Elon Musk’s deposition for Twitter vs. Musk suit may have been rescheduled for next week, but the public got a little more inside dirt on his plans for Twitter, thanks to the release of two slideshow presentations and plenty of text from Musk.
The texts show Musk and various contacts — including former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, entrepreneur Jason Calakanis and podcaster Joe Rogan — talking about everything from blockchain to putting Oprah on Twitter’s board. (That part might be a joke, but with Musk it’s hard to tell.) But above all, they’re a chronicle of the deal’s slow implosion.
Twitter “was never meant to be a company.”
The lyrics are easy to read and you can check them out here if you’re so inclined. They’re mostly divided into two parts: the head-scratching frenzy surrounding Musk’s Twitter acquisition and a prolonged venting session until the acquisition went south.
The first key section begins about a month before Musk’s $44 billion bid to buy Twitter. In March 2022, Jack Dorsey reached out one of Musk’s tweets, part of a thread complaining about Twitter’s lack of free speech. “A new platform is needed. It can’t be a company. That’s why I left,” Dorsey says. He’s trying to sell Musk on a new decentralized communications protocol, saying Twitter “was never meant to be a company.” Musk more or less agrees, but with a caveat: “I think it’s worth both trying to move Twitter in a better direction and doing something new.”
Dorsey expresses doubts about it, but when Musk buys a significant stake in Twitter, Dorsey is extremely on board. “I’ve wanted it for a long time. I was very emotional when I learned that it was finally possible,” he wrote after the initial announcement that Musk would be appointed. He’s equally enthusiastic about Musk’s meeting with current CEO Parag Agrawal: “Parag is an amazing engineer.”
Goes through various text message subplots (Kimbal Musk really wants to talk to Elon about Web3), one theme stands out: While the old Twitter CEO pushed to bring Twitter and Musk together, Musk’s patience with the new one ran out almost immediately. Musk and Dorsey are on the same high wave. Meanwhile, Agrawal portrays himself as a current CEO and former engineer at a very large company that is about to take a big risk.
“CEO of Twitter is my dream job.”
This is not immediately a problem. “I just want Twitter to be as awesome as possible,” Musk gushed in an early conversation after his investment, touting his expertise in “hardware.” Agrawal playfully tries to make a bit of a developer-to-programmer connection: “I was a CTO and I’ve been in our codebase for a long time … treat me like an engineer instead of a CEO and let’s see where we go.”
But two days later, Agrawal made a major mistake: He asked Musk to stop tweeting. “You’re free to tweet ‘Is Twitter dying?’ or anything else about Twitter — but it’s my responsibility to tell you that it doesn’t help me make Twitter better in the current context,” Agrawal wrote on April 9. “I’d like the company to get to a place where we’re more resilient and less distracted, but we’re not there right now.” two minutes Musk later called joining the board a “waste of time” and said he would propose taking Twitter private. (In the Web3 B storyline, he simultaneously texts Kimball about how to start a paid blockchain social network.)
“Fixing Twitter by chatting with Parag isn’t going to work,” he told Twitter chairman Brett Taylor tersely. “Drastic action is needed.”
(Meanwhile, in an ongoing C-schedule that is away the funniest part of these text messages, Jason Calacanis offers Musk a steady stream of greedy proposals that include raising the bid price, moving Twitter’s headquarters to the Gigafactory in Texas, and bringing YouTube creator MrBeast to Twitter to win over Zoomers and Millennials. Also, Calakanis is ride or die for Musk, will jump on a grenade for him, and tells Musk, among other things, “You have my sword” and “CEO of Twitter is my dream job.”)
“Parag is just moving too slowly and trying to please people who won’t be happy no matter what he does.”
Dorsey is completely on board with the acquisition – “I’m not going to let this go down and I’m going to do whatever it takes. It is too critical for humanity,” he promises. (Again in the B plot, Musk texts Boring Company CEO Steve Davis about a “blockchain-based version of Twitter” where users pay in Dogecoin, then happily concludes that “blockchain Twitter is not possible.”) And Dorsey is trying to smooth things over with Musk and Agrawal: “He’s really great at getting things done when he’s given specific direction,” Dorsey tells him.
Musk doesn’t deal with that. “Parag is just moving too slowly and trying to please people who won’t be happy no matter what he does,” he says. Dorsey diplomatically takes the glass as half full, saying that “at least it’s clear that you can’t work together.” But that’s the last message we get from him — as Musk sends a text message to Rupert Murdoch’s heirs Catherine and James to say he’s too busy with his crypto startup to rejoin Twitter.
And all this is happening while Musk is still mostly excited about buying Twitter. (This section ends perfectly with venture capitalist Steve Jurvetson suggesting that Musk hire his son to run operations—again, feeding frenzy.) Skip to May, and he’s complaining to banker Michael Grimes that Twitter “doesn’t ask good questions and isn’t had a good comment” in a meeting, just before asking for a delay in the deal in case of World War III and suggesting that less than half of Twitter users are real.
There has been much public friction between Musk and Agrawal, and Dorsey’s support for the acquisition has also been known. But based on the series of text messages here, it’s striking how quickly things go downhill with Agrawal and how little Dorsey manages to sell Musk that this is all a good idea — something Musk seems to be doubting almost as soon as he concludes your deal.