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Twitter Legal Veteran Brennan Jumps to AI Unicorn Dataiku (1)

Sept. 13, 2022, 1:51 PMUpdated: Sept. 13, 2022, 2:51 PM

Dataiku Inc., an enterprise data company focused on artificial intelligence, has recruited a new top legal executive who spent more than a decade at Twitter Inc.

Daniel Brennan, who served as Twitter’s interim general counsel ahead of the 2020 US presidential election, will join Dataiku Sept. 19 as its first chief legal officer. The company was valued at $4.6 billion last year following a fundraising round led by investment firm Tiger Global Management LLC.

Brennan is joining Dataiku after taking a nearly year-long sabbatical from the legal world, he said in an interview. The break came after an “intense period” that saw him step into one of Twitter’s top legal positions when the social media company’s longtime legal chief Vijaya Gadde went on maternity leave two years ago.

He praised Gadde and Twitter’s current general counsel Sean Edgett for their work leading the company’s legal team through myriad firestorms.

Gadde was publicly criticized earlier this year by Elon Musk as the technology mogul made a since-aborted $44 billion takeover bid for Twitter. The company is suing Musk in a Delaware state court to force him to complete the deal.

Brennan declined to speculate about whether Musk will succeed in his effort to scuttle the Twitter deal—“I wish I had a crystal ball,” he said—but admitted he’ll be closely following the court proceedings when a trial begins next month.

New Role

Dataiku helps consumer-facing companies, such as Unilever PLC, Sephora USA Inc., and General Electric Co.'s aviation business, implement artificial intelligence projects and navigate large data sets. The company, founded almost a decade ago in Paris, is now based in New York.

Brennan, who works remotely from suburban Philadelphia, expects to frequently travel to both cities and wherever else his new co-workers are at Dataiku.

He said he won’t actively look to recruit from Twitter. The social media company in recent weeks has watched several lawyers depart for new endeavors as uncertainty over Musk’s potential ownership has reportedly hurt employee morale.

“A lot of them have great gigs—these are some of the most talented, smart, hardworking, high-integrity people I’ve ever had the opportunity to work with,” said Brennan about his former colleagues at Twitter, many of whom he’s still in touch with today. “I believe in that company and want it to be successful.”

Twitter said through a spokesman that it’s implemented a hiring freeze except for “business-critical roles” as it seeks to control costs with Musk’s acquisition in limbo.

“Given our decreased hiring, we are reprioritizing and making changes that ensure we continue to operate responsibly and efficiently,” Twitter said.

Twitter Tenure

Brennan said he made a “personal decision” to leave Twitter in October 2021 and relocate to the East Coast to be closer to family after his father passed away.

He “had a blast” during his “five-plus months” helping oversee Twitter’s legal team during the tumultuous time leading up to an election that led to former President Donald Trump’s defeat and a fight over his removal from office, Brennan said.

Trump launched an unsuccessful lawsuit against Twitter—represented by Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr—that sought to reverse the company’s decision to permanently ban him from its platform after the US Capitol riot on Jan. 6, 2021.

Brennan said he became a better lawyer during a time of “super rapid growth” for the social media platform. The company’s first-ever legal chief Alexander Macgillivray made Brennan one of Twitter’s earliest legal hires in 2011.

“You never could’ve anticipated everything that happened,” Brennan said. “Those experiences are now part of my professional DNA.”

(Updated with additional information throughout.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Brian Baxter in New York at bbaxter@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Chris Opfer at copfer@bloomberglaw.com; John Hughes at jhughes@bloombergindustry.com