When opportunity came knocking in 2009, and it was Steve Jobs at the door, Alina Vandenberghe’s career took off.
At the time, Vandenberghe was a 25-year-old software developer, working as an intern on the mobile product team at global news agency Thomson Reuters. Today, the native of Bucharest, Romania, is the co-founder and chief experience officer of Brooklyn, N.Y.-based Chili Piper, a meeting scheduler for corporate clients and their sales teams. Founded in 2016, Chili Piper brings in roughly $10 million in annual recurring revenue from 30,000 different clients, including names like Spotify, Airbnb and Shopify.
The 143-employee start-up has pulled in $54 million in funding to date, from investors like Flashpoint Venture Capital and Gradient Ventures, Google’s AI investment arm. Vandenberghe says Chili Piper is on track to hit $20 million in annual revenue by the end of 2021.
Plenty of start-up founders credit Jobs with inspiring them to take the entrepreneurial leap. Vandenberghe is one of the precious few who can directly attribute her company’s ethos to a personal interaction with the late Apple co-founder: All those years ago, Jobs selected a Thomson Reuters app she helped build for the launch of Apple’s first iPad.
Any young software developer would have taken that vote of confidence and run with it. But for Vandenberghe, a young woman in tech who grew up under a Communist regime, working with Jobs meant something particularly special. It was the exact type of mentorship she needed to find her competitive edge.