CNBC reported this morning that Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey is expected to step down from his role at the social media company. Shortly after, Dorsey himself confirmed the rumors and Twitter issued a press release with more details. Parag Agrawal, who joined Twitter as an engineer in 2011 and has served as CTO since 2017, will take over as Dorsey’s successor.
“There’s a lot of talk about the importance of a company being ‘founder-led,'” Dorsey wrote in an email to Twitter’s staff, which he also tweeted. “Ultimately I believe that’s severely limiting and a single point of failure. I’ve worked hard to ensure this company can break away from its founding and founders.”
Dorsey is the CEO of both Twitter and Square, a financial company that serves both consumer and corporate customers with payment, cash management and transference services.
Twitter says Dorsey will remain on Twitter’s Board until his term expires at the 2022 meeting of stockholders. Alongside Dorsey’s departure, Bret Taylor, the president and COO of Salesforce, was named the new Chairman of the Board, succeeding Patrick Pichette who will remain on the Board and continue to serve as chair of the Audit Committee, the company said.
Dorsey points to Taylor’s addition to the board as one of the reasons he felt comfortable stepping down, noting Taylor “understands entrepreneurship, taking risks, companies at massive scale, technology, product, and he’s an engineer.”
Twitter said there are no changes to the company’s previously shared outlook for the fourth quarter and full-year 2021, or its 2023 goals, as a result of these leadership changes.
Twitter’s stock rose on the news that Dorsey may step down, trading up 6.1% as of the time of writing after giving up some early gains in the first minutes of the week’s trading cycle. Update: Twitter shares are now effectively flat on the day, off some 0.13% as of the time of this update (12:43 ET on Monday).
For comparison purposes, Twitter is worth around $40 billion today. No small number, to be clear, but less than half the value of Square, which has a public-market worth of just over $99 billion.
Running one public company is work. Running two is uncommon and, we presume, not a simple feat. Square shares are also trading higher this morning, albeit to a smaller degree. (Twitter has attracted investor dissent for its CEO’s split time.) Square confirmed to TechCrunch there are no changes to Dorsey’s role there, nor anything else related to leadership, strategy, or financial outlook.
“I want you all to know that this was my decision and I own it,” Dorsey wrote to his team. “There aren’t many founders that choose their company over their own ego. I know we’ll prove this was the right move.”
“My trust in Parag as Twitter’s CEO is deep,” he said, praising his successor in the issued statement. “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.”
During his time at Twitter, Agrawal has been responsible for the company’s technical strategy and has led the work to improve development velocity. He also advanced the state of machine learning across Twitter. Prior to being appointed CTO, Parag was Twitter’s first Distinguished Engineer due to his work across revenue and consumer engineering, including his impact on the re-acceleration of audience growth in 2016 and 2017, the company said. The exec holds a Ph.D. in Computer Science from Stanford University and a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science and Engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay.
“I want to thank the Board for their confidence in my leadership and Jack for his continued mentorship, support, and partnership,” said Agrawal, in a statement. “I look forward to building on everything we have accomplished under Jack’s leadership and I am incredibly energized by the opportunities ahead. By continuing to improve our execution, we will deliver tremendous value for our customers and shareholders as we reshape the future of public conversation.”
He also shared his email to Twitter’s team in a tweet, noting that he’s committed to executing Twitter’s strategy and hitting its “ambitious goals,” but that the company will be challenged in how it works to execute its plans and deliver results. Twitter will have an all-hands meeting on Tuesday, with a Q&A session for employees, he noted.
A great product run
Twitter’s leadership and product direction have received criticism over the years for being too conservative or too slow — or both. In recent quarters, however, Twitter’s ability to develop and ship new products and services has accelerated.
Though Twitter’s functionality remained largely stagnant for years — save for some major changes like making tweets longer — the app has introduced a slew of new features and acquisitions.
Twitter entered the live audio race with Spaces, then introduced monetization features, like Ticketed Spaces, Tip Jar and livestream shopping (Meta apps like Facebook and Instagram have also picked up the pace when it comes to e-commerce). More recently, the platform launched its subscription Twitter Blue service, which offers a more customizable user experience — including the ability to undo tweets — for $2.99 per month.
The social giant also opened its checkbook to bring more capabilities to its service. So far this year, Twitter has acquired companies like Threader (which helped develop a thread reading experience for Twitter Blue), Sphere (a group social messaging app), Breaker (which helped build Spaces), and, most notably, Revue, a newsletter platform that gives writers the convenience of linking their posts directly on their profile.
Finally, it’s no secret that Dorsey is interested in crypto — his Twitter bio is literally just “#bitcoin” — but he’s not the company’s only proponent. Twitter has been working on a way for users to display NFTs in their profile and, more broadly, Twitter houses Bluesky, a decentralized web project. But Dorsey’s departure may not slow the momentum of Twitter crypto, especially after the company announced earlier this month that it will build a dedicated crypto team. At the time, Twitter told TechCrunch that Agrawal would be working with the new crypto team on the future of crypto at Twitter, helping drive Twitter’s push toward decentralizing social media through blockchain technology.
The company did not immediately reply to a request for further comment about the news.
Update 11/29/21, 11:00 AM EST with confirmation of Jack’s departure and details about his successor