IIT man Parag is new Twitter CEO


In a statement, Twitter said that while Dorsey is stepping down and Agrawal’s appointment in the executive role will be effective immediately, the outgoing CEO will continue to be on the company’s board till the end of his term next year, reports Nikhila Natarajan

Jack Dorsey, the maverick behind making Twitter the world’s go-to social platform to rant, laud, troll or play simple catch up, is moving on.

Confirming long-standing speculation that he would, @Jack, Dorsey’s handle for 18 years, enigmatically said: “not sure anyone has heard but,” and attached a one-page version of why and who.

Indian-American Parag Agarwal, Twitter @paraga, is the new CEO, with immediate effect, Dorsey announced.

Agarwal attended Kendriya Vidyalaya (Central School) and IIT Mumbai and followed it with a Stanford PhD and ten years at Twitter.

Dorsey’s note attacked the concept of “founder-led”. The construct sets companies up for failure, he said.

Dorsey, 45, was serving as both the CEO of Twitter and Square, his digital payments company. He will remain a member of the Board until his term expires at the 2022 meeting of stockholders.

Salesforce boss Bret Taylor will become Twitter Chairman, replacing Patrick Pichette, a former Google executive, who will remain on the board as Chair of the Audit Committee.

“I’ve decided to leave Twitter because I believe the company is ready to move on from its founders,” Dorsey said.

“Deep gratitude for @jack and our entire team, and so much excitement for the future,” Agarwal said in a quote-tweet of Dorsey, with a short acceptance note attached, a #oneteam tag and a heart emoji in blue.

Agrawal, CTO since 2017, isn’t in for an easy time. Twitter’s stated goal of monetisation for one – 315 million monetisable daily active users by the end of 2023 and doubling of annual revenue. Agrawal’s specialisation has been strategy involving artificial intelligence and machine learning (read: no finance as yet).

Before studying computer science at IIT, he attended the Atomic Energy Kendriya Vidyalaya.

While studying at Stanford, Agarwal worked as a research intern for Microsoft, Yahoo!, and AT&T Labs.

After graduating from Stanford, he joined Twitter as an ads engineer. He served in that position from October 2011 to October 2017.

His early work as CTO was dedicated to increasing the relevance of tweets in Twitter timelines through the use of artificial intelligence.

Dorsey’s exit isn’t a surprise. He was under pressure from activist investor Elliott Management Corp, even over how he was spending his time. A year earlier, Dorsey had said he planned to spend up to six months of the year working in Africa to better understand the continent’s internet users, a move that was ultimately scrapped due to Covid-19.

The hedge fund reached an agreement with Twitter and private equity group Silver Lake to appoint three new Directors to Twitter’s board and create a committee to review leadership and governance. The deal came at a cost. Dorsey was expected to grow Twitter’s monetised daily users by 20 per cent or more and boost revenue growth.

As CTO, Agrawal has been responsible for the company’s technical strategy, while overseeing machine learning and AI. Since joining Twitter ten years ago, he has led efforts on scaling Twitter Ads systems, as well as re-accelerating user growth by improving home timeline relevance.

Agrawal joined Twitter in October 2011 as a Distinguished Software Engineer after completing his PhD in Computer Science from Stanford University. While studying at Stanford, he worked as a research intern for Microsoft, Yahoo!, and AT&T Labs.

Agarwal’s remarkable journey starts from a Kendriya Vidyalaya under the Atomic Energy Education Society (AEES), set up for education to children of the employees of the Department of Atomic Energy and its constituent units.

For Agrawal, the appointment has come at a time when Twitter is aggressively pushing for growth. Earlier this year, the firm announced its aim to have 315 million monetisable daily active users by the end of 2023 and to at least double its annual revenue by then.

Lately, under Dorsey as CEO, Twitter has been embroiled in different controversies across key markets, including India. Just months after his visit to India in November 2018, Dorsey was summoned by a 31-member committee of Parliamentarians to get his views on “safeguarding citizens’ rights on social/ online news media platforms”.

This year, Twitter had a run-in with the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology after the microblogging platform did not remove certain accounts flagged by the government.

In May, following the issuance of the new rules for social media platforms, the Delhi Police visited the company’s offices to serve a notice asking top executives to join the probe into a complaint by the Congress against allegations tweeted by BJP leaders of a “toolkit” plot to malign the Prime Minister and the Government.

Joins elite club of Indian-origin CEOs

Agarwal joins Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, Alphabet and Google CEO Sundar Pichai, Adobe President and CEO Santanu Narayan and IBM Group CEO Arvind Krishna, who are currently leading global corporations.

Besides, the elite club has other honchos like Mastercard’s CEO Ajay Banga, Arista Networks’ CEO and President Jayshree V. Ullal, Micron Technology’s CEO Sanjay Mehrotra and Reckitt Benckiser’s CEO Laxman Narasimhan.

In a surprise development on Monday, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey decided to step down from the company he was deeply associated with, handing over the baton to Agrawal, the current CTO, who will be the new CEO and a member of the Board, effective immediately.

Dorsey will remain a member of the Board until his term expires at the 2022 meeting of stockholders.

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