Twitter co-founder and outgoing CEO Jack Dorsey threw in the towel earlier this week, announcing he’d immediately be succeeded by former Twitter CTO Parag Agrawal. Dorsey was scant on details explaining his departure, noting only that he believed it was time for the company to move beyond its founders. News of Dorsey’s exit was leaked by CNBC before being confirmed by the company soon after.
Despite the high-profile departure, relatively little is known about the 10-year Twitter veteran taking over the reins. Here are seven things we do know so far about Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal.
1. Agrawal Moved From Bombay to Stanford Before Landing at Twitter
The new CEO received an undergraduate degree in computer science and engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay. Agrawal then completed a PhD in philosophy and computer science at Stanford University between 2005-2012, according to his LinkedIn profile.
2. Agrawal Is No Stranger to Big Tech Companies
In 2006, Agrawal joined Microsoft for a brief four-month research role before moving on to research positions at Yahoo and AT&T, according to LinkedIn. Agrawal first arrived at Twitter in 2011, just months after Dorsey returned as CEO following his removal from the top position in 2008.
3. Agrawal Rose Through Twitter’s Ranks Over a Decade
This year, I’ve been so grateful to everyone who put their own health at risk to protect and serve others.
— Parag Agrawal (@paraga) December 16, 2020
When Agrawal started at Twitter, he reportedly worked on a project related to increasing the relevance of users’ tweets on their timelines and audience growth. He then received the title “distinguished engineer” for his impact on audience growth, according to Forbes. Agrawal was named CTO in 2018, nearly seven years after joining the company.
4. Twitter Accelerated Its Use of AI Under Agrawal
As CTO, Agrawal focused on “scaling a cohesive machine learning and AI approach,” across Twitter’s consumer and infrastructure team, a spokesperson previously told CNBC. Agrawal spoke in some detail on Twitter’s efforts to use AI to detect bot accounts and label potentially harmful content with the Atlantic’s CEO, Nicholas Thompson.
5. Agrawal Is Interested in a Decentralized Approach to Social Media
Since 2019, Argawal has been involved in Bluesky, a project funded by Twitter aimed at creating a decentralized social media standard. Though details around Bluesky remain scarce, the project named its first leader, Jay Graber, earlier this year. Dorsey has previously described Bluesky as the “standard for the public conversation layer of the internet.”
I’m incredibly excited for Twitter to kick off @bluesky, a new independent effort to develop a decentralized standard for social media. Please see @jack’s thread for more context. I have the privilege of finding a lead for this team. https://t.co/KvpYe7ptXh
— Parag Agrawal (@paraga) December 11, 2019
6. Dorsey Said Agrawal has Been Behind “Every Critical Decision” That Helped Turn Twitter Around
In his resignation letter, Dorsey said Agrawal had been unanimously appointed by Twitter’s board and had been his personal pick to lead the position for some time. “My trust in him [Agrawal] as our CEO is bone deep,” Dorsey said.
Former Twitter employee speaking with the Wall Street Journal similarly described Agrawal as a “close friend” to Dorsey.
7. Agrawal May Face Push Back From the Right
Just hours after being named CEO, some critics pointed to Agrawal’s previous statement on Twitter’s response to handling misinformation as evidence of censorship against conservatives. Specifically, critics pointed to a 2020 interview Agrawal gave to the MIT Technology Review in which he said Twitter’s “role is not to be bound by the First Amendment, but our role is to serve a healthy public conversation.”