Twitter’s ex-Head of Product on Elon, consumer products, culture, more | Kayvon Beykpour

Twitter’s ex-Head of Product on Elon, consumer products, culture, more | Kayvon Beykpour

Kayvon’s background (00:00:00)

  • First met Elon over FaceTime.
  • Known for changing Twitter's product team culture from stagnant to shipping all the time.
  • Shipped Super follows, communities, newsletters, topics, fleets, testing reactions, EDG to Edge photos, Twitter blue, Spaces, and live video while at Twitter.
  • Identified and challenged "sacred cows" within the company.
  • Kayvon was fired from Twitter during his paternity leave after the acquisition by Elon Musk.
  • Shares lessons and stories from transforming Twitter's internal culture.
  • Discussed the use of "Aqua hires" and up-and-coming product leaders to lead new initiatives and break through "sacred cows."
  • Touched on the concept of "jobs to be done."
  • Mentioned Elon's layoffs of most of Twitter's staff after the acquisition.
  • Shared lessons from building and shutting down Periscope.
  • Provided insights on building consumer products in general.

Getting Elon up to speed at Twitter (00:04:31)

  • Kayvon Beykpour, the former Head of Product at Twitter, met with Elon Musk after the latter's acquisition of the company.
  • Beykpour and Scott Bsky, a former podcast guest, were brought in to help Musk understand Twitter.
  • During a two-hour conversation, Beykpour and Musk discussed the past, present, and future of Twitter, addressing both positive and negative aspects.
  • Biographer Walter Isaacson was present but did not participate in the conversation.
  • Despite their differing approaches, Beykpour acknowledged Musk's ambition and unique perspective for Twitter's future.
  • Beykpour shared his insights on exceptional individuals within the company, many of whom remain empowered and enthusiastic.
  • Beykpour and Musk brainstormed product ideas, including Community Notes, Spaces, Communities, and the Creator program, which Twitter continues to invest in and develop.

The story of being let go from Twitter after Elon’s acquisition (00:11:34)

  • Kayvon Beykpour, Twitter's former Head of Product, found the previous functional organizational structure frustrating and inefficient.
  • After Parag Agrawal became CEO, Twitter shifted to a GM structure, promoting Beykpour to GM of consumer.
  • During Beykpour's paternity leave, Elon Musk joined Twitter's board, made an offer to buy the company, and had a public disagreement with the executive team.
  • Beykpour was let go due to a change in direction for the team, and Twitter signed a term sheet with Elon Musk to sell the company the following day.
  • Beykpour was initially excited about Musk's acquisition but ultimately decided to move on, feeling it was time for someone else to shape the product.
  • Beykpour acknowledges the tension that can arise when working under a strong-minded, product-oriented founder like Musk.
  • Beykpour believes there was a leadership gap between Musk and the rest of the company and felt he no longer had the opportunity to contribute his ideas under Musk's leadership.
  • Despite his departure, Beykpour is optimistic about the future of Twitter under Musk's ownership.

Changing the product culture at Twitter (00:21:09)

  • Kayvon Beykpour, former Head of Product at Twitter, discusses the challenges and strategies for changing the product culture at Twitter.
  • Beykpour emphasizes the importance of alignment from the top and consensus building among peers when driving cultural change.
  • He describes the initial challenges of changing Twitter's culture, including the resistance to taking risks and the need to overcome cultural hesitations and resistance to change.
  • Twitter's growth stagnation was reversed by refining the core product, such as switching from reverse chronological to ranked timeline.
  • Despite the growth, the company lacked ambition, creativity, and user-perceived changes.
  • Beykpour's mission was to address the lack of innovation and perceived stagnancy of the product by identifying and challenging "sacred cows" within the company, such as the 140-character limit and the inability to control tweets.

Building the “hide replies” feature (00:29:44)

  • Twitter lacked a feature to address unwanted replies, with the only option being to report them.
  • Kayvon Beykpour wanted to introduce a "hide replies" feature to give users more control over their feeds.
  • A PM on the team faced discouragement from an engineer, who warned that working on the feature could harm their career.
  • This incident highlighted the cultural challenges at Twitter, including hesitation to try new things and dissuading experimentation.
  • Elon Musk's vision for Twitter is to make it the most accurate source of information in the world.
  • He believes that Twitter should be a place where people can express themselves freely and openly.
  • Musk wants to make Twitter more transparent and accountable, and to reduce the amount of spam and bots on the platform.
  • Twitter's consumer products team is responsible for developing new features and improving the user experience.
  • The team is focused on making Twitter easier to use and more accessible to a wider audience.
  • They are also working on ways to make Twitter more personalized and relevant to each user.
  • Twitter's culture is one of innovation and experimentation.
  • The company encourages employees to take risks and try new things, even if they fail.
  • Twitter also values diversity and inclusion, and strives to create a workplace where everyone feels welcome and respected.
  • Twitter faces a number of challenges, including competition from other social media platforms, the spread of misinformation, and the need to improve its financial performance.
  • The company is also facing regulatory scrutiny and pressure from governments around the world to moderate content more effectively.
  • Twitter is a complex and challenging company, but it also has a lot of potential.
  • With Elon Musk's leadership and the hard work of its employees, Twitter can overcome its challenges and become the most accurate source of information in the world.

Sacred crows, taking bold bets, and reigniting growth (00:32:02)

  • Kayvon highlights two interesting points from the discussion.
  • The first point is about flipping the idea of sacred cows into a future roadmap, focusing on what should be done rather than what is feared.
  • The second point emphasizes that growth is most accelerated when focusing on the core and optimizing the existing experience, rather than solely relying on big bets and experiments.
  • Kayvon shares his thoughts on Elon Musk's leadership style and his impact on Twitter.
  • He believes that Elon is a visionary leader who is not afraid to take risks and make bold decisions.
  • Kayvon also discusses the importance of consumer products and culture in driving growth and innovation within a company.

Aquihires and their impact (00:34:28)

  • Kayvon Beykpour, Twitter's former Head of Product, focused on quick wins, new product launches, and entrepreneurial hires to drive cultural change.
  • Effective storytelling was crucial to inspire team members and attract talented individuals who were excited about reshaping Twitter's product.
  • Identifying and addressing misalignment within the organization was a challenge due to the lack of structure and fortitude to remove underperformers.
  • Elon Musk's leadership style is described as the opposite extreme, with extremely low tolerance for misalignment and low performance.
  • Twitter's strategy of acquiring small teams led by entrepreneurs to drive product initiatives proved successful, with examples like Community Notes, Fleets, and Super Follows.
  • Beykpour emphasizes the importance of finding individuals who can balance entrepreneurial drive with the ability to navigate and adapt within a large corporate structure.

Tips for successful acquisitions and staffing (00:42:40)

  • Creating a separate team or "Silo" for acquired companies can help prevent them from stagnating.
  • Staffing projects with people who are passionate about the idea and have the right skill set is crucial for success.
  • A team that believes in the project will work harder, be more creative, and have the drive to see it through.
  • It's important to avoid staffing based solely on who is available rather than who is the best fit for the role.
  • When staffing risky or speculative projects, it's essential to choose people who believe in the idea and want to learn whether it solves a customer problem.
  • Having a team that is passionate about the project can help overcome challenges and increase the chances of success.

The limitations of frameworks like JTBD (00:47:00)

  • Kayvon Beykpour, Twitter's former Head of Product, criticizes the strict adherence to the "jobs to be done" framework at Twitter, arguing that it led to burnout and was not particularly helpful.
  • He emphasizes the importance of nuance and balance when using frameworks and metrics, cautioning against blindly following processes without considering their impact on customers.
  • Beykpour suggests that "jobs to be done" can be useful in understanding customer needs and alternatives, but it should not be the sole governing principle for product development.
  • He also criticizes the over-reliance on OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) as the sole method for determining what to build, highlighting the potential for focusing on the wrong metrics or neglecting customer-friendly features.
  • Beykpour stresses the need for trade-off decisions that balance the organization's interests with customer satisfaction, as certain metrics or features may not always align with the customer's best interests.
  • He emphasizes the importance of balancing customer experience with business outcomes and suggests that sometimes, good old-fashioned judgment and product taste are necessary for making product decisions.

Signs you’ve gone too far with a framework (00:53:20)

  • Frameworks should not hinder innovation or prevent crucial discussions.
  • Overemphasizing short-term metrics like daily active users (DAU) can stifle long-term growth and innovation.
  • It's essential to strike a balance between adhering to a framework and allowing for flexibility and nuance.
  • Signs of an ineffective framework include making poor decisions, discouraging important endeavors, and hindering the exploration of new ideas.
  • Organizations should be open to adjusting frameworks when they are no longer beneficial.
  • Kayvon Beykpour, Twitter's former Head of Product, discussed topics related to Elon Musk, consumer products, and company culture.
  • Beykpour stressed the importance of focusing on metrics that align with the company's goals and objectives.
  • He emphasized prioritizing user experience and engagement over short-term metrics that may not lead to long-term success.

Lessons from building Periscope (00:57:44)

  • Periscope was the biggest live video streaming platform in the world, inspiring other social networks to create their own live streaming features.
  • Kayvon Beykpour personally onboarded users during the beta phase.
  • Kobe Bryant was invited to the beta by Chris Sacca and received a private broadcast from Beykpour.
  • During the demo, Kobe initially questioned the appeal of live streaming but later praised the bidirectional communication and interactivity of the platform.
  • This moment highlighted the unique and immersive nature of Periscope's live streaming experience.

Reasons why Periscope failed (01:00:41)

  • Periscope failed due to poor retention and a lack of focus on addressing core product issues.
  • Twitter acquired Periscope to leverage its scale and community to enhance its growth and durability, but the integration took too long.
  • Kayvon Beykpour, the ex-Head of Product at Twitter, believes a standalone consumer product focused solely on live video streaming may not be sustainable.
  • Successful platforms like Instagram and TikTok combine live features with asynchronous capabilities, allowing users to stay connected beyond live broadcasts.
  • Twitter had early insights into meaningful consumer behavior changes, such as spotting Vine, Periscope, and Instagram before they became popular, but often failed in the execution and follow-through, leading to missed opportunities.
  • Twitter didn't end up acquiring and keeping products like Vine or Periscope in-house but made smaller acquisitions and built competing products like Spaces to compete with Clubhouse.

The challenges of implementing video at Twitter (01:07:24)

  • Twitter had the opportunity to win in video but failed due to poor execution.
  • Twitter made the mistake of competing with its own acquired companies, Vine and Periscope, instead of integrating them holistically into the product.
  • This resulted in multiple teams working on different video features with different stacks and user experiences, leading to a subpar product experience.
  • Facebook, on the other hand, avoided these mistakes and became the dominant player in live video.

Copying ideas in good taste (01:12:05)

  • Kayvon Beykpour, Twitter's former Head of Product, emphasizes the importance of taking inspiration from other products while respecting the original idea and adding value for the customer.
  • Twitter's Spaces was inspired by Clubhouse's synchronous conversations, leading Twitter to prioritize and accelerate the project, making it a top company priority.
  • Beykpour expresses pride in his work on Vine and Periscope, acknowledging their positive impact on Twitter and the continuation of Periscope's features within the platform.
  • Despite potential opportunities for collaboration, Beykpour admires Clubhouse's passion and excitement for their product, finding inspiration in their work.

How to get better at building consumer products (01:17:58)

  • The best way to get better at building consumer products is to be a voracious user of products.
  • Try new things and see what works and what doesn't.
  • Pay attention to what you like and don't like.
  • This will help you hone your taste and build muscle memory for what makes a good product.
  • Be curious about new things and don't be quick to judge.
  • Sometimes things that seem dumb at first can become very meaningful.
  • It's always interesting to see people's creations and learn from them.

What Kayvon is building (01:19:51)

  • Kayvon is building a new company in the consumer space with a couple of co-founders.
  • They're not ready to talk about it yet, but we'll be hearing from them soon.
  • Kayvon is excited to be back building something again, especially with a small team after working for a large company.

Lightning round (01:20:31)

  • Kayvon Beykpour recommends science fiction and mystery books for stimulating the imagination, including works by Neil Stevenson, Patrick Rothfuss, and others. He finds inspiration in science fiction content like Star Trek, which influenced the development of Periscope.
  • During job interviews, Beykpour asks candidates about their past failures and successes to assess their self-reflection and risk-taking abilities.
  • He praises the AI tool Perplexity for its daily usability and ability to retain users.
  • Beykpour recommends Particle, a news app created by his wife's startup, which reimagines the news experience using AI.
  • He highlights a captivating board game called Krokinole that appeals to people of all ages.
  • Beykpour shares a life motto that shaped his work ethic, emphasizing the importance of always being productive.
  • Scott Bsky, a friend of Kayvon, is recognized for driving cultural change at Adobe, overseeing transformations from package software to cloud, non-AI to AI, and discrete tools to an integrated suite.
  • Bsky believed in the concept of live video sharing before it became a reality and encouraged the Periscope team by demonstrating the product's potential through FaceTime during the Ted conference in Vancouver. He was also one of the first investors in Periscope.
  • Kayvon Beykpour praises Elon Musk as a voracious user of products and tools, which contributes to his excellent product sense.
  • Kayvon is open to being contacted by viewers of the podcast who are working on interesting projects and may need help, advice, or an angel investor.

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