“Jack always said he ‘edited’ his team, and Dick looked at it the same way,” said a former employee. “He wanted to choose the top people around him, but he was ruthless with replacing his top people.”
Bain and Ali Rowghani, Twitter’s influential chief operating officer, have emerged as Costolo’s key deputies. A string of recent high-profile hires includes former TicketMaster CEO Nathan Hubbard as head of commerce; Geoff Reiss, former Professional Bowlers Association CEO, as head of sports partnerships; and Morgan Stanley executive Cynthia Gaylor as head of corporate development.
Meanwhile, once-powerful executives including product guru Satya Patel, engineering vice president Mike Abbott and head of growth Othman Laraki have left the company, with each departure stoking chatter about Twitter’s unusual rate of employee turnover.
Rank-and-file employees described a chief executive who will pause from his workday to laugh with them at YouTube clips but who will also nudge them to put in long hours.
At a conference last fall, Costolo told the audience he had sought out a new office for Twitter in central San Francisco partly because it would allow employees who lived in the city to go home for dinner with their families and still come back to work at night.
Despite his on-stage charisma, several employees describe a CEO who can seem aloof.
“He’s always very cordial,” said one former employee. “But try to get into a deeper conversation with him, and he’s thinking about how much time he has to do that, because his schedule is tight and he has a lot to do. He’s all business.”
Costolo’s single-minded focus on Twitter’s business goals has not been welcomed by everyone. It alienated many early Twitter enthusiasts who were interested in the political, social and technical potential of a unique new service that could fairly claim to express the sentiment of the world in real time.
Twitter has slowly shut off third-party access to its data, preferring to keep the information for its own business purposes. It has cut off many developers that want to build new features that would interact with the Twitter platform.
Its status as the most aggressive of all the global Internet companies in defending free speech and protecting its users from government spying is also in question. After years of essentially ignoring foreign governments that wanted it to comply with local laws, it announced last year that it had developed the technical capability to block Tweets by country, and it has recently begun to use it in countries including Germany and Brazil.
Twitter is currently banned in China, where the country’s own Twitter-like service, Sina Corp’s Weibo, has 500 million registered users.
“The most obvious effect of the IPO will be that it will push Twitter to go more international,” said Jillian York, the director for international freedom of expression at the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
“I don’t think there’s much evidence that their position on free speech has softened in the U.S, but internationally, yes. I think they’ve absolutely run into the complexities of opening offices in other countries, potentially even made some promises that they couldn’t keep.”
Yet Costolo has clearly kept his biggest promise: turning Twitter into a major media business. And in that regard, the IPO may be just the beginning.