January27 , 2022

Why Low Profile Parag Agrawal Is Twitter’s Pick After Jack Dorsey



Parag Agrawal is getting a crash course on what it is prefer to be a high-profile CEO.

By naming Parag Agrawal as chief government 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 average 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 way of the summer time and can keep on the helm of Square Inc., the funds firm he additionally co-founded.

While Dorsey is a billionaire celeb with well-known pals and hundreds of 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 means onto the corporate’s product street map, however he has fallen wanting reworking the enterprise since he took over for his second stint as CEO in 2015.

The firm’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 occasion. And he’ll must chase aggressive targets to step up consumer development, double income and expedite product execution.

“What’s going to be his North Star that he puts out there to kind of bet the farm — or at least his career — on?” stated Mark Shmulik, an fairness analysis analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein. “And then how successful will he be at delivering against that?”

Agrawal is the youngest particular person to run an organization within the S&P 500, in line with information compiled by Bloomberg. Prior to his transfer to Twitter, Agrawal earned a bachelor’s diploma in Computer Science and Engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology in Bombay and a doctorate in laptop science from Stanford University. 

He has labored as a researcher for Microsoft Corp., Yahoo! Inc. and AT&T Corp., in line with his LinkedIn profile. He joined Twitter in 2011 as an engineer at a time when the corporate had fewer than 1,000 staff. In that function, he labored on boosting viewers development and income and was named Twitter’s first distinguished engineer, the corporate stated. After being named CTO in 2017, he led the corporate’s technical technique together with overseeing developments in machine studying, in line 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 that may increase the enterprise, like reside audio and subscriptions.

Twitter’s accelerated targets for development had been put in place after activist investor Elliott Management Corp. took a stake in early 2020 to stress the corporate to jump-start its enterprise. After making preliminary modifications that happy Elliott in 2020, in February 2021 Twitter introduced targets to double annual income by 2023, and to proceed to develop its consumer base by 20% every of the following three years.

On the plus facet, Agrawal’s appointment means Twitter can have a full-time CEO for the primary time in years. Dorsey’s place as chief of Square was one in all Elliott’s fundamental criticisms of the social community. On Monday, Agrawal despatched a message to fellow Twitter staff, alluding to the challenges and alternatives that lie forward.

“We recently updated our strategy to hit ambitious goals, and I believe that strategy to be bold and right,” Agrawal wrote. “But our critical challenge is how we work to execute against it and deliver results — that’s how we’ll make Twitter be the best it can be for our customers, shareholders, and for each of you.”

Insider response to the information seems combined. A ballot on Blind, an nameless app for workers who enroll with an organization electronic mail deal with, discovered that greater than three-quarters of the greater than 150 respondents both did not imagine Agrawal was “the guy” for the job, or had been ready to determine however “feeling negative.” Some different worker tweets had been extra constructive, and lots of acknowledged that the CEO transition already seems smoother than the final time Twitter modified leaders.

Twitter shareholders can be trying to Agrawal to chart a steadier course towards build up the corporate’s income and engagement metrics. While Twitter’s consumer base has been increasing steadily for years, the corporate has did not match the expansion or inventory returns of friends like Snapchat dad or mum Snap Inc. and Facebook proprietor Meta Platforms Inc. Twitter inventory has climbed 62% since Dorsey’s return in 2015, and annual income is up 68% from the 2015 stage. 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 gadgets and providers might put stress on Twitter to innovate in a bolder and faster means. Meta just lately modified its identify to sign its concentrate on immersive digital worlds often known as the metaverse, which many massive tech firms are chasing as the following transformational computing platform.

“The headline takeaway here is Twitter’s execution,” stated Mandeep Singh, a Bloomberg Intelligence analyst. “The level of engagement they had, they never were able to monetize it as well as some of the other social media platforms.”

To keep aggressive, Agrawal might have to alter the corporate’s tradition in order that new merchandise and techniques might be applied at a faster tempo than in years previous, Shmulik argued.

“Can he at least avoid being the cog that everything needs to go through to get approvals and to get things moving?” Shmulik stated. “Can he give more autonomy to different parts of the org so they can move at a quicker pace?”

Agrawal will not simply have to continue to grow Twitter’s enterprise. The firm additionally stays on the middle of a lot of thorny political points, comparable to easy methods to average speech on the web, and has been a first-rate goal for conservative politicians who imagine tech firms have an excessive amount of energy.

Twitter is routinely criticized by politicians all over the world 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’s grow to be 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 speak concerning the newest occasions.

The widespread attain of Twitter additionally makes it a spot with many polarizing viewpoints, and the corporate is usually attacked for selections it makes round policing content material. It’s 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 tough steadiness is one purpose the corporate has pushed what it calls Bluesky, an open-source challenge that goals to decentralize the expertise used to run social media platforms. In concept, completely different organizations would have the liberty to create their very own guidelines and algorithms to control social media. A submit that may violate Twitter’s guidelines, and thus be eliminated, could possibly be seen on one other service utilizing the identical protocol however with extra lenient content material requirements. Agrawal understands Bluesky in addition to any government at Twitter, having helped incubate the thought internally earlier than Twitter appointed an exterior lead for the challenge.

So far, 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 stress from politicians and pundits can 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 prefer 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 Daily Show joke about how treating all Muslims as terrorists was analogous to treating all White folks as racists.

Dorsey will keep on the board of San Francisco-based Twitter till his time period expires in 2022, the corporate stated. Agrawal can also 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.

Though Agrawal might not ever lower as public a profile as his predecessor, as CEO he can be required to forge new relationships with the press, regulators and even his personal staff.

“The world is watching us right now, even more than they have before,” Agrawal wrote Monday. “It’s because they care about Twitter and our future, and it’s a signal that the work we do here matters.”