Twitter founder Jack Dorsey made headlines recently when he announced his sudden departure from the company leaving Parag Agarwal in charge. “I’ve decided to leave Twitter because I believe the company is ready to move on from its founders,” Dorsey wrote in his letter announcing the news. Notably, this is not the first time he has retired from his active role in the company. In 2008, Dorsey became the chairman of the board after co-founder Evan Williams took over as the CEO. He returned as the CEO in 2015 after Dick Costolo, who had replaced Williams, announced his resignation. In his 16 years long journey at Twitter, Dorsey has donned many hats. From co-founder to CEO to Chairman to Executive Chairman to interim CEO to CEO, his journey has been tumultuous at best. Now, he is leaving Twitter for good. Also Read - Amazon Great Republic Day Sale 2022: Top deals on purchase of robotic vacuum cleaners, smart speakers and more
This doesn’t mean that he would resign from the multi-million dollar corporation that he helped create completely. Instead he would stay on the board till “May-ish” during which time he will help Agarwal and Bret Taylor, who is new chairman of the board, with the transition. “And after that…I’ll leave the board,” the Twitter co-founder added in his letter. Also Read - Apple iPhone 13 offer on Amazon: Up to Rs 20,000 discount, here's how to grab it
Dorsey joins the increasing number of top tech executives – not just the founders – who are retiring from an active role in big tech companies. Of course, he isn’t alone. Earlier this year, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos left his position as the CEO of the company to focus on other projects including Blue Origin and the Earth Fund. More recently, Meta (formerly Facebook) announced that its Messenger head Stan Chudnovsky will be leaving the company in 2022. And those are just some of the more popular names that we have heard of in the recent time. Also Read - Amazon Great Republic Day sale is live for Prime members: Check deals on HP, Lenovo, Dell
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According to a November 2021 report by executive recruitment firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, the tech industry witnessed the second most CEO exits in October 2021. A total of 21 CEOs left tech companies in October this year. This number stands at 144 for the entire year. Interestingly, this number has only increased since last year. The firm reported that a total of 126 tech CEOs left their posts in 2020.
There are plenty of reasons for this trend…
Increasing public scrutiny
CEOs and founders of top tech companies such as Amazon, Apple, Google, and Facebook are facing increasing security from the US government. They are regularly being called to testify before the senate where they are being grilled for hours on their ability to put a leash on the spread of fake news, antitrust issues, health impact of the additive nature of their platforms’ and their role in the US elections among other things. For these top executives, increasing political scrutiny coupled with less than favourable public opinion after being adored for years must be jarring.
Microsoft founder Bill Gates stepped down as the CEO in 2000 but he remained on the board in various capacities before resigning completely in March 2020. Google co-founder Larry Page and Sergey Brin retired from the company (now Alphabet) sans fanfare in December 2019. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos left his position as the CEO of Amazon in mid-2021 and now Dorsey has announced his retirement from the company.
One exception to this trend has been Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg who is still going strong.
Next big thing
CEOs leave the company after spending decades building their companies and navigating them through tough and tumultuous times. This often leaves them with little time to focus on another passion or ventures. If anything, the journey of tech giants like Amazon, Google and Apple among others has been a testament of the time and effort that their CEOs have put in to steer them in the right direction. So, top tech executives take a back seat after holding the fort for decades and realising the vision that they had set for their companies. Alibaba founder Jack Ma retired to focus on teaching and his philanthropic ventures. Bezos, as mentioned before, left to focus on Blue Origin and his Earth Fund and Dorsey left to focus on Square (now Block) and cryptocurrencies.
Of course, these CEOs needed to find worthy successors to their crown which Bezos found in former AWS boss Andy Jassy, Dorsey found in Agarwal, Gates found in Satya Nadella and Google co-founders found in Sundar Pichai.
Break or retirement
Retirement is another reason that Challenger, Gray & Christmas cited in its November 2021 report. The report said that a total of 278 CEOs (across industries) left their positions in 2021 citing retirement as the reason. While that might be true for some tech executives, others leave simply to take a break from their decades-long career.
“I’ve been working nonstop since I was 16, with about two-week breaks between my projects…By the time I leave, it’ll be an amazing 7.5 years ride at Meta for me. I have no plans to retire, but I am looking forward to taking a good, many months long break, spending more time with my friends and even more time with my family, investing, helping companies, helping people, traveling, reading, exploring, and learning,” Messenger boss Chudnovsky wrote in his post announcing his decision.
Of course, not all departures are as pleasant. While some happen organically, others happen owing to lack of choice. Instagram co-founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger left Meta in September 2018. At the time, their departure seemed amicable. Months later, Systrom revealed that he left Facebook amid growing differences with Zuckerberg, changes to staff and increasing control of the Facebook founder on the app.
WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton cited similar reasons for leaving Facebook. In an interview with Forbes, Acton said that there was a disagreement on how Facebook (now Meta) should monetise WhatsApp. “I sold my users’ privacy to a larger benefit. I made a choice and a compromise. I live with that every day,” he had said in the interview.