By naming Parag Agrawal as chief govt officer, Twitter Inc. is popping inward, selecting a low-profile technologist to steer a social community that has underperformed the market, haltingly launched new merchandise, and struggled to reasonable dangerous content material underneath a frontrunner lengthy criticized for divided consideration.
Agrawal, 37, was named on Monday to succeed co-founder Jack Dorsey after a four-year stint as CTO, a job the place he oversaw Twitter’s pursuit of blockchain and different decentralized applied sciences. Dorsey, 45, will stay on the board by the summer time and can keep on the helm of Sq. Inc., the funds firm he additionally co-founded.
Whereas Dorsey is a billionaire celeb with well-known associates and thousands and thousands of Twitter followers, Agrawal remains to be a relative unknown who has spent no time within the limelight on the controversial social media firm. Dorsey’s private pursuits — like music and Bitcoin — typically made an look in his posts, and ultimately made their manner onto the corporate’s product street map, however he has fallen wanting remodeling the enterprise since he took over for his second stint as CEO in 2015.
The corporate’s new chief will inherit Twitter’s political scuffles — together with criticism over its ban on former President Donald Trump in addition to friction with India’s ruling celebration. And he’ll must chase aggressive objectives to step up consumer development, double income and expedite product execution.
“What is going on to be his North Star that he places on the market to type of guess the farm — or at the least his profession — on?” mentioned Mark Shmulik, an fairness analysis analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein. “After which how profitable will he be at delivering towards that?”
Agrawal is the youngest individual to run an organization within the S&P 500, in accordance with knowledge compiled by Bloomberg. Previous to his transfer to Twitter, Agrawal earned a bachelor’s diploma in Laptop Science and Engineering from the Indian Institute of Know-how in Bombay and a doctorate in laptop science from Stanford College.
He has labored as a researcher for Microsoft Corp., Yahoo! Inc. and AT&T Corp., in accordance with his LinkedIn profile. He joined Twitter in 2011 as an engineer at a time when the corporate had fewer than 1,000 workers. In that position, he labored on boosting viewers development and income and was named Twitter’s first distinguished engineer, the corporate mentioned. After being named CTO in 2017, he led the corporate’s technical technique together with overseeing developments in machine studying, in accordance with Twitter’s web site.
Now Agrawal takes over an organization that has been gradual to roll out new merchandise and options for years, however has began to maneuver quicker, make extra acquisitions and push into areas which may develop the enterprise, like stay audio and subscriptions.
Twitter’s accelerated targets for development have been put in place after activist investor Elliott Administration Corp. took a stake in early 2020 to strain the corporate to jump-start its enterprise. After making preliminary adjustments that happy Elliott in 2020, in February 2021 Twitter introduced objectives to double annual income by 2023, and to proceed to develop its consumer base by 20% every of the subsequent three years.
On the plus aspect, Agrawal’s appointment means Twitter could have a full-time CEO for the primary time in years. Dorsey’s place as chief of Sq. was one in every of Elliott’s most important criticisms of the social community. On Monday, Agrawal despatched a message to fellow Twitter workers, alluding to the challenges and alternatives that lie forward.
“We not too long ago up to date our technique to hit formidable objectives, and I consider that technique to be daring and proper,” Agrawal wrote. “However our important problem is how we work to execute towards it and ship outcomes — that is how we’ll make Twitter be one of the best it may be for our prospects, shareholders, and for every of you.”
Insider response to the information seems blended. A ballot on Blind, an nameless app for workers who join with an organization e-mail deal with, discovered that greater than three-quarters of the greater than 150 respondents both did not consider Agrawal was “the man” for the job, or have been ready to determine however “feeling destructive.” Another worker tweets have been extra optimistic, and plenty of acknowledged that the CEO transition already seems smoother than the final time Twitter modified leaders.
Twitter shareholders might be trying to Agrawal to chart a steadier course towards increase the corporate’s income and engagement metrics. Whereas Twitter’s consumer base has been increasing steadily for years, the corporate has didn’t match the expansion or inventory returns of friends like Snapchat guardian Snap Inc. and Fb proprietor Meta Platforms Inc. Twitter inventory has climbed 62% since Dorsey’s return in 2015, and annual income is up 68% from the 2015 degree. Meta’s inventory has gained 260% in that very same time, and gross sales have greater than quadrupled.
Rivals’ investments in augmented and digital reality-powered units and providers might put strain on Twitter to innovate in a bolder and faster manner. Meta not too long ago modified its title to sign its give attention to immersive digital worlds referred to as the metaverse, which many large tech firms are chasing as the subsequent transformational computing platform.
“The headline takeaway right here is Twitter’s execution,” mentioned Mandeep Singh, a Bloomberg Intelligence analyst. “The extent of engagement they’d, they by no means have been capable of monetize it in addition to a number of the different social media platforms.”
To remain aggressive, Agrawal may have to vary the corporate’s tradition in order that new merchandise and techniques will be carried out at a faster tempo than in years previous, Shmulik argued.
“Can he at the least keep away from being the cog that all the pieces must undergo to get approvals and to get issues shifting?” Shmulik mentioned. “Can he give extra autonomy to totally different elements of the org to allow them to transfer at a faster tempo?”
Agrawal will not simply must continue to grow Twitter’s enterprise. The corporate additionally stays on the heart of numerous thorny political points, similar to the right way to reasonable speech on the web, and has been a first-rate goal for conservative politicians who consider tech firms have an excessive amount of energy.
Twitter is routinely criticized by politicians around the globe over the way it chooses to handle misinformation, hate speech and different types of objectionable content material on its sprawling social community, which has 211 million day by day energetic customers. It is turn into the go-to social media platform the place politicians flip to commerce barbs, the place CEOs announce new merchandise, and on a regular basis customers discuss concerning the newest occasions.
The widespread attain of Twitter additionally makes it a spot with many polarizing viewpoints, and the corporate is commonly attacked for selections it makes round policing content material. It is accused of censorship by these whose tweets are eliminated or marked with a warning, and criticized by others for failing to guard its customers from abuse or hate speech when it leaves some posts up.
This troublesome steadiness is one cause the corporate has pushed what it calls Bluesky, an open-source mission that goals to decentralize the know-how used to run social media platforms. In concept, totally different organizations would have the liberty to create their very own guidelines and algorithms to control social media. A put up which may violate Twitter’s guidelines, and thus be eliminated, may very well be seen on one other service utilizing the identical protocol however with extra lenient content material requirements. Agrawal understands Bluesky in addition to any govt at Twitter, having helped incubate the concept internally earlier than Twitter appointed an exterior lead for the mission.
Up to now, Twitter’s strategy to content material moderation has but to squelch criticism from Washington’s lawmakers, who’ve routinely hauled Dorsey earlier than Congress to testify concerning the firm’s insurance policies. That exterior strain from politicians and pundits might be a stark change for Agrawal, who has spent his time at Twitter removed from the highlight.
Agrawal is getting a crash course on what it is wish to be a high-profile CEO. Shortly after he was introduced as Dorsey’s successor, some Twitter customers pounced on a 2010 tweet of his, quoting a Every day Present joke about how treating all Muslims as terrorists was analogous to treating all White individuals as racists.
Dorsey will keep on the board of San Francisco-based Twitter till his time period expires in 2022, the corporate mentioned. Agrawal can be becoming a member of the board, and director Bret Taylor, who’s chief working officer of software program maker Salesforce.com Inc., was named impartial chairman.
Although Agrawal might not ever lower as public a profile as his predecessor, as CEO he might be required to forge new relationships with the press, regulators and even his personal workers.
“The world is watching us proper now, much more than they’ve earlier than,” Agrawal wrote Monday. “It is as a result of they care about Twitter and our future, and it is a sign that the work we do right here issues.”
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