Merrill Feather

Marketing & Community


Merrill is passionate about turning big ideas into action. Her experience includes marketing Iron Man action figures at Hasbro, scaling Facebook's marketing team from five to 450, and leading marketing at early-stage startups. Prior to Gigascale, she was a fractional CMO at The Regenerates, kickstarting the marketing function for a variety of climate tech companies.

At Gigascale Capital, she fosters the founder community and holistically supports portfolio companies. Merrill holds an MBA from NYC Stern and a BA in International Relations from Brown University.


Embracing Change and Finding Your Way in Climate Tech

Merrill discusses moving off the sidelines to join the climate fight and the importance of communication in scaling mission-driven teams, in a conversation with Kristen, Gigascale’s Head of Communications.

Tell me about your career journey. Did you always want to work in marketing?

Funny enough, many people in my family were in PR and marketing. My grandfather started all of these now common PR practices for banks and did a stunt where he wrote a check on a watermelon and had someone try to cash it on national TV. Even though marketing is in my DNA, I started my career in nonprofit fundraising.

Through that, I became interested in business, got my MBA, and worked at Hasbro Toys doing a pretty specific CPG-type of marketing. I craved something faster-paced and found my way to Facebook, where I helped build the nascent marketing team from five people to 450.

After leading larger and larger teams at Facebook, I missed the hands-on building and went to an early ed-tech startup next. While there, I moonlighted with IPCC reports and had to jump into climate tech because I couldn’t sit on the sidelines anymore. I’ve always been outdoorsy and curious about the environment. But, I never felt like I knew enough about climate to do anything meaningful, so it was still a big leap of faith to leave what was a clear role and try something new.

I’m sure lot of people can relate. Did you have a moment of clarity that led you to making the switch into climate?

I have young kids and had a reckoning thinking about what their future will look like. I started reading a lot and talking to anyone who would meet with me to learn about solutions. I’d go down rabbit holes looking for stories of hope and optimism but only find doom and gloom. I realized if I couldn’t find motivating stories, how was anyone else going to? How would we encourage people to change and get involved if all they heard about was the end of the world? It became obvious to me that storytelling could be a bridge between the technical information about solutions and the people who needed to take action.

All of this was seeded in my mind when I heard a Friday for Future protest outside my office one afternoon. I couldn’t sit there building a sales deck, so I walked out. Being in the streets and seeing how many people cared was profoundly moving and energizing. Clearly, this is where I was meant to be spending my time, and I texted my husband, telling him I was quitting that day to work on climate solutions.

From there, I sought out any way I could be helpful to entrepreneurs as they worked to bring their technology to market. It was a lot of trial and error, but eventually, I found my groove working as a fractional CMO and helping teams build the foundations of their marketing teams before recruiting and bringing on the first hires that would take over.

After working with the biggest brands in the world. Has anything surprised you about working in climate tech?

If you had asked me 10 years ago, when I was working on Marvel action figures, if I could ever get excited about energy, utilities, batteries, and really old industries, I would have said no way. But, I love translating complex technology into something broad audiences not only understand, but are excited about, and climate tech takes that challenge to a new level for me in the best possible way.

I couldn’t imagine working on energy when I started in climate tech. It always felt so foreign, slow, and hard. And now here I am, having worked with a handful of clean energy startups and realizing how freaking cool it is to not disrupt an industry but instead figure out how to thoughtfully navigate and transition a large system that humanity deeply depends on.

More specifically, I now appreciate B2B marketing more than before. It’s often pegged as slow and not creative as compared to the flashy consumer side of things, which sure, but the puzzle-piecing nature of it is so creative. And B2B is really about building relationships. You need to deeply understand the audience, translate messaging into benefits, and tailor programs. It’s all the juicy strategic stuff B2C marketers love doing but usually have to rush.

So, all in all, my biggest surprise was more about my own adaptability. Transferable skills may not be obvious initially, so it’s important to try a few different things and see what you enjoy doing that’s needed in this space. Take on a pro bono project. Raise your hand to do the super tactical thing. Figure out what you deeply love about your work and then talk to people about applying that, even if it doesn’t exactly match your job description.

Based on your experience, what are the critical things that enable a team to scale well?

It’s a tricky question, but if I distill it down, communication is a big piece. Communication and change go hand in hand when a startup grows quickly.

People get slowed down or frustrated when they don’t understand what’s happening and why, or they’re holding on to how things used to be. At Facebook, we used to say our job description was different every six months. At small startups, it’s even more frequent. So being open to change and clearly communicating about change are important to keeping people motivated, engaged, and moving in the same direction together.

One last question. What do you think the world will hopefully look like in a decade?

I hope for a greater global commitment to addressing climate change, with people taking action simply because it’s the right thing to do. Realistically, I know things will get scarier before they get better. Extreme weather and species loss are all deeply saddening, and it’s important to acknowledge this emotional side of climate change.

That reminds me of a story I’ll share quickly from when I first tried to decide if I had what it took to work in climate change. I asked a friend who’d been at it much longer how he dealt with the existential fear. His immediate acknowledgment that the feelings were real released the shame I didn’t even realize I was holding onto for even feeling afraid. It made me realize I had been avoiding the topic out of worry that my anxiety meant I shouldn’t be doing this work. His response was simple and true: It is scary. There are good days. There will be bad ones. The key to getting through it is connecting with other people.

Merrill’s Go To Resources

I use an aggregator to keep up with climate tech news. Otherwise, I’m mindful to follow my curiosity. Right now, it’s National Geographic because I’m interested in the symptoms of the natural world and what’s happening to tackle them.