What do Elon Musk, Twitter and the FIFA World Cup have in common?

Reading time: 4 minutes

TLDR; They all told us who (or what) they were in advance.

(We just chose to ignore them and drone on about why things turned out differently.)

Let’s take a look at all three.

Elon Musk

I’m not sure I need to drill down on Elon Musk’s business practices.

Just for the fun of it, why not Google “what’s it like working for elon?” and see what the results are.

Here’s a shortcut: He treats businesses as if they are a business.

Not a friend group or a family. It’s a business. And Elon makes business decisions.

If you scroll through that list of Google results, you might see a theme being formed.

He’s racing against time to build not just a better breadbox, but an entirely new industry (that’s likely been stagnant for years).

And time is money.

And high costs don’t do time or money any favors.

It’s crazy that we’re putting all this on Elon, especially when Jack Dorsey published this apology:

I own the responsibility for why everyone is in this situation: I grew the company size too quickly. I apologize for that.


I’m guessing that if you are reading this article, you’ve read or heard about some of the craziness at Twitter. Here, I’m focusing on two specific pieces: leadership and finances.

(I think of these as inputs–leadership–and outputs–financials. A company’s financials are only as good as the company’s leadership.)


Here’s what leadership has looked like at Twitter over the last 15+ years:

  • 2006: Twitter is founded
  • 2006: Evan Williams is CEO
  • 2007: Jack Dorsey is named CEO
  • 2008: Evan Williams is named CEO
  • 2010: Dick Costolo is named CEO
  • 2015: Jack Dorsey is named CEO
  • 2022: Elon Musk is named CEO

That’s a lot of leadership changes over a short amount of time.

(My guess: There will be yet another new CEO named in 2023.)

If we generally agree that the CEO (and the executive team) plan and drive an organization’s strategy, how do the organization’s employees, partners and customers invest in a company that looks so rudderless on the outside?

Inside the company, I can see how keeping the lights on can turn into a seemingly strategic plan. This is why nothing big–at least externally–has broken with Twitter’s infrastructure.

Twitter employees have been dealing with this type of confusion for the last decade.

It seems this time, the change(s) everyone internally and externally has (have) been talking about is (are) actually coming true.

Will these changes sink Twitter?


Will these changes allow Twitter and its employees to build something they’ve been dreaming about?



All numbers below are annual numbers. Twitter’s fiscal year ends on December 31. All revenue and income numbers below are in $USD.*

  • 2021: Total revenue = 5,077,482,000 / Net income (loss) = (221,409,000)
  • 2020: Total revenue = 3,716,349,000 / Net income (loss) = (1,135,626,000)
  • 2019: Total revenue = 3,459,329,000 / Net income (loss) = 1,465,659,000
  • 2018: Total revenue = 3,042,359,000 / Net income (loss) = 1,205,596,000

I imagine we can have a healthy debate about these numbers and how they came to be.

Yet, I don’t think we can discuss in good faith that these numbers are not the responsibility of the executive team. Who is to answer to a more than $1.3m net loss over two years?

And, if my memory from my investment banking days is right, the CEO and CFO must sign off on these SEC files. Now, take a look back at the leadership changes over the years again.


I imagine we all knew Twitter was on borrowed time.

Did we really expect anything different?

FIFA World Cup

Or, FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™.

I can imagine many folks don’t know about laws in Islamic countries. I certainly don’t.

However, I have to imagine we all realize when we travel to other states, provinces or countries, there are differences between where we’re coming from and where we’re going to.

And some of those differences, if not followed properly, result in detainment or/and fines.

So, it might have been a surprise when attendees at this year’s FIFA World Cup realized Budweiser was the official sponsor of the tournament.

However, it shouldn’t have been a surprise when the government of Qatar banned alcoholic beer in and around World Cup stadiums.

While we all have perceptions about how things are run, we should have a little more patience (or a lot more research) in understanding why things may not be what they seem.

  • Elon Musk is a bad boss? I can imagine a lot of folks who are let go from a company they invested so heavily in would have this stance. Yet, it’s a business. And, sometimes, unfortunately, business decisions have to be made that don’t align with how we would do things.
  • Twitter is a sinking ship? It’s easy to make that observation and conclusion with all the news surrounding Twitter over the past six months. Yet, if we step back and look at what the leaders and financial statements have been saying all along, it should come as no surprise that something had to change.
  • No alcoholic beverages in public spaces? If that’s a country’s culture, who are we to drop in for a few weeks and suggest (demand?) the rules are changed just for us? (And by the way, have you seen the crowds after soccer games?)

One thing that could have been handled differently in each of these situations: communications. Communicating some of the plans earlier might have been helpful.

Yet, I can make an argument that the communications plan likely would have caused additional uncertainty and potential revenue downfall if publicly communicated in real-time.

  • Elon Musk: I don’t think there’s much to communicate here. Use Google to learn all you need to know.
  • Twitter: What was the plan? Other than cutting costs through downsizing (which was leaked early), what benefit would it have been to Twitter if the communications didn’t stick to a plan (that might not have existed)?
  • FIFA World Cup: The only thing I can think of here is ticket sales. By not announcing the alcohol ban early, the organization committee was looking to give little reason as to why folks should not attend the FIFA World Cup. (The audience for the group stage games looks a little light as it is.)

Communications is a tough, in-the-moment decision-making process. And something we can always do better next time.

However, given all the information we had at the time of these announcements, should any of this surprise us?




  • Monday, November 28, 9:15 AM MT: Added ,000 to Twitter financials

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One response to “What do Elon Musk, Twitter and the FIFA World Cup have in common?”

  1. This was a fun article to research and write. Hope you enjoyed it, too!

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