Parag Agrawal: Who is the new Twitter CEO?

At 37, Agrawal is the youngest CEO to lead an S&P 500 company. (Twitter via AP)

On Monday, Jack Dorsey stepped down as the head of Twitter, handing over the reins to Parag Agrawal, Twitter’s former chief technology officer (CTO).

Dorsey tweeted that the social media giant had ‘outgrown its founders as all companies eventually should’ and stated confidence in his successor, describing him as ‘curious, probing, rational, creative, demanding, self-aware, and humble’.

In an email announcing his departure, Dorsey explained thst Agrawal was the best choice to replace him as he ‘understood the company and its needs best’. 

‘Parag has been behind every critical decision that helped turn this company around,’ said Dorsey. ‘He leads with heart and soul, and is someone I learn from daily. My trust in him as our CEO is bone deep,’ said Dorsey.

Who is the new Twitter CEO, Parag Agrawal?

Not much is known about the new Twitter boss who keeps a low profile.

The 37-year-old Indian-born techie originally from Mumbai, graduated with a computer science and engineering degree from India’s prestigious Indian Institute of Technology Bombay (IIT-B).

Agrawal moved to the US in 2005 where he earned his PhD from Stanford University for his doctoral thesis, titled ‘Incorporating Uncertainty in Data Management and Integration.’

He had completed spells at AT&T Labs, Microsoft and Yahoo before joining Twitter as a Software Engineer, 10 years ago.

Since then it’s been a steady rise to the top for Agrawal, who was appointed as Twitter’s CTO in 2017 and was responsible for many of its scaling efforts in machine learning and AI. 

He was Twitter’s first distinguished engineer for his work on revenue and consumer engineering, according to his bio on Twitter’s website.

At 37, Agrawal is the youngest CEO in the S&P 500, a stock market index that tracks the performance of 500 leading publicly traded U.S. companies. 

He will receive an annual salary of $1 million-plus bonuses, the company said in a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

Moneycontrol reported that he will also receive restricted stock units (RSUs) valued at $12.5 million that will vest in 16 equal quarterly increments, starting February 1, 2022, along with performance-based restricted stock units in April 2022. 

Dorsey, on the other hand, had declined all compensation and benefits other than an annual salary of $1.40 since 2018 as a testament to ‘his commitment to and belief in Twitter’s long-term value creation potential’.

In true Twitter fashion, the new CEO was trolled on the platform by conservatives within hours of his appointment, for a controversial tweet of his from 2010 that quoted an episode of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

‘If they are not gonna make a distinction between Muslims and extremists, then why should I distinguish between white people and racists,’ he had said in the tweet.

Agrawal represents the ultimate ‘American Dream’ for many Indians who immigrate to the US for jobs in Silicon Valley.

With Parag’s appointment, Twitter joins the list of US tech giants with Indian-origin leaders at the helm. Google’s Sunder Pichai, Microsoft’s Satya Nadella, Adobe’s Santanu Narayan, and IBM’s Arvind Krishna were all born in India and immigrated to the US.

Agrawal has previously headed Bluesky, Twitter’s project to create a decentralized protocol for social media, which started in 2019, according to The Verge.

In January, Agrawal brought in Jay Garber, a crypto developer who worked on Zcash, to lead the Bluesky team. Graber has called Agrawal a ‘champion’ of the team from the start, which might be good news for crypto enthusiasts.

The new CEO also led Twitter’s brand new crypto team when Twitter launched tipping in cryptocurrencies and verification of non-fungible tokens in September. 

Agrawal is also known for his efforts to tackle discrimination in technology. In 2018, Agrawal was part of an effort to determine whether Twitter’s image cropping algorithm was racially discriminatory. 

During his tenure as CTO, the company launched a responsible machine learning initiative with Agrawal saying that the company’s approach ‘is rooted in trying to avoid specific harm that misleading information can cause’.

Agrawal will continue Twitter’s recent strategy to double its annual revenue by 2023 and focus on its long-term ambition to rebuild how social media companies operate.

The company is currently facing a growth slump as younger demographics turn to TikTok and Instagram. Moderating misinformation and hate speech is another significant challenge that Agrawal will need to tackle as CEO.

Dorsey reportedly stepped down from Twitter to focus on his payment platform Square and his successor has big shoes to fill. Dorsey steered the company through a high-profile hack and the controversial banning of Donald Trump.

Under Dorsey’s leadership, Twitter also acquired the email newsletter service Revue and launched Spaces, a feature that lets users host or listen to live audio conversations.

Twitter has the most users in India after the US and Japan but has recently faced skirmishes with the Modi government for moderation policies on hate speech and misinformation. It’s unclear if having an Indian-origin CEO will help the company on this front.

Agrawal joined the company when it had fewer than 1000 employees. He will now lead Twitter’s over 5000 employees.

‘Let’s show the world Twitter’s full potential,’ said Agrawal in his first tweet as CEO, starting off on an enthusiastic note.

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