Elon Musk has completed his acquisition of Twitter, and as expected, the Tesla founder fired four top executives at the company, including CEO Parag Agrawal. Musk’s decision is not surprising given he has publicly accused Agrawal of misleading him on the number of spam-bot accounts. Musk famously used a poop emoji to reply to one of Agrawal’s tweets. Here’s a quick look at Agrawal’s short-lived term at the social media company.
The India-born Agrawal was appointed as Twitter’s CEO in November 2021 after Jack Dorsey stepped down. At the time, Dorsey had fully endorsed Agrawal. Given Musk has fired him, Agrawal’s stint at the job was less than a year. Agrawal is an alumnus of the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT)-Bombay. He also has a PhD in Computer Science from Stanford University and has interned with other companies such as Microsoft, Yahoo, and AT&T Labs. He first joined Twitter in 2011, so he has worked here for nearly 11 years. Previously, he was Twitter’s Chief Technology Officer (CTO) and was appointed to the role in 2018. As reported previously, he played a role in the company’s technical strategy, especially around machine learning and AI. He also led efforts on scaling Twitter Ads systems.
While Musk has fired Agrawal, the relationship between the two did not have a rocky start, at least publicly. Back in April, when Musk had bought a majority stake in Twitter, Agrawal welcomed him. In fact, that’s tweet shows up first on his profile as a ‘popular tweet’. “I’m excited to share that we’re appointing @elonmusk to our board! Through conversations with Elon in recent weeks, it became clear to us that he would bring great value to our Board,” the now-sacked Twitter CEO had written in April this year.
I’m excited to share that we’re appointing @elonmusk to our board! Through conversations with Elon in recent weeks, it became clear to us that he would bring great value to our Board.
— Parag Agrawal (@paraga) April 5, 2022
Musk had also tweeted saying, “Looking forward to working with Parag & Twitter board to make significant improvements to Twitter in coming months!” But Musk then refused to join the board and followed it up as a take-it-or-leave-it acquisition offer.
Agarwal had tried to ignore all the chatter and tweeted towards the end of April, “I took this job to change Twitter for the better, course correct where we need to, and strengthen the service. Proud of our people who continue to do the work with focus and urgency despite the noise.”
But it was clear that Musk did not approve of the way things were being run at the company. In May, Musk changed his tune and started raising issues about the user account on Twitter, alleging that a large number of users were fake and that the company had not been honest about its user base.
20% fake/spam accounts, while 4 times what Twitter claims, could be *much* higher.
My offer was based on Twitter’s SEC filings being accurate.
Yesterday, Twitter’s CEO publicly refused to show proof of <5%.
This deal cannot move forward until he does.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) May 17, 2022
This forced Agrawal to issue a long thread in May 2022, countering the claim of fake users. He had written at the time, “We suspend over half a million spam accounts every day, usually before any of you even see them on Twitter. We also lock millions of accounts each week that we suspect may be spam – if they can’t pass human verification challenges (captchas, phone verification, etc).”
He added that figuring out which accounts “look fake superficially” is a hard challenge. He noted, “Our team updates our systems and rules constantly to remove as much spam as possible, without inadvertently suspending real people or adding unnecessary friction for real people when they use Twitter: none of us want to solve a captcha every time we use Twitter.”
Regarding the percentage of fake users being more than 5 per cent, he had written, “Our actual internal estimates for the last four quarters were all well under 5% – based on the methodology outlined above. The error margins on our estimates give us confidence in our public statements each quarter.” Musk, of course, wasn’t impressed and replied to this entire thread with a ‘poop emoji’.
Let’s talk about spam. And let’s do so with the benefit of data, facts, and context…
— Parag Agrawal (@paraga) May 16, 2022
The hard challenge is that many accounts which look fake superficially – are actually real people. And some of the spam accounts which are actually the most dangerous – and cause the most harm to our users – can look totally legitimate on the surface.
— Parag Agrawal (@paraga) May 16, 2022
Our actual internal estimates for the last four quarters were all well under 5% – based on the methodology outlined above. The error margins on our estimates give us confidence in our public statements each quarter.
— Parag Agrawal (@paraga) May 16, 2022Advertisement
Back in May, Agrawal had also fired Kayvon Beykpour, who was head of Twitter Product and Bruce Falck, lead for revenue product at the company. He had posted saying he would continue to make “hard decisions as needed,” and “embrace the deep complexities of our service and our business. And you can expect more change for the better.”
He also tackled the question of people calling him a ‘lame-duck’ CEO given most people expected that Musk would sack him when he took over the company.
It’s not all bad for Agrawal. He is entitled to a hefty company compensation of $42 million, according to research firm Equilar, which was reported earlier by Reuters. Keep in mind that Twitter has never confirmed this amount. The estimate includes a year’s worth of Agrawal’s base salary plus accelerated vesting of all equity awards. When Musk announced the takeover, Agrawal had reportedly told employees on Monday that the future of the social media firm is uncertain. Musk has plans to take the company private.