Who is Parag Agarwal?
The youngest CEO of the S&P 500. He was the CTO of Twitter and now the CEO, not a much-known public figure but is seen as a safe pair of hands, strongly backed not only by Dorsey but also by Twitter’s Board. For a decade he took care of the technological front and is also a close friend of Dorsey. He’s also been at the forefront of the company’s efforts to boost its artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities. Tackling misinformation is a huge task present at his hands.
Mr Agarwal is so young that he is an outlier in the list which has an average age of 63. Notably, he was with Twitter since 2011 he worked up his way from Engineer to Top executive.
A look at his time as a CTO:
In his time as CTO, one of Agrawal’s biggest projects has been his overseeing of the company’s decentralized Bluesky platform, which was first announced in December 2019. Intended as an “open and decentralized standard for social media” that Twitter itself could eventually transition to using, Bluesky has been one of the more dramatic ideas for Twitter’s future and a pet project of Dorsey’s.
Agrawal spearheaded the effort to advance Twitter’s internal technology back in 2018 in an effort to try and help speed up the pace of feature development and deployment. “When we hear people say that Twitter is slow at shipping, that hurts, and that is something we use as motivation,” Agrawal said.
That’s led to changes like Twitter’s partnership with Google Cloud for processing data in May 2018 and the ongoing effort to slowly switch over the Twitter timeline feature itself to Amazon Web Services (which is expected to be complete in 2023). “I do think people are starting to recognize now externally that we are going faster. And it feels good because it’s like a bunch of work from the past starting to pay off,” Agrawal noted in the interview. “But we’re nowhere close to done. I think we have a lot of opportunities to go even faster and [in] even more noticeable ways in the coming years.”
Agrawal in 2020 said that Twitter’s role is to build a healthy place for conversing online, suggesting that could come at the expense of allowing people to say whatever they want. “Our role is not to be bound by the First Amendment, but our role is to serve a healthy public conversation,” he said.
A recent study from Twitter itself found that the platform favours right-wing news. It’s one of many hurdles Agrawal will have to overcome. While he inherits a company that has been growing its daily user figures and rolling out products at a speedier-than-ever clip, Twitter still faces ongoing issues with user growth at home, ad products stymied by recent privacy changes, and faster-growing social networks like Snapchat. Agrawal may not be the most publicly recognizable candidate for running Twitter, but his years of experience with the company, deep experience with Twitter’s product, and past work in helping modernize Twitter’s tech stack makes him an interesting choice for CEO, especially as decentralized blockchain technology becomes more prominent.
What might he do?
Agrawal steps into a high-intensity, high-expectation role, and inherits some seriously punchy targets: Twitter has pledged to increase its daily users to 315 million by the end of 2023 and at least double its annual revenue. Given his technical background, it’s likely we’ll hear more about how the company plans to use and scale-up technology to meet its moderation challenges.
Why did Dorsey resign?
“I’ve decided to leave Twitter because I believe the company is ready to move on from its founders,” Dorsey said in a statement Monday. “My trust in Parag as Twitter’s CEO is deep. His work over the past 10 years has been transformational. I’m deeply grateful for his skill, heart, and soul. It’s his time to lead.”
While the timing of his departure was a surprise, it had been long anticipated. Dorsey had been under growing pressure from investors for effectively running the company part-time, as he juggled his duties with running another tech company he started, Square, and pursuing a growing obsession with all thing’s cryptocurrency and blockchain-related. Last year, activist investor Elliott Management had tried to squeeze him out, eventually reaching a deal with Twitter’s management to push up revenues and grow the user base. This is the context that Agrawal steps into.
Here’s what Elon Musk said:
Source: The Verge, Barron’s, Bloomberg, MIT Technology Review