Twitter Spaces is Going Head-To-Head with Clubhouse - Here’s the Team Leading the Charge

Sarah HallamMeet the Team
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A shot of Twitter's headquarters in downtown San Francisco. Editorial credit: Michael Vi / Shutterstock.com

The noise around audio apps keeps turning up.

Twitter’s new live voice-chat feature, Twitter Spaces, will open up to Android users this week. The move arrives ahead of Spaces’ direct competitor, Clubhouse, which is making waves across the internet with its own live audio chat room that launched March 2020 and is currently only available on iOS.

Just like Clubhouse, Spaces lets users communicate through voice instead of text, with users joining “spaces” based on common interests or conversations. It’s been available to a select group of people since December and Twitter has been quickly rolling out more updates to the feature ever since.

Betting on audio is not something Twitter’s taking lightly. Investors and users alike have been pressing its execs to create new revenue streams outside of advertising for years. Shortly before its Analyst Day on Feb. 25, the company announced a goal of 315M monetizable daily active users by the end of 2023 and plans to double its annual revenue — the first time Twitter has ever announced a long-term revenue plan.

The pandemic has turned human interaction into a top commodity, and with Clubhouse’s early success, Twitter has pulled in some of the brightest minds across the tech industry to make sure Spaces lives up to the same hype. Take a look at the team working to make that happen.

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The Twitter Spaces team comes full circle in a tale as old as tech: through mergers and acquisitions. Many of the leaders on the new features team were co-founders of pioneering social media apps that Twitter bought and absorbed under its umbrella. Kayvon Beykpour, the former co-founder of live-streaming app Periscope, is now the Product Lead at Twitter.

He helps oversee a talented team of product managers and staff designers, but one who sticks out is Staff Product Designer Maya Patterson. Previously a Product Designer at Facebook, she’s the one credited with designing Spaces. Patterson collaborates with the rest of the design team on all UX ideas for Spaces — from scheduling when a conversation is going to start to the color of the rings around user avatars.

Twitter Spaces

Twitter presented this design to investors and anaylsts during its Twitter Analyst Day on Feb. 25. Courtesy of Twitter.

Engineering Lead Michael Mantano’s path to the company is similar to Beykpour’s. Mantano was the co-founder of early Twitter rival BackType, which was acquired back in 2011. Since then, Mantano has worked his way through the ranks to his current position, which oversees all of global engineering. It’s no surprise then that the Twitter Spaces team came together in a similar way as the boss. Back in January, Twitter absorbed up-and-coming podcasting app Breaker and took its team with it.

Joining the crew from Breaker are former co-founders Erik Berlin and Leah Culver, as well as designer Emma Lundin.

Berlin, the former CEO at Breaker, is now working as a Software Engineering Manager at Twitter. He’s spent over three years working at engineering roles at both at Instacart and Soundcloud and even founded his first company, 140 Proof, at the age of 24.

Culver, Breaker’s former CTO, is now a Senior Software Engineer focused on building out the Spaces for iOS. Culver spent three years at Dropbox, working as both a developer advocate and in engineering product design. A repeat founder, Culver started social networking service Pownce back in 2007 and later Grove, a chat service for workgroups.

While Spaces did beat Clubhouse to the punch on Android, users are only allowed to listen in to conversations, not start them, at this time. Leading the initiative to bring all Android users onboard is Mada Aflak, Senior Software Engineer and Android Tech Lead of Twitter Spaces. Aflak has been with the engineering team at Twitter for two years and previously worked as the Senior Android Developer at Tribe.

For a site that’s struggled with containing the spread of misinformation in the past, content moderation has been pushed as a key factor in the user experience. Tasked with crowdsourcing feedback and overall marketing strategy for Spaces is Product Marketing Manager Maria Zollo and overseeing research and strategy is Danny Singh. Singh is responsible for bringing in user engagement and shaping the larger roadmap for Spaces’ success. A UX veteran, he’s made his mark on companies such as JP Morgan, Farmers Insurance, and Fox Sports.

It seems that the social media behemoth has a lot in its back pocket it’s been up to. The company revealed plans to roll out more new features, like the Super Follow, its first-ever paid product. The Super Follow will let Twitter users charge their followers for premium content, subscriber newsletters, and access to a supporter community, directly competing with sites like Patreon and Substack, and Berlin appears to be leading the charge behind this team as well.

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