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Twitter’s former Head of Product opens up: being fired, meeting Elon, changing stagnant culture, building consumer product, more | Kayvon Beykpour

Twitter’s former Head of Product opens up: being fired, meeting Elon, changing stagnant culture, building consumer product, more | Kayvon Beykpour


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Kayvon Beykpour was the longest-serving head of product at Twitter and was GM of Twitter’s consumer division until the platform was acquired by Elon Musk. He originally joined Twitter in 2015 through the acquisition of his company, Periscope, the largest live video streaming platform at the time. Periscope pioneered technology that inspired Instagram Live, TikTok Live, Facebook Live, and other social networks’ expansion into video streaming. In our conversation, we discuss:

  • The story of being let go from Twitter after Elon’s acquisition

  • How he turned Twitter’s stagnant culture around

  • Kayvon’s thoughts on the limitations of frameworks like Jobs to Be Done

  • Why Periscope failed

  • Advice for building consumer products

  • When to copy, when to innovate

Some takeaways:

  1. Kayvon drove change at Twitter by questioning the “sacred cows,” or deeply ingrained assumptions about what must not change in a product. At Twitter, these were things like sticking to text-based content and limiting tweets to 140 characters. Kayvon treated sacred cows like a “built-in roadmap” of innovations worth testing.

  2. Twitter accelerated cultural change and innovation through many small acquihires. Founders of acquihired companies led the teams behind Community Notes, Spaces, Super Follows, Fleets, Communities, Tipping, and more. Twitter acquihired entrepreneur types who were ambitious and then gave them responsibility and autonomy to develop new products.

  3. To change Twitter’s product culture, Kayvon also focused on building alignment at the leadership level, telling a compelling vision and strategy story repeatedly, hiring entrepreneurial founders through acquihires to take big bets, and identifying who was “on the wagon” or “off the wagon.” But he admits they weren’t swift enough at making organizational changes.

  4. Twitter made the mistake of internally competing with its own video platforms, such as Vine and Periscope, instead of integrating them seamlessly into the main product. When different teams and technologies were pitted against each other, it led to confusion and inefficiencies.

  5. While frameworks can offer valuable perspectives and guide decision-making, rigid adherence to them can lead to tunnel vision and unhelpful outcomes. Successful decision-making often requires a blend of framework-guided analysis and intuitive judgment, where the needs of both the business and the customer are carefully considered.

  6. Building 0 to 1 is extremely hard if the entire team isn’t bought into the vision. Identify people who are “on the wagon” when it comes to what you’re trying to do versus those who are “off the wagon.” The people who are “off the wagon” need to either get on or not be there.

  7. When deciding to copy a product, the North Star should be doing what’s right for the customer. Copying can be done in good taste or poor taste. With Spaces, Twitter sought inspiration from Clubhouse’s user experience but put their own spin on it and prioritized it as the #1 company initiative, having learned from their failure to move quickly enough with Periscope/Vine.

  8. Periscope failed because of two main reasons: poor retention that was masked by explosive growth in new markets, and taking too long to integrate with Twitter to leverage its scale and community. Kayvon believes a standalone live video app for short-form content is not durable—it needs to be surrounded by asynchronous features for the community to stay engaged.

  9. To get better at building consumer products, be a voracious user of products. Try new things, feel what works, what doesn’t, and what you like and don’t like. Hone your taste by consuming and learning from others’ creations. There’s no replacement for curiosity and having practice and muscle memory.

Listen now on Apple, Spotify, Overcast, and YouTube.

Where to find Kayvon Beykpour:

• X: https://twitter.com/kayvz

• LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/kayvz/

In this episode, we cover:

(00:00) Kayvon’s background

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

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

(21:09) Changing the product culture at Twitter

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

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

(34:28) Aquihires and their impact

(42:40) Tips for successful acquisitions and staffing

(47:00) The limitations of frameworks like JTBD

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

(57:44) Lessons from building Periscope

(01:00:41) Reasons why Periscope failed

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

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

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

(01:19:51) What Kayvon is building

(01:20:31) Lightning round


• Lessons on building product sense, navigating AI, optimizing the first mile, and making it through the messy middle | Scott Belsky (Adobe, Behance): https://www.lennyspodcast.com/lessons-on-building-product-sense-navigating-ai-optimizing-the-first-mile-and-making-it-through-t/

• What it’s like to sell your startup for ~$120 million before it’s even launched: Meet Twitter’s new prized possession, Periscope: https://www.businessinsider.com/what-is-periscope-and-why-twitter-bought-it-2015-3

• Walter Isaacson on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/walter-isaacson-b8b81520/

• Elon Musk on X: https://twitter.com/elonmusk

• Parag Agrawal on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/parag-agrawal-5a14742a/

• Jack Dorsey on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jack-dorsey-a43b07242/

• Blackboard: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blackboard_Inc.

• Keith Coleman on X: https://twitter.com/kcoleman

• Esther Crawford on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/esthercrawford/

• Twitter acquires Chroma Labs: https://tech.hindustantimes.com/tech/news/twitter-acquires-chroma-labs-story-aqvcRPAoYXqXJuAbefA6cN.html

• John Barnett on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/johnbarnettt/

• Jobs to Be Done framework: https://jobs-to-be-done.com/jobs-to-be-done-a-framework-for-customer-needs-c883cbf61c90

• Hot takes and techno-optimism from tech’s top power couple: https://www.lennyspodcast.com/hot-takes-and-techno-optimism-from-techs-top-power-couple-sriram-and-aarthi/

• Nike Is Unveiling the Kobe 11 Tomorrow Using Periscope: https://sneakernews.com/2015/12/13/nike-is-unveiling-the-kobe-11-tomorrow-using-periscope/

• Chris Sacca’s website: https://chrissacca.com/

• Facebook Live: https://www.facebook.com/formedia/tools/facebook-live

• Kevin Hart on X: https://twitter.com/KevinHart4real

• Clubhouse: https://www.clubhouse.com/

• Vine: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vine_(service)

• Paul Davison on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/davison/

• Rohan Seth on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/rohanseth/

Cryptonomicon: https://www.amazon.com/Cryptonomicon-Neal-Stephenson/dp/0380788624

Reamde: https://www.amazon.com/Reamde-Novel-Neal-Stephenson-ebook/dp/B004XVN0WW

The Name of the Wind: https://www.amazon.com/Name-Wind-Kingkiller-Chronicle-Book-ebook/dp/B0010SKUYM

Star Trek official site: https://www.startrek.com/

Dune: part 2: https://www.dunemovie.com/

Oppenheimer on Peacock: https://www.peacocktv.com/stream-movies/oppenheimer

• Tokyo Vice on Max: https://www.max.com/shows/tokyo-vice/e7d93204-7f98-4e62-ab52-6c1da053f942

Devs on Hulu: https://www.fxnetworks.com/shows/devs

• Nick Offerman on X: https://twitter.com/nick_offerman

3 Body Problem on Netflix: https://www.netflix.com/title/81024821

• Perplexity AI: https://www.perplexity.ai/

• Particle: https://www.particle.news/

• Crokinole board game: https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/521/crokinole

Production and marketing by https://penname.co/. For inquiries about sponsoring the podcast, email podcast@lennyrachitsky.com.

Lenny may be an investor in the companies discussed.

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Lenny's Newsletter
Lenny's Podcast: Product | Growth | Career
Interviews with world-class product leaders and growth experts to uncover concrete, actionable, and tactical advice to help you build, launch, and grow your own product.