A Bold Call on Elon Musk and Twitter: part 1

So, a lot has been happening with Twitter.

Instead of a long recap followed by limited analysis, I wanted to offer a basic, probably uninformed, tentative position. I think that Elon Musk will survive. I think that Twitter will survive. And I think that Elon Musk will have generally positive effects.

There is no way this is true now. The current episode of unpaid bills and staff layoffs are pretty brutal to watch. Twitter feels like it’s spiralling. However, Mr. Musk claims to have been in a similar peril before, with Tesla and SpaceX. These almost unimaginable companies twenty years ago are up and running. We’ve all seen the videos of Mr. Musk talking about sleeping on the floor of the office, or working with double digits of people to grow into a multi-million dollar company. Or something like that.

But that’s the first part of my intuition. The second part is that media coverage of Mr. Musk sometimes feels…underestimating, given what he has done. I want to be clear, the Elon Musk fanboys aren’t much better. So, generally, my uninformed, irrational intuition is that the current reports behind Elon Musk’s situation overemphasise the peril, while Mr. Musk’s capacities are pretty high.

I also have two reasons why this might be silly, and Twitter is actually in a really precarious situation. Firstly, Twitter is literally nothing like SpaceX or Tesla. It is an established company, with its deficiencies. Elon Musk might excel at starting up desperate companies and growing them from precarious situations. I’m not sure how good his skillset is for a company that is already running with its own infastructure and team. We’ve already seen these frictions with how Twitter is trying to streamline corporate chains. Firing thousands of people—well-paid, prestigious people—is a lot harder, and hurts the company’s reputation, a lot more than, say, not hiring thousands of people.

Secondly, Twitter is really important, and carries a lot more weight and scrutiny in modern discourse. In many ways, it feels like Elon Musk has less room to fail. One more mistake Twitter-blue sized, and you get a plummeting in investor confidence and user base size. This also matters long-term, because Elon Musk’s original reason for buying Twitter (free speech, content moderation, etc) are also facing backlash already (cf the rise in bot accounts, hate speech, spam, etc). If your long-term vision, a month into the job, is getting backlash—that does not bode well in 99% of cases.

But Elon Musk is the 1% in so many ways. Only time can tell how this episode will turn out. For now, we’ll see. I like Twitter, I don’t want to see it go, and I really hope my bold, uninformed call is right. See you soon, I’m sure.