Why senior execs have lost faith in Twitter
Just when you think things can’t get sadder and stranger at Twitter….
Last night, news leaked to the New York Times and Re/Code that four major Twitter execs are leaving: Alex Roetter, Kevin Weil, Skip Schipper, and Katie Stanton
The original positioning was that the departures were part of a house cleaning. That suggestion, though, was swiftly rebutted by CEO Jack Dorsey, and several of the candidates in question too. Every conversation I had last night with people close to the situation supported the idea that these were entirely voluntary departures-- several of them months in planning.
The official story now is that these executives all decided that it was time to move on to pastures new. The timing was a coincidence. Nothing to see here! Just time for a career change! If two executives leave at the same time then, yes, it might be a coincidence. But four senior executives, all jumping ship at the same time spells nothing but trouble.
The real story seems to be that many at Twitter are simply done with the company.
For most the cause is likely a blend of different things: A long slog of uncertainty, a product vision that’s questioning the very fundamentals of what Twitter once was, a mutinous rank of board members and hangers-on who love to throw each other (and senior executives) under the bus, a part-time CEO, and a stock price that’s collapsing faster than anyone expected this far into Dorsey’s tenure. Somewhere along the line Twitter stopped being about the product-- the reason so many people joined to begin with-- and started being about surviving an internal round of Game of Thrones.
For others maybe it’s as simple as money. With Twitter’s stock in freefall, a job at an ascendant unicorn like Uber or Airbnb looks a lot more promising. They’ve all watched Yahoo for years talk and talk about the strength of its underlying assets…. while little happens to make more users care about those assets. And Yahoo had Alibaba at least.
Some likely just didn’t believe in what they signed up for anymore. People will walk through walls for a company and a management team they believe in in Silicon Valley. Perhaps Twitter just wasn’t that anymore and so the constant sacrifice, low morale, and sagging stock price simply were no longer worth it.
Whatever the reasons, a couple of things are clear:
When those pushing for Dorsey’s appointment said he had the confidence of the team either they were ill-informed or that has changed dramatically in a few short months.
Also: Dorsey has no control of what’s happening at the highest levels of his own company. Not only are his senior execs quitting en masse, but news of their departures is leaking before he even gets chance to share it with the rest of the company.
Say what you will about Dorsey, I don’t believe he was the leak. His “setting the record straight” Tweet was too rushed and too apologetic. From what I’m hearing, though, very few people knew about all the departures. More likely, someone in his inner circle decided to try to get in front of the news by trying to make Dorsey look good by hinting the execs were pushed out. If that was the plan, it backfired spectacularly. Dorsey’s hasty response made him look even more embattled, and the company even more rudderless, than was the case last week. Sure enough, the stock took yet another dip this morning.
Dorsey looks like a flailing CEO and like his grand plan to save Twitter-- if he really did arrive with one-- hasn’t worked. He doesn’t look in control of his company. And he’s likely burned some valuable relationships internally. It’ll make recruiting that much harder now that Twitter has a track record of throwing people who’ve devoted years to building the company under the bus whenever it needs a scapegoat.
Honestly, I don’t know why anyone goes to work at Twitter at this point. Which is a problem for the company because there are several key open jobs, including this one.
In the immediate term Dorsey explained that Adam Bain -- poor old Adam Bain -- will be “taking on additional responsibilities, including responsibility for the revenue-related product team, the Media team, and the HR team on an interim basis.
He added: “Our CTO Adam Messinger will be taking over all of engineering and consumer product, design and research, user services, and Fabric into one group…. I will be partnering with [Messinger] day and night to make sure we’re building the right experiences.
Except of course Dorsey won’t be partnering with anyone “day and night,” because he runs another publicly traded company whose stock is also slumping this year. Maybe he meant to write “I’ll be partnering with Messinger day and night on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.”
Still, the company is said to be ready to announce new board appointments. It’ll be nice for fans to enjoy one good day of Twitter news this year.