“Hatching Twitter,” the bestseller about the company’s history, starts with a throw up.
Evan Williams, one-fourth of the company’s founding team, is about to publish a blog post of his resignation as the CEO. The board pushed him to step aside and so he did. Emotionally he is not in great shape for such an announcement but the time has come. At the end of the post he announces that Dick Costolo, then the COO, is the new CEO.
And then came 5 years of stability at Twitter’s CEO seat. Till lately.
Costolo announced in June 2015 his decision to step down. Immediately after, the rumors about the company’s next CEO began.
Who Are They Looking For?
Twitter’s interim CEO, Jack Dorsey, hinted what the company seeks: an avid twitter user.
“We’re looking for someone who really uses and loves the product in every single way.”
It’s not the first time that Twitter’s co-founders mention qualities like this as essential ones. In 2011, Biz Stone told Howard Stern about the importance of being highly involved in the product. Back then he was referring to Odeo, a podcasting platform which Twitter emerged from:
“Problem with Odeo was… we were not emotionally invested in the product. If you’re going to do a startup and you’re going to take that risk, you have to be emotionally invested.”
So Twitter seeks a Twitter-savvy user as CEO. What other traits are needed?
A Product CEO #FTW
In a detailed manifesto, Chris Sacca, super angel and one of Twitter’s earliest investors, laid out a vision for the company. The goal of the next CEO, according to Sacca, is to lead more users back to the platform with a better and more rewarding experience. The rest – e.g. revenues and growth – will follow.
A persona who can make this vision come true is the Product CEO type. Unlike the typical CEO, who is motivated by increasing revenues, the Product CEO’s heart is elsewhere. It’s in the user experience, the distribution, the end-user. Think of Jack Welch, the legendary GE CEO, vs. Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg.
Many names were mentioned as potential successors to Costolo. But who meets the criteria of being a passionate Product CEO?
Evaluating the Candidates
We don’t presume to predict or to estimate who really is the right fit for such a position. We do however know a thing or two about drawing insights based on Twitter behavior.
We took the liberty and analyzed people that have been mentioned as potential candidates by known publications (TechCrunch, Bloomberg, Business Insider) and also added several more based on our metrics. We evaluated how well they get Twitter by three criteria:
1. Activity: How frequently they use the platform, tweet, share and comment.
2. Talkative: Are they friendly on Twitter? Do they use it as a platform for communicating with others or just as a one-side media channel?
3. Influence: Are people excited about things they share? Do others share, favorite or comment on content they share?
We crunched the numbers and got the final score for each candidate.
Here is what we found:
And here is the full list:
|Name||Postion||Followers Count||Active||Talkative||Influence||Final Score|
|John Legere||T-Mobile CEO||1,503,007||91||100||70||87|
|Kevin Rose||Digg, Founder||1,642,845||79||100||65||81|
|Padmasree Warrior||Cisco, Former CTSO||1,628,705||74||100||57||77|
|Ryan Freitas||Uber, Director of Product Design||9,672||82||97||52||77|
|Geoff Teehan||Facebook, Product Design Director||17,255||71||100||56||76|
|Kevin Systrom||Instagram, CEO and co-founder||75,083||67||91||66||75|
|Adam Bain||Twitter, President||71,912||59||100||55||71|
|Dave Morin||Path, CEO and co-founder||472,272||56||100||54||70|
|Mike McCue||Flipboard, CEO and co-founder||17,835||59||100||51||70|
|John Borthwick||Betaworks, CEO||33,383||43||87||50||60|
|Jeff Weiner||Linkedin, CEO||254,190||31||68||59||53|
|Marissa Mayer||Yahoo, CEO||1,072,434||11||89||57||52|
|David Sacks||Yammer, Founder; Zenefits COO||41,124||17||70||51||46|
|Bradley Horowitz||Google, VP Photos and Streams||51,181||6||66||45||39|
|David Eun||Samsung, Executive VP||19,593||2||57||55||38|
|Anthony Noto||Twitter, CFO||20,085||6||65||43||38|
|Ross Levinsohn||Executive, Board Member, Investor||5,379||8||57||46||37|
|Sundar Pichai||Google, SVP Products||131,527||4||51||54||36|
|Neal Mohan||Google, VP Display Advertising Products||5,600||8||55||43||35|
|Tony Hsieh||Zappos, CEO||2,766,707||21||26||49||32|
|Susan Wojcicki||YouTube, CEO||10,836||2||42||48||31|
|Adam Cahan||Yahoo, SVP Mobile and Emerging Products||1,355||2||39||42||28|
The Next CEO Challenges
Twitter under Costolo became a social giant with Wall-Street qualities. It expanded from 300 to 3,900 in staff; its market cap grew to $23 billion; and yearly revenues summed up to $1.4 billion in 2014. Fred Wilson, a venture capitalist and Twitter investor, well-summarized Costolo contribution in a tweet:
6/ @dickc scaled Twitter into a massive business and valuable publicly traded company
— Fred Wilson (@fredwilson) June 11, 2015
But investors and users are looking for more. They all stare at the other big blue social network and asking what can Twitter be. Facebook’s 1.4 billion users are still shadowing Twitter’s 302 million monthly active users. Slowing user growth since the company’s IPO is a great challenge for the upcoming CEO.
Twitter’s next leader will have a board with Twitter’s founders. He’ll meet @ev (Evan Williams) and @jack (Jack Dorsey) there, who know the product through and through. A product oriented CEO can take Twitter’s legacy, created by the founders and Costolo, to the next level. As implied, the search might start at Twitter’s feed.