Here are some top contenders Elon Musk could choose to be Twitter’s new CEO
The Twitter saga never ends.
Over the weekend, Twitter CEO Elon Musk asked his followers to vote in a poll about whether or not he should step down as the head of the social media platform, adding that he would “abide by the results of this poll.” By the time the poll closed on Monday morning, 57.5% of more than 17 million people chose a resounding “Yes.”
Now, it might be time to figure out who will replace the Tesla billionaire and his $44 billion baby. After Musk’s $44 billion acquisition of Twitter closed in late October, several members of Twitter’s senior leadership were fired, including the firm’s chief executive Parag Agrawal.
But Musk has brought in his own advisors during his Twitter tenure. Several members of Musk’s inner circle have appeared in Twitter staff directories, according to the Washington Post. David Sacks, a fervent conservative donor and founding chief operating officer at Paypal, and Jason Calacanis, an internet entrepreneur and angel investor, were both listed as staff software engineers and had official corporate emails.
So who will replace Musk? The group of Musk acolytes tapped to help manage Twitter after the Musk takeover provides a good shortlist for who could eventually get the top job. Here’s a quick rundown of the contenders in the race to be Twitter’s next chief executive:
Sacks is a 50-year-old investor and CEO of Craft Ventures, a venture capital firm he cofounded in 2017. He has a track record of successful investments that include Facebook, Slack, Uber, and others, according to his website.
He also has experience rolling up his sleeves and springing into action with troubled companies. In January 2016, he stepped in as interim CEO for $4.5 billion SaaS startup Zenefits after regulators found several compliance issues. His takeover of the firm was praised by officials for “righting the ship.”
Sacks and Musk go way back to the days of PayPal, where Musk was briefly CEO and Sacks was the founding chief operating officer from 1999 to 2002. And of course, Sacks is a member of the formidable “PayPal mafia,” the group of former PayPal employees and founders who went on to create some of the most valuable tech companies.
Sacks has been an important and outspoken character throughout the drama of Musk’s Twitter acquisition and the lawsuit it spurred. He tweeted a middle finger to Twitter’s lawyers after he was subpoenaed, and followed it up with a video of a character in the film The Wolf of Wall Street peeing on a subpoena while yelling profanities to a cheering crowd.
He claimed to have nothing to do with the Twitter deal during an episode of his All-In podcast, and said he was being harassed by Twitter.
The New York Times reported in October that Sacks was holding meetings at Twitter.
Of all the would-be Twitter CEOs, angel investor Jason Calacanis’s ambitions are the least hidden.
“Put me in the game coach! Twitter CEO is my dream job,” Calacanis texted Musk in April, shortly after the news broke that the Tesla CEO was buying Twitter.
Calacanis is an investor in various technology startups, and cohost of the All-In and This Week in Startups podcasts. He’s been on the scene since the dotcom boom, cofounding a publishing company called Weblogs and selling it to AOL in 2005 for $30 million.
Calacanis was one of the first investors in Uber, putting $25,000 into the fledgling ride-hail service in 2009—an investment that was worth $124 million by 2019, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The voluble Brooklyn-raised investor’s text messages to Musk, including a now famous typo (“I’d jump on a grande for you”), surfaced as a result of the lawsuit when Musk sought to back out of the Twitter acquisition.
In his texts early on in Musk’s pursuit of Twitter, Calacanis fired off loads of suggestions to transform the social media platform, like making verification checks more accessible, requiring Twitter employees to work from the office two days a week, and giving content creators 100% of ad revenue up to their first $1 million. He also dubbed Twitter Blue, a $4.99 monthly subscription that gives users access to premium features, “an insane piece of shit.”
When it comes to hands-on experience with social media, it’s tough to beat Krishnan—he’s led product teams at Twitter, Facebook, and Snap.
Today Krishnan is a crypto investor and partner at Andreessen Horowitz, the elite venture capital firm also known as a16z. He’s also well-known for running a chat show with his wife called the “Good Time Show” which has featured prominent figures such as Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk, and Steve Balmer.
Born in Chennai, India, Krishnan began his career at Microsoft in Redmond, Washington. After news reports in autumn mentioned his involvement with Twitter’s transition under the Musk regime, Krishnan tweeted that he was part of a group “temporarily” helping Musk, but that he was also “very much” still in his day job as a VC.
“I (and a16z) believe this is a hugely important company and can have great impact on the world and Elon is the person to make it happen,” he said.
Krishnan was in charge of Facebook’s ad network and was poached by Snap in 2016 to run the company’s growth and revenue team. He then went to Twitter in 2017 to lead core consumer product teams, and drove Twitter user growth more than 20% year over year in roughly two years, according to his LinkedIn.
Kayvon Beykpour was the cofounder and CEO of Periscope, a video streaming app, which was acquired by Twitter in 2015. Due to decreased usage and expensive maintenance costs, the service was terminated in March 2021.
After the acquisition of Periscope, Beykpour became Twitter’s general manager of consumer products, leading an array of teams across product, engineering, design, and more, according to his LinkedIn.
Beykpour was fired by then-CEO Parag Agrawal in May 2022 as Twitter grappled with Musk’s planned takeover, the New York Times reported. He was replaced by Jay Sullivan, who was the VP of product at the time.
Axios reported in October that Beykpour was spotted at Twitter HQ now that Musk is in control.
Would Beykpour seize the CEO role as an opportunity for vindication after his ousting and the snuffing of Periscope? Or was he simply being a good soldier and providing helpful insight and advice to Twitter’s new owner?
Dec. 19, 2022: This story has been updated following recent developments