A lot has been made of Twitter’s shrinking workforce, which is reportedly at 2,300 people, down from the 7,500 employed by the company when new owner Elon Musk took control.
While we posited that the newest wave of departures was part of Musk’s master plan to shrink down the company, many worry about the haphazard ways it has been downsized. Insider reported on Friday, for example, that Twitter’s payroll department was decimated last week when employees who were given a stark ultimatum by Musk opted to bounce.
Still, Musk has plenty of supporters who want to help him improve Twitter, and he apparently just brought one into the fold on a short-term basis: George Hotz, the security hacker known for developing iOS jailbreaks and reverse engineering the PlayStation 3 before later founding Comma.ai, whose driver assistance system startup aims to bring Tesla Autopilot–like functionality to other cars.
Hotz definitely falls into the category of people-who-wouldn’t-be-on-your-remake-of-Twitter bingo board. Hotz founded Comma.ai after getting into a fight with Musk after Musk allegedly tried to hire him at Tesla but “kept changing the terms,” as Hotz told Bloomberg in 2015. At the time, Tesla said Hotz’s bold claims that his tech could beat that of Autopilot was “extremely unlikely.” Hotz promptly set out to prove Musk and the rest of Tesla wrong.
So why team up now? For one thing, Hotz has a little extra time on his hands. As TechCrunch reported early this month, Hotz considers that some of his own work at Comma.ai is done for the moment. It currently sells a $1,999 driver assistance system developer kit that is compatible on more than 200 vehicles; the company is also on solid ground as it looks to turn its devkit into a productized consumer product, he told TechCrunch.
The momentum gives him a little space to explore. “I’m good at things when it’s wartime,” Hotz told TechCrunch for that story. “I’m not so good at hands-on, ok, let’s patiently scale this up. ‘Do you want to deal with a supply chain that’s capable of making 100,000 devices a year?’ Like, not really.”
Hotz, now 33, may also want to again prove his mettle to Musk. Indeed, last week, after tweeting out his support of Musk’s offer to Twitter employees (Musk said they could work “long hours at high intensity” or take three months of severance), Hotz further tweeted that he would be “down for a 12-week internship at Twitter for the cost of living in SF.”
Musk soon tweeted in response, “Sure, let’s talk.”
And just like that, the New Jersey native has started his “internship,” he said today on the platform. It sounds like a hefty internship at that. As Hotz describes it on Twitter, he’s in charge of search for the social media outfit.
He is half-kiddingly giving himself reachable goals given that time commitment, joking today that “[I]f I just get rid of the pop up I still consider my internship a win. I have a chrome extension on my laptop to block it. [R]eminds me of the guy who got a job at Apple, made Wallet automatically delete your expired boarding passes, and quit the next week.”
While Hotz is a comparatively glitzy new hire, the idea right now generally is to layer in talent, Musk suggested today at an all-hands meeting at Twitter’s San Francisco headquarters, according to Insider. Reportedly, Musk said during the meeting that no more layoffs are planned.
According to The Verge, Musk also said that Twitter is now actively recruiting for roles in engineering and sales and that employees are encouraged to make referrals. (As The Verge notes, it’s a lot harder to get confirmation from Twitter given that its entire public relations department has been disbanded.)
Hotz is doing his part, seemingly, including reaching out to recent rivals to see if they might be interested in teaming up on its turnaround. Today, specifically, Hotz asked Andrej Karpathy, a former director of AI at Tesla who led the computer vision team of Tesla Autopilot, if he wanted a job at Twitter after Karpathy weighed in with an answer to a question Hotz posed.
Hotz’s question? “How do you feel the quality of Twitter search is? What would get you to use Twitter search instead of Google?” Karpathy’s answer: “I search twitter on google with site: https://twitter.com/. Works quite well.”