The Twitter of Elon Musk: Move fast and break things
Twitter is my favorite social network. I have used it for 15 years to perform my technological and business watch. With Elon Musk's takeover, the company and the service are transforming significantly.
I have always been convinced that Twitter's potential was underestimated. The service is the de facto public speaking tool for the world's most influential leaders but still lacks a reliable revenue engine.
My conviction about the underestimated value of Twitter was strong enough to become a (small) shareholder two years ago, hoping this underlying value would be unlocked in the future.
Then Elon Musk came. He bought the company for a crazy price of 44 billion dollars and took control of Twitter. It was weird to sell my few shares to Elon Musk!
Since then, I've closely observed Musk's actions and decisions. The man has a solid track record of leading companies to success. I don't know if he will succeed this time but I'm convinced there will be many things to learn from a business perspective.
Twitter's takeover is a huge bet, even for Elon Musk.
He can't afford financial losses for a long time with Twitter. He bought the company at a very high price and has limited funds to cover future losses. Access to capital is complicated for him after this operation. Banks and other investors will only be inclined to provide more funds once Musk proves significant improvements to Twitter's financial results.
The only alternative for Musk could be to sell some of his Tesla shares and he wants to avoid that scenario at all costs. That's why his massive layoff, done when he gained control, was rational even if it affected the employees, the company, and Musk's reputation.
Regarding his reputation, many people talked about how the layoff's brutality had a destructive impact on it. From my point of view, his tweets about his political views are way more harmful.
To succeed in his Twitter adventure, Elon Musk will need more than money. He must find a way to federate a team of motivated and devoted employees. That's a crucial part of the challenge, especially after the massive layoff.
For that, he's trying to apply the same formula as his other companies by providing an inspiring mission to the public and his team. He already did that with Tesla and SpaceX. Finding a bolder vision than SpaceX's "Making humanity multiplanerary" is challenging!
For Twitter, the new official mission statement still needs to be clarified. Elon Musk published this tweet about it:
It seems to be the new direction, but on the other hand, Musk has also explained that he wanted Twitter to be the home of "free speech". I'm not sure it's compatible with an accurate source of information! Musk also said he'd like to transform Twitter into a "super-app" with many features like payment and e-commerce. A strategy close to the thriving Chinese platforms like WeChat or Alipay.
The vision of a super-app differs from becoming the most accurate source of information, but that may be a longer-term vision. In any case, Elon Musk is in a race to save Twitter from bankruptcy right now.
Interestingly, he's building the company's future in public. He's explaining on Twitter what he does and why. He's asking users about the features they want on Twitter. He's also creating a sense of urgency about finding profitability that reminds the attitude of startups with limited capital. And that's precisely Twitter's state.
Since the takeover, the new mantra at Twitter seems to be « move quickly and break things ». It's kind of ironic since it's a famous quote from Mark Zuckerberg, the founder and CEO of Facebook!
Some brutal and radical moves are happening at Twitter: removing the legacy certification, making users and companies pay to access a new check mark, changing the API access rules, etc. In 3 months, the social network has changed more than in a decade.
We can feel that Musk wants to increase the speed of delivering new features. But he's facing a vast technological legacy that's hard to tackle with a team amputated from many engineers. I can't imagine how Elon Musk is being frustrated by dragging a ball and chain with Twitter's technical debt!
He's pushing its team to quickly deliver the urgent platform changes but that speed has a downside: the quality is decreasing. The engineers can't take the time to provide the required testing infrastructure. As a Twitter user, you can currently experiment with many bugs but also see the platform evolving quickly.
The future will tell if Elon Musk will succeed with Twitter, but I'm sure his putting his whole ego into it. The Twitter takeover is a historical business case because of the scale (44 billion dollars), the man behind it (one of the world's wealthiest men) and the unique position of Twitter in the public debate.
I'll continue to follow this incredible story for these reasons, even if I don't agree with some of Musk's statements or actions. Twitter's takeover is a unique case in the history of business strategy!