Perhaps you’ve heard there’s a job opening over at Twitter. The blue bird is looking for its next CEO after longtime leader and all-around good guy Dick Costolo decided to step down after a successful run taking Twitter from mid-sized startup to public company.
Twitter’s next CEO faces tremendously different challenges than his or her predecessors faced. Jack Dorsey, Ev Williams and Dick Costolo had a startup; the next CEO will have to manage a $23 billion social media empire facing slow growth and impatient shareholders. Finding the right person for the job will be essential to whether Twitter reaches its potential or continues to be marginalized by Wall Street.
So, before Twitter’s board of directors makes its most important decision yet, I’d like to humbly suggest a couple of qualities Twitter should be looking for in its next CEO:
1) Must Be A Master At Dealing With Wall Street
Dick Costolo wasn’t forced out by a dissatisfied board. Instead, he and the board were pressured by Wall Street. Costolo saw the uphill challenge he was going to have winning back Wall Street’s affection in the short term and left. I, too, would want to transition out if I had to absorb calls for my head every day.
Running a public company is completely different from managing a venture-backed startup, and Twitter doesn’t have the benefit of having a singular founder with voting control over the company (Facebook’s greatest advantage).
The next CEO must be able to avoid Costolo’s fate — they must have ample, ample experience dealing with Wall Street. They need to be able to woo Wall Street into his or her corner while keeping Wall Street’s focus on quarterly profits at bay while they upgrade Twitter’s business, product and staff.
An ideal candidate for Twitter CEO will have public company experience at the C-level and experience on the boards of directors of public companies. This experience is necessary because they will have to manage and balance quarterly calls, financial reports and hostile investors and analysts.
This experience is especially valuable for Twitter, a highly visible, underperforming company that could become an acquisition target without an improvement in its business. There are only a few CEO candidates, internal or external, who check off this crucial check box.
2) Must Be Able To Clean Up Twitter’s Product And Revenue Dysfunction
Twitter is not a turnaround project; it has a strong business, hundreds of millions of users and worldwide name recognition. However, it is a business in dysfunction. Its stock collapsed after it posted a big miss on revenues. Twitter’s new leader needs to find a way to restart revenue growth to keep Wall Street at bay.
Twitter’s bigger dysfunction, however, has always been user growth. The Twitter product is notorious for not being able to keep new users coming back. Too many people abandon their accounts and never give it a second shot. The product must become more appealing to the masses.
This will require a clearly articulated vision for Twitter’s place in the world, as well as a redesigned user experience that brings newbies back while pleasing Twitter’s most hardcore users. This is not an enviable task, but fixing this dysfunction will be crucial to the success or failure of the new Twitter CEO.
3) Must Be A Magnet For Top-Tier Talent And Stop The Twitter Brain Drain
In industries as competitive as consumer software and social, talent trumps all. It’s no secret that Twitter has had a brain drain in recent years, losing people like Rishi Garg, Jessica Verrilli, Jeff Sandquist, Amir Movafaghi, Doug Bowman, Chloe Sladden, Jeremy Gordon… the list unfortunately goes on. Today’s Twitter is too heavily dominated by inexperienced talent.
Compared to Facebook and Google, with whom it regularly competes for talent, Twitter has done a poor job of recruiting and especially retention. The next CEO must have the charisma to sell a vision that will woo top recruits from Mark Zuckerberg and Larry Page (no easy task). They must quickly put together a plan to retain the talent Twitter already has. And they must do this all quickly, while turning around Twitter’s public image so it can access even more talent. A daunting task to be sure.
I lay out all of this not because I want to criticize Twitter, but because I love Twitter and want to see it reach its true potential. Twitter at its best is a force for good in the world. It is the world’s central communications hub when anything important happens in the world. It will only improve if more potential users discover that value and join the conversation.
I hope Twitter’s board takes it time to find and vet its next CEO. Luckily, there are many great candidates to choose from who I believe would excel at the job, as long as the board gives the new CEO everything he or she needs to succeed.
The future of the company rides on this one decision — there may not be a second chance if Twitter gets it wrong.