out.

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