When Twitter shook up its product leadership in July, it let loose four Silicon Valley veterans into a talent-starved job market. While the three others have become a VC, a cofounder, and an engineering head, the last one left unaccounted for has a new home. Anamitra Banerji has just joined Foundation Capital as its newest entrepreneur in residence.
In this role, which can mean advising and joining a company or starting one, Banerji has a few ideas he’s going to explore, he tells me. They go beyond his history in the search and advertising business, and build on his experience developing social software at Twitter.
But first, here’s why you may know of him. After cofounding an online health company in India in the late 1990s, he worked for a few years in that country and the US as a software engineer at various larger companies before becoming a manager at early search marketing firm Overture in 2004. He stayed there through its acquisition by Yahoo in 2006, all the way until early 2009. Then, as the first product manager and thirtieth employee at Twitter, he hired many of its engineering and product employees, and developed its ad platform from scratch. This includes Promoted Tweets, Promoted Trends and Promoted Accounts. While Twitter under returning founder Jack Dorsey has gone in some new product directions, Banerji’s impact is still clearly visible at the 700-person company.
“I’m taking some time to step back to see what’s happening out in the Valley,” he says about his plans, “to see what I can do to build great companies, to share my experiences with other entrepreneurs… and to learn a little bit about what it’s like on the other side [at a venture firm].” He’s not new to the work. He’s been advising companies on the side for three years, he recently became a mentor at 500 Startups, and he’s already been working with a team of Stanford students on the Widescope project, which provides a cool interactive data visualization that lets users create their own federal budgets (er, budget deficits).
The areas he’s going to explore could include ads and monetization, but he’s particularly interested in online collaboration — like the Widescope tool — marketplaces, and mobile-focused products. He’s not the first of the four ex-colleagues to start working with a VC. Josh Elman, who is also a long-time Valley product leader, recently became a principal at Greylock. Meanwhile, Kevin Cheng is now the cofounder of Incredible Labs (which is building a mobile personal assistant called Donna), and Jean-Paul Cozzatti is the vice president of engineering at social fundraising site Rally.