Jack Dorsey’s resignation from Twitter on Monday was a surprise, but given the company’s ongoing challenges it was perhaps long overdue.
Described by Wired as “the soul of Twitter
”, Dorsey was a talisman-like figure. His return to lead Twitter in 2015 was intended to signify that the company hadn’t lost its way, stuck as it had been for years with a failure to innovate or monetise particularly well.
But despite loving Twitter
, since his return Dorsey was never all-in on the company he created when he hacked together an SMS public messaging service in 2006. Being the CEO of one public company is a big enough job, but running two high-profile tech companies—Twitter and Square—is not advisable unless you can clone yourself.
I’m often wary of activist investors pushing boards and executives around, but Elliott Management’s agitations
last year, which resulted in them getting board seats
, were spurred by a sluggish approach to growth and innovation that came from the top, and Dorsey’s seeming inability to focus and make quick decisions.
With Spaces, tipping, Communities, the Blue and Super Follows subscription products, and more, Twitter is now innovating faster than ever, driven by a great product team. But it’s unclear if any of the money-making opportunities these new features offer will bear fruit. And having a part-time CEO is not a reassuring sign even if things are going great.
Being a tech CEO is all about solving business and product challenges by getting both those sides of the company to work in sync. And new CEO Parag Agrawal has plenty to keep him busy in that regard. Yesterday I spotted
a promoted tweet suggesting your friends might like anti-abuse service Block Party as a Christmas present. When third parties are suggesting safety tools as a gift idea
, you know Twitter is lagging behind where it should be on that front.
And aside from benefitting from the tech stock boom of 2020, Twitter’s share price has lingered in the same region for years. Impressive moves on the business front are needed, like making sure Twitter Blue is compelling enough that the company can report significant revenue growth quarter after quarter.
Some have suggested that as a decade-long Twitter employee who was close to Dorsey, Agrawal isn’t a clean enough break. But the worst thing Twitter could have done is have appointed some former Disney or Pepsi exec with a love for big money deals but no familiarity with handling the complex issues—from user safety to protection of democracy—that a modern social media CEO faces.
So I wish Agrawal all the best, and congratulate Square on finally having a full-time CEO.