Twitter's Ev Williams: Being CEO is "kind of a sucky job"

The reasons behind co-founder Ev Williams’ decision to step down from the chief executive role at Twitter have been subject to much discussion, including a longish profile in The New York Times. And the subject came up again today at the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco, where Williams was the closing speaker.

Previously, Williams said he demoted himself so that he could spend more time focusing on developing Twitter’s products. (The Times piece basically supports that idea, although it also suggests that Williams wasn’t a great CEO.) He elaborated on that explanation today, saying that Twitter is currently “in a transition as a company.”

Until this year, Twitter spent all its time trying to build the infrastructure to support its rapid user growth, Williams said. That meant it couldn’t improve the site in a way that wasn’t “just superficial”, and it couldn’t develop much of a business model. That finally changed this year when a team at Twitter was able to focus on major site overhaul. Williams said his work on the redesign convinced him that a continued focus on product would be the best use of his time.

Interviewer John Battelle asked if Williams missed the CEO role. Williams acknowledged that it was a tough decision, but he added that he also had to think hard about taking over the CEO role from co-founder Jack Dorsey back in 2008. (The Times and others have reported that Williams convinced the board to push Dorsey out. Dorsey is still the board’s chairman and is rumored to be getting more involved in day-to-day operations.)

“For a long time I thought I didn’t want to be CEO of a venture-funded company,” Williams said. “It’s kind of a sucky job.”

That got a laugh out of Battelle, who is the CEO of venture-backed ad startup Federated Media.

Williams also talked about Twitter’s business model, which I covered in a separate post.

[photo by Dean Takahashi]


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