Musk does not itself run the day-to-day running of all its businesses. Instead, he leaves leaders under him to keep the operation buzzing, whether he is there or not, and to carry out his vision. Former employees and observers of his companies say he tends to control extremely hard-working loyalists, who are often relatively young because of their level of responsibility.
“He takes these kids and puts them in charge of really big things. He trusts them and knows they have no agenda,” said a former Musk’s employee who was not authorized to speak in public.
Musk’s strategy for leading companies has become a topic of huge interest, especially as he has given few clues as to how he will run Twitter, including whether he will retain its existing executives and directors. Appointing managers with similar qualities to his other companies – who are particularly fast-paced and require long working hours, say people who have worked with Musk – could fundamentally change the work environment on Twitter.
Twitter, which critics say is often chaotic and poorly managed, is known for giving its employees personal freedom to speak up to management and was among the first major US companies to take on telework. A former Twitter employee described on Twitter the strategy under co-founder Jack Dorsey: “The product organization had no belief or direction. Twitter was treated as valuable. Changes were dangerous.”
Parag Agrawal, a longtime engineer who had played a key role in the company for years, took over in November when Dorsey resigned. It is now unclear whether Agrawal has a future in the company he has barely had a chance to lead. He now has the unenviable role of comforting and motivating a workforce that is largely demoralized by the sale of the company.
When an entrepreneur offered sympathy in a tweet, Agrawal replied, “Thank you, but do not feel sorry for me. What matters most is the service and the people who improve it.”
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Twitter declined to comment.
The management style of Musk’s companies has mostly succeeded. He is the richest person in the world and admired for doing what many thought was impossible. He is largely responsible for pressuring the automotive industry to electrify and helped kickstart a space industry that was largely stagnant.
“He is one of the more exciting visionaries of our time, willing to have his say and is quite technical,” a former colleague told Musk, speaking on condition of anonymity due to legal restrictions. “‘OMG, it’s hard to do’ will not fly.”
According to people familiar with the matter, Musk has already set ambitions for Twitter, which will fundamentally change the user experience. For example, Musk wants to pay “creators” to produce content on Twitter, a strategy that helped build TikTok into a social networking network. Those on Twitter can expect a list of changes within a quick time frame, say people familiar with the matter.
Musk spends most of his time with Tesla, his high-flying electric car company. But he is also the CEO of SpaceX, the rocket company that contracts with NASA and the U.S. military and plans to send astronauts to the moon and Mars. He co-founded Neuralink, a company that aims to amplify the human brain with computer implants, and Boring Company, which wants to change transportation by building underground vacuum tubes capable of transporting people close to the speed of sound. .
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Musk, SpaceX, Boring, and Neuralink did not respond to requests for comment.
Ross Gerber, a major Tesla and Twitter investor, said he believes SpaceX is the better company to look at to find clues as to how Musk will run Twitter. There, Musk appointed Gwynne Shotwell, a 58-year veteran aviation chief, as president and chief operating officer. Shotwell helped SpaceX build its public contract business by launching satellites for the US Air Force and NASA. Musk encountered the Air Force when he was filmed smoking marijuana – a violation of federal law – on the Joe Rogan podcast.
In Shotwell, Gerber said, Musk found an operator who can handle public contracts, while Musk “handles the fun part of the business,” Gerber said. “Elon is not good at bureaucracies.” Gerber said Twitter may require its own “shotwell” to deal with the political landmines that come with running a social network. “He does not think politically. He does not care, ”Gerber said of Musk.
Under Shotwell, Musk has placed a huge responsibility on Mark Juncosa, a 40-year-old Cornell candidate who said in an interview with blogger Tim Urban that he was working in a car racing club when he was introduced to Musk. Juncosa is now known as a major problem solver on technical issues, said a person with knowledge of the case who was not authorized to speak in public. Juncosa’s title is Vice President of Vehicle Engineering.
At Tesla’s headquarters in Austin, Musk has put his trust in Omead Afshar, a 34-year-old biomedical engineering major from UC Irvine, according to one of the former employees who spoke on condition of anonymity. Afshar, whose LinkedIn profile says he was a part-time ski instructor at Mammoth Mountain, came from the pharmaceutical company Abbott, where he was head of “High Voltage Operations and Operations Business Systems.” Now he lists his job on LinkedIn simply as “Office of the CEO” at Tesla.
People who know Musk say he does not care about appearance and tenure, but will instead appoint people based more on their ability to get things done. Often, these people are young and tenacious, rather than knowledgeable, about climbing the ladder of business.
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Most people look at Neuralink and The Boring Company as Musk’s personal “moon shots” or bets on new technology that may not work.
Neuralink co-founder Max Hodak stepped down a year ago and the company has not announced a replacement. Hodak, who studied human-brain interfaces at Duke, founded a new company in that field called Science. People who are aware of the case say that a key player at Neuralink is the 33-year-old Dongjin “DJ” Seo, whose LinkedIn profile says he is the inventor of “neural dust” or small computer chips that can be sprinkled on a human brain and used to analyze it.
The Boring Company, which developed a tunnel excavator that is said to be able to dig seven miles a day, announced a $ 675 million venture funding round that puts the company’s value at approx. $ 5.68 billion. It’s run by Steve Davis, a former bar owner and frozen yogurt supplier.
Shotwell, Juncosa, Afshar, Seo, Hodak and Davis did not respond to requests for comment.
Yale professor Jeffrey Sonnenfeld warns that if Musk runs Twitter, as he does his other businesses, the results may not pay off as intended. Letting go of spaghetti-on-the-wall product innovations is not guaranteed to work, he says, pointing to Rupert Murdoch’s acquisition of Myspace, which ended with him selling it at a loss. Musk’s “flamboyance and grandiosity will undermine his entrepreneurial genius,” Sonnenfeld said.