On Twitter and Salesforce, Bret Taylor gets noticed
Bret Taylor has been involved in some of the tech industry’s most notable innovations, from Google Maps to Facebook‘s
“Like” button and founded businesses that have sold for hundreds of millions of dollars.
But until recently, the 41-year-old Oakland, Calif. Native was largely unknown outside of Silicon Valley. Then, days later at the end of last month, Mr. Taylor was appointed to help run two of the biggest tech companies, as chairman of the board of Twitter. Inc.
and Co-Managing Director of Salesforce.com Inc.
âIt has been an unusual week in my life,â Mr. Taylor said in an interview.
Promotions catapult the trained engineer into the limelight as one of Silicon Valley’s most prominent executives, and allow him to bridge the gap between companies at opposite ends of the tech spectrum: Twitter is for Internet users thirsty for buzz. Selling power‘s
The core software helps companies’ sales teams manage their customers.
Mr. Taylor said the roles complement each other: Tracking mainstream tech for Twitter is helping it innovate in business software, as many of those same trends are also affecting Salesforce business customers, he said. he declares.
âDay to day, however, they obviously exist in two really different worlds,â he said.
He faces challenges in both. Salesforce, which he joined in 2016 and where he was previously president and chief operating officer, has benefited from the cloud computing boom in the pandemic era, but his stock has been declining over the past month. Its latest quarterly outlook disappointed investors as the company’s earnings estimate for that quarter was lower than analysts expected.
His entrepreneurial pedigree, technical skills and product background made him endearing to Salesforce Co-Founder and President Marc Benioff, who called Mr. Taylor a “phenomenal industry leader” and trusted friend of mine. he announced him as his co-CEO. The two get along well, say people who have seen them working together, in part because they share the experience of starting their own businesses.
Salesforce, however, has tried the co-CEO approach before, and it ended quickly. In 2018, Keith Block was promoted to Co-CEO alongside Mr. Benioff after five years as President and COO. He left 18 months later, saying he was moving on to the “next chapter.”
At Twitter, Mr. Taylor will focus on helping new CEO Parag Agrawal, who took over from co-founder Jack Dorsey on the same day Mr. Taylor was promoted to president, strive to meet ambitious growth goals. In February, Twitter announced goals to reach 315 million daily users and $ 7.5 billion in annual revenue over the next two years. Twitter could end 2021 with around 218 million daily users and around $ 5 billion in annual revenue, according to analysts polled by FactSet.
The 15-year-old has kept pace with the growth of its competitors, especially Facebook, which has a user base roughly 10 times larger in its family of apps. Twitter has experimented with new features and products with mixed success. Its shares have fallen more than 20% this year, while the Nasdaq Composite Index has gained more than 17%.
Mr Taylor said his main goal at Twitter is to work with Mr Agrawal, whom he has known since 2016 when he joined the board, and to ensure that Mr Agrawal is successful in his career. new functions. MM. Dorsey and Agrawal praised Mr. Taylor’s leadership and technical qualities.
“He understands entrepreneurship, risk taking, large-scale business, technology, products, and he’s an engineer,” Mr. Dorsey said in a letter to Twitter employees.
The two current employers of Mr. Taylor have a common history: in late 2016, Mr. Benioff attempted to devise a Twitter acquisition by Salesforce. Mr. Taylor had joined Twitter’s board shortly before Salesforce bought Quip, a workplace-focused document collaboration startup Mr. Taylor co-founded, for around $ 582 million. With one foot on both sides, Taylor says he recused himself from Salesforce’s discussions on Twitter. Mr. Benioff dropped the lawsuit after the shareholders’ pushback.
Most recently, Benioff spoke out criticizing social media companies and their executives for misinformation and other prejudice. He compared Facebook to cigarettes. Mr Taylor said his own views on social media have changed since leaving Facebook.
“Marc has a lot of personal opinions that he expresses, which I don’t all agree with,” Taylor said. Generally speaking, Mr Taylor said he believes in the way platforms encourage public debate. âThis is not without risks. I think this is a very important conversation for society: how can we enjoy the benefits of this public conversation without some of the negative ramifications? “
Mr. Taylor worked at several of the biggest tech companies at important times. At Google in the early 2000s, he was product manager for Google Maps, one of the company’s first big hits beyond search. He and three colleagues left to form FriendFeed, a startup that aggregated updates, posts and other snippets from other social media platforms to create personalized feeds. Facebook acquired it in 2009, in part to hire Mr. Taylor and his co-founders, a person familiar with the deal said. FriendFeed invented a “Like” button, which Facebook added to its service.
At Facebook, where he became CTO, Mr. Taylor led an initiative for outside developers to connect their tools and products to Facebook. With minimal oversight, the decision to provide data access to outsiders ultimately led to data sharing scandals after his departure, including Cambridge Analytica.
Mr Taylor said he was motivated by concerns that users might want to export their data, and that Facebook had created a “walled garden” around its access to user information. It was another time, when the # 1 thing a lot of people were doing on Facebook was Farmville, a virtual farm game, he said.
âThe wider implications of these networks – I don’t think we fully understood, I think no one fully understood at the time,â Taylor said. Mr. Taylor left Facebook in 2012 to start Quip.
Mr. Taylor’s life is woven into the fabric of the tech industry. He was born in Oakland and raised in East Bay where he attended public schools. One of his first gigs was in tech: helping local businesses build websites.
Mr. Taylor holds a BA and MA in Computer Science from Stanford University. Both of her parents also went to Stanford. He remains a devoted fan of the school football team. He still lives in East Bay with his wife and three children. He says he enjoys cooking for his family, his favorite dish being pasta Bolognese.
People who have worked with Mr. Taylor say his ability to combine technical sensitivity with business acumen has helped him succeed. âBret can get into the weeds with technical products, and his understanding of software gives him a huge advantage as a product manager and businessman,â said Avichal Garg, Mr. Taylor’s former colleague at Google. and Facebook and co-founder. from Electric Capital, a cryptocurrency-focused venture capital firm.
Mr. Taylor is still taking some time to write code. When wildfires hit the West Coast and air quality suffered, Taylor wrote his own iPhone app to put air quality readings on a map.
At Salesforce, Taylor quickly established himself as one of the more technical senior executives in a company whose culture is defined by sales and which former employees say struggles to retain technical talent.
Ashwini Zenooz, Salesforce’s medical director until early this year, said Mr. Taylor would take the time to listen to the needs of customers in a complicated area like healthcare. âHe was able to make the connection,â said Dr. Zenooz, who recalls Mr. Taylor hanging up on the phone with an insurance executive, then quickly using what he had just learned to help an executive. health care on a next call.
Mr. Taylor has been a force behind Salesforce’s âCustomer 360â strategy to integrate its various applications. And he was the architect of last year’s $ 27.7 billion purchase of workplace collaboration company Slack Technologies, the largest ever acquisition by Salesforce.
Mr. Taylor’s ability to multitask may determine his future. Mr Dorsey, who shared his time with his other company, Square, had to face the wrath of investors who had hoped he would focus on one role.
Mr. Taylor does not foresee such a problem for himself. âI feel very comfortable with the time commitments and I knew what I was getting myself into,â he said.
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