As a tech industry professional, I’ve probably paid less attention to Elon Musk than most. I’ve read a couple biographies, admired his achievements at SpaceX and Tesla, and occasionally read about one of his social media controversies. But over 2+ decades, I haven’t thought much about Elon. But in the weeks since his Twitter buyout, I’ve started to ask the obvious question: WTF is up with Elon Musk?
I’m willing to give Musk the benefit of the doubt on his layoffs. It seems plausible to me that Twitter had too many employees, was spending too much on perks, and had become a haven for activists that prioritized their personal agendas over the company’s well-being. A quick look at the balance sheet suggests that at a minimum something had to change on the expense side of Twitter. And even if the layoffs were not well planned or executed, I believe in Musk’s right as de facto CEO to make changes he thinks are in the company’s best interests.
While Twitter has many problems to fix, there is no greater one than its stagnant growth. While Musk may think free speech on Twitter is a “battle for the future of civilization”, most of us know that stripped of bots, Twitter is a small platform used primarily by tech industry, media and government elites. If Musk is going to make money on his investment, he needs to turn it into a much bigger platform - which means Twitter needs time to appeal to much broader audiences. This requires promoting innovation while maintaining the commitment of the three constituents that unduly influence the platform’s future: its users, advertisers, and employees.
Musk has been a maverick throughout his career that has taken great risks to achieve great outcomes. The innovation his teams unleashed at SpaceX and Tesla have been nothing short of staggering, so I would never bet against his ability to achieve his vision of Twitter being the world’s town hall. But it’s hard not to wonder why he is making the Twitter turnaround so unnecessarily hard on his employees, advertisers, and users - and so hard for the rest of us on the sideline who want to root for Twitter.
So WTF is up with Elon Musk? I don’t know, but I will be watching it live… on Twitter.