Last Friday evening, I wrote on this blog about culture at SpaceX and Tesla. At that very moment, it had been over ten days since Elon Musk had tweeted. Two hours later, Elon Musk returned to Twitter!
His tweet wasn’t about us.
Still, it was obviously synchronicity. Elon Musk sensed that a cool blog post was published about his companies, inspiring his return to the global town square.
As a refresher on last week, I noticed three common themes about company culture at SpaceX and Tesla: high talent, high intensity, and mission-driven. Expert call transcripts are excellent sources of information about company culture, which you can confirm for yourself: sign up for a free 14-day trial here.
Mission-driven, high intensity
This is a fascinating interview with a former marketing executive at Twitter, and the transcript is worth a full read.
The analyst notes that the expert’s time at Twitter coincided with the pandemic, and asks,
“Since you worked there before the pandemic and then during, were there any changes you saw in terms of advertising demand? If you could just speak to your experience during that time, that would be great.”
Here’s how the expert responds:
“Prior to the pandemic, Twitter very much had an office culture. It was assumed that you would go into the office on a regular basis. There was no reason not to go in. We had breakfast, lunch, and dinner served. It was just a really nice environment to go into. Senior executives felt that being at their desk, being around your team, and building on the culture of Twitter was really, really important to its success.
[Then] the pandemic happened. We were asked to no longer be in our offices. For a little while, there was considerable effort to try to recreate some of the culture. There were constant all-hands, poker nights online, comedy nights, all sorts of events like that. I don’t know whether or not you want me to talk about culture, but when I think about the pandemic, that’s the primary thing that changed. It wasn’t like the business cadence changed in any way.
There was this really important idea that Twitter had to keep doing its job during the pandemic and had to do it well. If anything, our business rigor stepped up during the pandemic as opposed to slacking in any way.“
This is a great example of the value of expert interviews. From the outside, it seems like advertising demand would be important. From the inside, that didn’t even register.
For our purposes, this sounds like a mission-driven culture to me, and ditto for high intensity.
What about talent?
Going back two full years, there are 19 transcripts in our library on Twitter. One expert mentions talent. It’s an old interview (July 2020), and the expert’s assessment is harsh. I’m not posting those quotes online.
It’s enough to note that it didn’t occur to 18 of 19 experts to mention talent at Twitter. Every single interview of a former executive or employee of Tesla, SpaceX, or one of their direct competitors mentions the high talent level at Tesla and SpaceX. 100% of them.
Finally, I’ll note that while I was writing this post, Elon Musk’s lawyers sent a letter to Twitter that states, “Mr. Musk is terminating the Merger Agreement.”