Business

Twitter’s new director, Parag Agrawal, is under pressure to deliver results quickly

For anyone expecting a new broom at Twitter, this week’s appointment of Parag Agrawal to the role of chief executive officer could be something of a countermeasure against the anomaly.

Second sudden announcement that co-founder Jack Dorsey quit immediately – his second abrupt departure from the company – suggests that deeper change may be imminent. Dorsey may have had some control of the timing but, following agitation from activist shareholders, including his chief call two years ago, the way he left left a clear impression. about an unsavory compromise.

Agrawal, however, has all the signs of a brilliant insider and a close ally of the outgoing CEO. He’s spent 10 years working his way through Twitter’s engineering ranks, becoming chief technology officer 4 years ago, and is closely tied to many of the initiatives closest to Dorsey’s heart.

“He’s basically part of the building,” said one former Twitter colleague, who warned against expecting any major changes at the company.

Another noted that Dorsey’s earing has given Agrawal a special place in the Twitter hierarchy. If you want to pitch an idea to your company’s remote executive, the best place to start is usually with Agrawal, the person said.

However, despite all of this, Agrawal’s elevation to one of the tech industry’s hottest seats could signal a turning point. Former employees describe a company that struggled to regain confidence after a series of product failures and a waning appetite for the kind of continuous and iterative testing that companies offer. most successful of the famous Silicon Valley. Agrawal’s fans think he’s well on his way to fixing these issues.

Little known outside the halls of Twitter, his track record as an engineer and head of product has earned him a solid reputation among his peers and some investors. on Twitter. He came to the US in 2005 as a graduate of the Indian Institute of Technology in Mumbai and, like the Indian-born CEOs of Microsoft and IBM, his appointment was seen as an attempt to deliver strong engineering leadership. stronger for a company in danger of losing out. its technical advantages.

His first years at Twitter involved helping revamp its technical infrastructure, laying a stronger foundation for the faster pace of product innovation and growth that Wall Street was igniting. He joined the company after graduating with a PhD from Stanford University, alternating with research work at Microsoft, Yahoo and AT&T.

That job earned him recognition as Twitter’s first “outstanding engineer” — a title that confers enormous status among Silicon Valley’s engineering elite, but rarely pave the way for CEO position.

After taking on the top tech work, Agrawal got his hands on in trying to speed up Twitter’s new product cycles. As a result, the pace of new product introductions has increased, including, in the past year, Twitter’s audio chat room service and first subscription service. However, neither of them are game-changers.

Doubling down on engineering and product development, Twitter also this week named one of Silicon Valley’s top product executives as president. Despite being in his early thirties, Bret Taylor already has a track record that includes helping create Google Maps, serving as Facebook’s chief technology officer, and founding two startups. More recently, he has emerged as a top product specialist at Salesforce, a gain that was capped a day after the Twitter shakeup by news that Taylor had also been appointed co-CEO at the company. business software company.

Even among the personal networks attached to Silicon Valley, this may represent something of a first. Five years ago, Salesforce founder Marc Benioff attempted to acquire Twitter, before bowing to pressure from his own shareholders and backing out. Now, his newly anointed co-CEO is directing the affairs inside Twitter’s boardroom.

Alex Roetter, the company’s former chief technical officer, said: He added of Agrawal: Engineers “tend to look at data and move things on”: “He’s very data-driven, he is can be very intense. He has a low tolerance for suboptimal things. But he has a way of making people want to work with him.”

Meanwhile, whatever his technical achievements, Agrawal’s lack of experience in the public eye could be an obstacle for a company that has played so big a role in cultural fervor and frequently at the center of political storms due to alleged social media bias and the spread of misinformation.

Dorsey’s personal connections have helped propel Twitter into a cultural phenomenon and elevate it among celebrities, a former employee said. “They’re always a little underwhelming when they meet the founder and CEO,” the person explained, adding that Agrawal will struggle to fill Dorsey’s shoes in this regard.

With Wall Street pressing for results, the new leader can’t expect much on a honeymoon. Twitter’s ambitious growth goals call for it to halve its daily active users by the end of 2023, and investors are impatient for its business to reach proportionate scale. with its considerable influence in the world of social media.

One shareholder emphasized: “This can become a $200 billion company by relying on the product roadmap and monetizing this huge and growing user base.

Recently, however, valuations have reversed course, falling below $35 billion. The company’s stock price has nearly halved from its February peak, to roughly the same level as the end of Twitter’s first day going public, eight years ago.

Dorsey quit after failing to convince investors he could make a meaningful change to Twitter’s growth trajectory. To avoid a similar fate, Agrawal will need to come up with some quick results.

Additional reporting by Antoine Gara and Hannah Murphy

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