Longtime Snap Exec Ben Schwerin Joins Coatue To Launch Investor’s Los Angeles Office

Coatue is tapping a longtime Snap executive to serve as its next general partner leading consumer and internet investing.

Ben Schwerin, Snap’s senior vice president of content and partnerships, is departing the social media company at the end of March to join Coatue in early April. Schwerin, who is based in Los Angeles, is expected to help build out the firm’s first office in that city this summer. Variety previously reported word of Schwerin’s departure from Snap.

“I’m excited to take everything we’ve done at Snap and apply that to Coatue’s portfolio, and to new opportunities we find,” Schwerin told Forbes.

Schwerin will invest across early and growth stages for Coatue focused on consumer internet companies, but is also expected to look at potential investments in artificial intelligence and to a lesser extent climate tech, healthcare and fintech.

One of Snap’s longest-serving executives, Schwerin joined the company in 2015 after cofounding Fenway Strategies, a communications consulting firm, with Crooked Media founders Jon Favreau and Tommy Vietor in 2013. Schwerin also previously worked with Bill Clinton in his New York office and with U2 frontman Bono on tour and in his philanthropic efforts.

Schwerin actually met Snap cofounder and CEO Evan Spiegel through Coatue—Thomas Laffont, the firm’s cofounder, met Schwerin many years earlier, when Laffont was a talent agent at CAA, and Schwerin a useful intern. After joining his brother at Coatue, Laffont was considering an investment in Snap when he suggested Schwerin and Spiegel get lunch. (Coatue invested $50 million in Snap’s Series C announced in December 2013.) Schwerin served as an advisor for a year before joining Snap full time.

Snap promoted Schwerin in 2021 to add content to partnerships as part of his purview. He wasn’t actively looking for a job outside of Snap when the Coatue opportunity materialized, Schwerin said. “I am very happy at Snap, and very optimistic about Snap’s future. It was the right opportunity and the right people,” he added. Asked how he would describe his legacy at Snap, Schwerin said he pointed to the team he is now leaving behind on the partnerships side, as well as the global business relationships developed with the likes of Disney, Google and the NFL.

He declined to comment on what Spiegel felt about the departure. (Forbes has asked Snap for Spiegel’s comment and will update this story with any response.) “I will say Evan and I have a great relationship, and I am such an admirer of him as a leader and innovator,” Schwerin said. “I don’t think I’d be leaving if I didn’t feel really good about our strategy, direction and leadership. I know they will be fine without me.”

At Coatue, Laffont said the firm stood to benefit from Schwerin’s experience “at the leading edge” of innovations while at Snap, from how it rethought the use of a camera in app experiences to activity feeds and augmented reality. Such experience could also prove valuable as the firm looks to invest more in AI, Laffont added. “We think AI could have a similar wave to the iPhone,” launching a wave of startups. “And we want to be very well positioned to that.”

Schwerin’s hire also reflects Coatue’s commitment to Los Angeles, where the firm has employed a general partner in the past, but hadn’t yet built out a full office. “Something I felt was really important to Snap’s DNA was that we were not in Silicon Valley. It gave us access to different industries and creative people,” Schwerin said. “And one thing that’s great about Los Angeles is that we are very close to San Francisco.”

It also comes during a wider period of turnover at Coatue, the firm founded by Thomas and Philippe Laffont as a hedge fund in 1999. Thomas joined full time in 2003 to establish its global private equity practice; in recent years, the firm emerged as one of the most active investors in tech startups, with many more besides Snap, such as exited companies DoorDash, Lyft and Slack, and current unicorns such as Airtable, Databricks and Scale AI.

But amid a tightened capital environment that has put pressure on some so-called crossover funds to scale back their startup ambitions, Coatue has also had a series of recent partner departures, including three partners last year. Most recently, a partner in its growth team who made some of its AI investments, David Cahn, left for Sequoia, as reported recently by Axios.

Coming in the door, Schwerin was preceded by Sri Viswanath, Atlassian’s former CTO who joined the firm last year to lead its AI investments. Laffont said Coatue remains “absolutely committed to the ecosystem” at every stage, while the firm holds board director or observer seats at more than 100 companies. “We are active participants,” he added.

“If you’re an investor, you want to be where people are deploying capital. If not, what are you doing?” Laffont said. “At the end of the day, I don’t think there is someone who has deployed more capital into the ecosystem than we have. And we are always innovating on the formula.”

Source: https://www.forbes.com/sites/alexkonrad/2023/02/07/snap-ben-schwerin-joins-coatue-los-angeles/