Liz Gannes

Recent Posts by Liz Gannes

Twitter Still Hunting For Its Product Boss

Twitter has spent months searching for a product leader, and had multiple high-profile potential hires turn it down. But it is starting to make some progress.

This morning the company confirmed it had hired Satya Patel, a former AdSense product manager who was for the last four years focused on software and Internet investments as a partner at Battery Ventures, to be a director of product management.

Patel (pictured at right) is to start April 4, Twitter said. His hire was first reported by Fortune.

Patel will be a product leader, but not the product leader.

That top spot is still unfilled, and has been since Jason Goldman left the company at the end of last year.

Twitter is actively trying to persuade co-founder and Chairman Jack Dorsey to take a more active product role, as was reported yesterday by Business Insider. Dorsey, however, has a day job as CEO at Square, the payments company he co-founded in 2009.

Other than Dorsey, Twitter seems to have a fixation on hiring Google people.

Neal Mohan (pictured at left), a VP of product management at Google who runs DoubleClick, had also recently been in late-stage discussions to join Twitter, but he was persuaded to stay at Google, according to multiple sources. Mohan is a very significant player at Google and would have been a big catch for Twitter. However, having a monetization person lead Twitter’s product would have likely been a source of internal friction, those sources noted.

(Related: Late last year Twitter added former DoubleClick CEO David Rosenblatt to its board.)

Before Mohan, Sundar Pichai, Google’s VP of product management in charge of Chrome and Chrome OS, made a similar choice after being recruited for Twitter’s top product spot. Pichai decided to stay at Google in January after Google made him a large competitive counteroffer.

For Patel (and Dorsey, if that develops), Twitter product management would not be their only job. If Dorsey were to return to Twitter, he could potentially cede Square leadership to COO Keith Rabois, an experienced leader from stints at PayPal and Square and one of Silicon Valley’s leading angel investors. Meanwhile, Patel will maintain some of his board seats and remain a venture partner at Battery, as reported by Fortune.

The big allure of Dorsey is not only that the idea for Twitter sprang from his brain, but that he has been involved with the company all along, especially since last fall when Dick Costolo replaced Evan Williams as CEO. That would make him a lot easier to integrate than an outsider, sources noted.

Twitter’s employees and investors alike speak with admiration of Dorsey and express wistfulness that the company’s true product visionary was forced out in 2008 when Williams took over. Dorsey’s homecoming would be kind of messianic.

Meanwhile, Williams is much less involved in Twitter these days, having spent much of the winter in Tahoe, though he did come by the office yesterday to interview Lady Gaga.

However, Twitter hasn’t just been waiting in a holding pattern for a product head honcho to show up; others at the company have been working on various interesting features and products that will soon launch, said multiple Twitter sources. And importantly, the company recently migrated and stabilized its infrastructure, a necessary and overdue upgrade that is probably a good thing to do before any major product launch.

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