Two and a half years ago, Twitter was such a mess that Fortune magazine
ran a cover storycalled “Trouble @Twitter: Boardroom power plays, disgruntled founders, and CEO switcheroos are clipping the wings of this tech high flier.”
Back then Twitter didn’t have a working business model, and it couldn’t hang on to talented executives or engineers.
It was regarded as a once-hot startup that did not look like it was going to make it as an enduring business.
The Twitter executives who get the most credit for this turnaround are two you’ve heard of are executive chairman Jack Dorsey, a cofounder, and CEO Dick Costolo.
But there’s another Twitter executive industry sources say deserves as much credit for maturing the company — sharpening its business model, smoothing its operations, and getting it ready to be a scrutinized public company.
That’s COO Ali Rowghani. Rowghani joined Twitter in February 2010 as its CFO, leaving a job as CFO of Walt Disney animation studio Pixar. He became COO of Twitter in December 2012.
We asked around about Rowghani, and here’s what we heard…
Sources describe Rowghani as “quiet” but not overly introverted. He is “laser focused” — “a massive adult.” In meetings, he “sucks your brain,” asking probing questions and retaining all the useful information presented.
Rowghani is said to be the perfect complement to CEO Dick Costolo.
While Costolo, a “quick decision-maker,” can be “frenetic,” Rowghani is “more deliberative and reflective.”
They are a good team because Costolo needs to be out in the world “glad-handing,” and he feels he can do it because he trusts Rowghani to manage home base.
A source says Rowghani is also “able to handle people who might not otherwise get along with Dick.”
One source especially gives Rowghani credit for stepping away from the CFO role earlier this year.
“He did a good job as CFO when he was there, but it was clear he didn’t have the sills or appetite to do that long term,” says this source.
This source says Rowghani, who has a “low ego” and “geniuniely wants what’s right for the company,” found a role that better serves Twitter going forward.
Since, he’s taken the COO gig and run with it.
Some of Rowghani’s most important initiatives have been:
- Developing Twitter’s relationship with Apple, which has since built Twitter directly into its iPad and iPhone operating systems.
- Driving Twitter’s push into TV. Rowghani picked up on the fact that people using Twitter will turn on TV shows if other Twitter users are talking about them a lot. He realised this was Twitter’s entry into the huge pool of money spent on TV brand advertising. Because of this, Rowghani “was the driver of the strategy that led to the Blue Fin acquisition,” says a source.
- These days, Rowghani is leading Twitter’s effort to grow its userbase in the mainstream. He is closely analysing statistical data on what causes people to join Twitter, what causes them to leave, and what Twitter can do to improve itself in both situations.
Here’s Rowghani in action, speaking at a conference in May: