There are few people as polarizing as Elon Musk. I’m not sure of anyone neutral On the richest man in the world. On the one hand, he has a lot of fans. As CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, Musk has accomplished things that few other entrepreneurs have.
For example, it’s largely responsible for turning mass-market electric vehicles (EVs) into something people will actually buy, putting Tesla worth more than $1 trillion. This many shareholders are very happy. Oh, and SpaceX is easily one of our most important national security assets.
On the other hand, Musk attracts a lot of criticism, largely because he spends a lot of time drawing attention to himself. He picks fights with his critics, mocks US senators who think he should pay more taxes, and runs online polls about whether he should sell his shares. His critics range from regular people who think he’s full of hot air, to the Securities Commission.
Then there’s the fact that a week ago he said he wanted to buy Twitter for $54.20 a share. It certainly increased the number of people on Elon-Musk’s side – which is an existential threat in the ledger. Is he really with that? What if musk was the best thing that could happen to Twitter?
Look, I get why you think I’m wrong. Musk has shared some powerful changes he’d like to make on Twitter. While no one is explicitly saying that, I think the biggest fear is that one of those changes includes a recalculation of former President Trump on the grounds that it’s, well, free speech, I think.
For a week, no one thought he was serious. Just because he’s the world’s richest person, all that wealth lies in his ownership of Tesla and SpaceX, which means he can’t go to an ATM and withdraw the $40 billion he would need to buy the 91 percent of Twitter shares he doesn’t already own.
Then, on Thursday, Musk presented the papers he had secured funding for. Seems he really means it this time. He also said he was considering bypassing the board (which he said had not yet responded to his initial offer) and going directly to shareholders to buy their stock.
If you’re a shareholder, and if you’re sticking with something better, you have to put a lot of faith in the leadership of a company that basically did nothing. It didn’t evolve, it didn’t innovate in any meaningful way, and it didn’t really solve any of its worst problems – all of them related to the core product.
That’s why I don’t think the best argument is about money. I think it has to do with the product.
Will Musk destroy Twitter? I don’t know. Sure, some of his ideas seem a little off, but Musk clearly loves to use Twitter. This means that if you’re a power user – the kind of person who might be more worried that Musk will screw things up – your incentives pretty much align with yours. He wants to make Twitter better. Perhaps you don’t agree with what the word “better” means.
The real problem is that Twitter doesn’t really know what it wants to be when it grows up, and – by social media platform standards – has been around for a while. As a result, it ran a lot like Lost Boys of Neverland. Right now, I’m sure a lot of people think that Musk is Captain Hook, but I don’t think he’s the villain in this story.
What if, instead, he was Peter Pan?
Sure, Peter Pan is impulsive and immature and has some real problems with authority. looks familiar? At the same time, he is the inspiring leader the Lost Boys need.
It’s not a perfect comparison, I know, but here’s the thing: Every company needs a visionary leader. Every team needs someone who can do two things: create a vision and direction for the company and then motivate people to move in that direction and hold them accountable if they don’t. Can you think of someone with more track records for both than Elon Musk?
Musk is clearly flawed, to say the least. It’s prone to over-promises—especially with regard to things like cars that will drive themselves. The fact that he is a supporter of free speech but is unclear about what that might actually mean is certainly problematic.
Listening to Musk’s interview with TED host Chris Anderson, it seemed clear that he hadn’t really thought about many of his proposals other than, “Sure, maybe fix this thing that I think is broken, it’s going to be easy. Just watch.” It won’t be easy, and he probably won’t be able to. Most of it is fixed.
For example, Musk suggests that the edit button might include “dismiss” all retweets. “I don’t know, I’m open to ideas,” he said. By the way, this would be a terrible idea.
Fortunately, Twitter doesn’t need Musk to get all the good ideas, it needs him to inspire others to have great ideas. His job would be to help those he chooses to run the company sort them out and motivate people to achieve really good things. This is what he does in his other companies.
You can hate Musk because he’s the richest person ever. You can hate him because you think electric cars are stupid, or because he means people on Twitter. It’s hard to argue that Musk is not in a unique position.
Maybe what Twitter needs to do is push to do trivial things like, you know, add 100 million users, or finally figure out how to make money with ads. Instead, perhaps the focus should be on making the product a better experience for more people.
I doubt it will be easy, but this is an argument that may not be worth Musk’s time. Not an argument that Twitter would be worse off with him as an owner.
I mean, the guy actually runs two companies, one of which makes electric cars that can drive over 300 miles on a single charge. The other literally launches rockets into outer space. Fixing Twitter certainly isn’t blatant science.