Facebook has Zuckerberg. Apple had Jobs. But Twitter follows a different model. Its founding members are, for the most part, noticeably absent from the company's current executive roles. And neither founders nor executives behind Twitter have become name brands. Considering the success of the company, the masterminds behind the popular platform have flown relatively under the radar.
It's a unique story when viewed in inevitable comparison to Zuckerberg's Facebook model. Co-founders Evan Williams and Biz Stone aren't in charge of their innovative social platform today. Williams was pushed out as CEO and replaced with Dick Costolo in 2010. Williams and Stone have moved to work on new concepts, and recently joined forces to co-found online publishing platform Medium. Remaining co-founders Noah Glass and Jack Dorsey have diverged. Dorsey has fallen under the radar, while Glass has maintained the only executive role of his founding cohort, today serving as Twitter's executive chairman.
Many are waiting to see how the non-founder executive structure may portend success for Twitter's upcoming Initial Public Offering (IPO), announced appropriately with a Tweet on Thursday:
We’ve confidentially submitted an S-1 to the SEC for a planned IPO. This Tweet does not constitute an offer of any securities for sale.— Twitter (@twitter) September 12, 2013
But the debate over whether executive leadership in Silicon Valley benefits from a certain degree of distance from founding members remains up for debate. Writing in PandoDaily, Sarah Lacy calls Twitter's potential for a successful early IPO "the revenge of the non founder CEO." Her argument is that founder-CEO's may not be the answer, given how well LinkedIn performed next to founder-led Groupon and Zynga, other recent IPOs in the tech space.
So, who are the executives heading Silicon Valley's newest darling up for public offering? Here's an outline of the executive minds behind Twitter at this crucial juncture in the company's trajectory.
Costolo, 49, is currently the man in charge at Twitter. He was previously cofounder and CEO at web feed manager FeedBurner, Inc. He is currently an adviser at seed investment company LaunchBox Digital. Before working in the tech world, he spent a brief stint as an improv comedian and consultant in Chicago. His first tweet, when arriving as Twitter COO four years ago, read "First full day as Twitter COO tomorrow. Task #1: Undermine CEO, consolidate power."
Silicon Valley writer Sarah Lacy has said, Costolo’s “ability to put a room at ease and be self-deprecating makes him pretty much the anti-Zuck.”
The only Twitter executive who had a founding role, Dorsey was working at LiveJournal in 2000, an early collection of blogs, and had an idea to let regular people do quick status updates as cab drivers and dispatches did.
Dorsey was Twitter’s first CEO until he was replaced in 2008 by co-founder Evan Williams, who has since been replaced by current CEO Dick Costolo. Today Dorsey is executive chairman as well as CEO and co-founder of the payments company Square.
Dorsey sent the world’s first tweet: “just setting up my twttr,” he posted on March 21, 2006.
Ali Rowghani is the former CFO of Twitter and is currently COO. He formerly served as CFO and senior VP of strategic planning at Pixar Animation Studios. Before joining Pixar, he served as an associate consultant at McKinsey & Company, a global management consulting firm.
Adam Bain is currently the president of global revenue at Twitter. He was formerly the president of audience network at Fox Interactive Media, the monetization arm for MySpace, IGN, and other News Corp. digital properties.